The Change in the Offense at the “Mini-Bye” Was More Than Just Designed Runs

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

Like a lot of people, I’m a little baffled by the handling of Justin Fields on Sunday and, honestly, for the whole season. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems as if the narrative has been this: Despite having an incredibly gifted and athletic quarterback and an offseason to prepare for that, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and coach Matt Eberflus came into the season basically treating Fields more like a traditional quarterback, and the offense for the first several weeks was awful. I know there were other reasons for that too (bad O-line, iffy receivers), but you weren’t seeing these designed QB runs or seemingly anything creative that fit Fields’ skill set. They finally started doing that and the offense took off, but it seems like they’ve now swung too far in the other direction and it culminated with that final drive play calling with an obviously beaten up Fields being asked to run even more. Am I way off the mark here? — Andy B., Chicago

The Bears started adding more designed QB runs to the offense in Week 7 at New England but it’s not as if these were not in the playbook. Fields had 14 carries against the Patriots after running 12 times the week before in a miserable loss to the Washington Commanders. The difference was more of the rushes were designed against New England versus scrambles against Washington. He had eight carries at Dallas, 15 against Miami, 13 against Detroit and then a season-high 18 in the loss at Atlanta. Many of the designed runs have taken Fields out of harm’s way and he has taken fewer big hits on those. The Falcons did a nice job of playing the zone read and the hits added up Sunday.

I dispute the idea Getsy wasn’t creative with Fields early in the season. We saw moving pockets, sprint outs, bootlegs, play action, all of that stuff was being called. The Bears were not executing it as well. There has been a slight uptick in play action since the New England game, but there isn’t a big variation.

I think Biggs spot on here but I’m going to add one extra point.

I think that Fields came out of the “mini-bye” with more of a mind to run the ball. Not just on designed runs but I think that he actually has felt more free to scramble out of the pocket and takeoff.

Fields has run for 497 yards on 68 carries since the week 7 games against the Patriots. In the five games before that he ran for 254 on 43 carries. That difference of almost 250 yards and 25 carries isn’t just designed runs.

Perhaps the real story behind the changes that took place in the long period between the Commanders Thursday night game and the Patriots Monday night game will come out some day. Until then, I’m not too sure if Getsy didn’t tell Fields to start running more on scrambles as well as calling more designed runs. Or perhaps its possible that Fields just came to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do himself.

But, whatever happened, the direction of the last five games is distinctly different from where Fields was headed for the first six games of the season. And I think it’s safe to say that the difference is in Fields mindset, not just in the game plan.

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