Bear Down, Nerd Up: Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields resumes his running ways

Fields recorded 1st 100-yard rushing performance of 2023

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is chased by Detroit Lions defensive end Josh Paschal during the second half, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Detroit.

Justin Fields returned to action Sunday against the Lions, and the offense looked like the version that the Bears ran late last season. Fields was running all over the place and using the threat of running to open throwing lanes in the passing game.

Head coach Matt Eberflus’ team, however, couldn’t close out a win. The Bears lost 31-26 after holding a 26-14 lead with about four minutes to go. ESPN estimated the Bears had a 98.8% chance of winning this game up by 12 with four minutes to go.

The crazy thing is that in 28 games under Eberflus, that wasn’t even a top three biggest blown lead. It marked the fourth time the Bears have blown a lead of 12 points or more in just over a calendar year.

The biggest, of course, was the 21-point meltdown against Denver this season. Last season, the Bears blew a 14-point lead against Detroit and a 13-point lead against Green Bay. All three of those previous blown leads happened at Soldier Field.

Here are what other numbers, stats and figures stood out this week.

Fields returns: Sunday’s game marked the fifth time Fields has run for 100 or more yards in a game. He finished with 104 rushing yards. It was a season high for Fields. It was his first 100-yard rushing game since Jan. 1, when he ran for 132 yards in Week 17 against the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit.

Despite missing four games, Fields’ 341 rushing yards rank third among NFL quarterbacks. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson leads the way with 535 rushing yards, while Minnesota’s Josh Dobbs has 389 (including his time with Arizona). If Fields keeps running like he did Sunday, he could easily catch those two.

Fields had 18 designed runs in the game, including RPOs where he kept the football.

“It should be around in that range, but you don’t want it to be that high all the time,” Eberflus said. “He’s going to have to run when he scrambles around and does a good job. Where I do think he did a good job was he made connections down the field and had his eyes down the field before he crossed the line [of scrimmage].”

Sunday’s game marked the third time this season that Fields had a passer rating above 100. His passer rating of 105.2 was his third highest this season behind the loss to Denver (132.7) and the win over Washington (125.3).

According to ESPN’s QBR, which better takes into account the context of each play and the strength of opponent, Sunday’s game was Fields’ second best of the season. Fields had a QBR of 73.9, second to only his game against Washington (78.1) and ahead of his game against Denver (69.5).

Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Fields completed 5 of 9 passes that went 10 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He totaled 104 passing yards and a touchdown on those five completions.

Touchdown throw: Fields’ 39-yard touchdown toss to receiver DJ Moore was one of his best passes ever as a pro. He felt pressure coming from his left, stepped up into the pocket and unleashed a perfect deep ball to Moore in stride.

The Bears had tried a similar play earlier in the game, a deep ball where Fields out-threw Moore by a step or two.

“He let that first one rip,” Moore said after the game. “I’m like, ‘I’m fast, but let’s take something off of that.’ Then we connected on the same-type play.”

The second time around, the throw was perfect, and Moore made his sixth touchdown grab of the season. Per Next Gen Stats, the ball traveled 49.1 yards in the air. The completion probability at the time of the throw was only 26.6%.

The touchdown also greatly increased the Bears’ odds of winning. They went from a 37.3% win probability to a 56.9% chance after that play. After the score, the Bears regained the lead, 20-14, in the third quarter.

During this game, Moore became the first receiver drafted in 2018 or later to surpass 6,000 career receiving yards, according to the Bears.

Four takeaways: The Bears created four takeaways Sunday. It tied the highest single-game total for the Bears since Eberflus became their coach. They previously caused four turnovers in last season’s win over New England.

The difference here is that the Bears caused four turnovers and still found a way to lose.

It marked the first time the Bears created four takeaways and lost since a Sept. 21, 2008, loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. In that game, which the Bucs won on a field goal in overtime, Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese threw three interceptions. Lance Briggs, Nathan Vasher and Kevin Payne each had interceptions. Charles Tillman forced a fumble.

The Bears had won their past 22 games in which they caused four turnovers.

Snap thoughts: Bears defensive end Montez Sweat was on the field for only 39 of 62 defensive snaps (63%). During his first two games with the Bears, Sweat was on the field for 65% and 73% of defensive snaps, respectively.

“Sweat’s one of our best players,” Eberflus said Monday at Halas Hall. “He really is, and that’s just how we do it. We platoon our guys and keep them fresh that way.”

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue played 45 snaps (73%) to outpace Sweat. DeMarcus Walker played 38 snaps (61%). Rookie defensive tackle Gervon Dexter matched his season high with 48% of defensive snaps.

Offensively, Equanimeous St. Brown played 32 snaps (43% of offensive snaps) to outpace rookie Tyler Scott for WR3. Scott played 27 snaps (36%).

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.