Inside Bears third quarter touchdown drive: All-22 shows Justin Fields’ lead

As Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was going over his review of Sunday’s loss to the Lions, he highlighted the third quarter.

“I went out in the third quarter and did a really great job – I scored a goal and a drive and got a third and a half and I think that was it, we pressed in there, I got a TFL that was great.” “The attack went down and scored in the later round. Really nice play, nice play design in the red with that lap, though I won’t name it, but it was really cool.

“And then we had five guys on defense, which was good, we put them in third for longer. We came back and threw that shot, midfield shot, the logo that shot from midfield to Cole in that second, and so we got 14 to nil in Third quarter. Really nice.”

A 14-0 Detroit run in the quarter to build a second touchdown lead should have been enough, but the fourth quarter didn’t go so well.

Two explosive touchdowns to Justin Fields—a 67-yard run and a 50-yard pass to Cole Kmett—were highlights, but he engineered two long consecutive touchdown drives into Coaches territory. Teams want to hit before halftime, then do the same to start the third quarter.

After years of struggling from the end of the first half, this year the Bears offense used a 12-minute break to their advantage. The Bears have scored at least six points in the third quarter in eight games out of 10. They have yet to shut out the third quarter, which has happened 10 times for the 2020 Bears.

They’ve already scored more third quarter points in 10 games than they’ve scored in five of the past seven seasons overall.

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And while Fields’ fourth-quarter stats were near the bottom of the league, he’s been a dominant third quarter this season.

Justin Fields in the third quarter this season

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Using the All-22 camera angle from NFL Plus, let’s go through a 10-play touchdown drive that put together the Bears for a 17-10 lead. They got the ball at their own 24-yard line after a 15-yard kickoff return from Dante Bettis, which Armon Watts and Jack Sanborn followed to stop Jamaal Williams on third and short.

The Bears had 19 tackles and eight assists in the first half, and opened the second half with a pass. Fields had Chase Claypool lined up wide to his left, running down the go. St. Equianimius did the same on the other side of the field.

The middle of the field might be open, and that’s an area the Bears haven’t attacked much this season.

One of the keys to this play was Muni Road. He snapped his corner as he stormed inside.

But Mooney was not the first read. Maybe it wasn’t even the second. Fields gets great protection – Braxton Jones did a great job with Aidan Hutchinson, who was otherwise a game-breaker.

Claypool’s first reading. Fields shifts his eyes left to right and may have looked at Kmet before Mooney sees an open blink over the middle, then makes a 15-yard touchdown throw—a first down on kickoff.

After losing on a jet sweep to St. Brown’s and then a six-yard David Montgomery touchdown run, the Bears faced downs three and five.

To Fields’ left were St. Brown’s and Muni’s. He had Claypool and a dagger on his right. Here is a look at the ways.

On the near side of the court, none of the Lions’ corners lie deeply with Mooney. They could have been watching Montgomery on the flat, but it would also be understandable to have their eyes on Fields considering what he did to his legs in third.

Almost immediately, Mooney’s eyes were wide open, but he probably wasn’t the first to read – fields eyes in the direction of Kmet and/or St. Brown.

The Lions charged three, throwing Hutchinson into cover – or perhaps as Fields’ spy. He appears to be looking first at St. Browns coming across the field, but linebacker Julian Okwara, who has also come into coverage, is just around the corner.

As his eyes turn to Kmet, Hutchinson moves toward the traffic lane. Fields makes a hand motion, perhaps to keep Hutchinson honest, before returning to his left to hit Mooney, neatly placing the ball between three defenders. Mooney then heads up a few yards after the catch.

On the next play, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy creates with a tight end screener. Fields pump to his left, where Claypool is, where the O-linemen stand in position. Kemet stops the ball, then releases it and turns around for the ball.

It’s a quick pass to Kmet, who has Riley Reeve and Sam Mustever up front. One thing we’ve seen from Kmet in recent weeks, too, is his work in the open field. He evaded an attempted tackle from Alex Anzalone and managed to gain seven additional yards on a nine-yard play.

At the risk of looking like Matt Nagy, perhaps one of Fields’ best signs of growth was an incomplete pass of the next two-and-one.

Fields under center and faked a handoff to Montgomery before rolling to his right. But Hutchinson was not fooled.

He may have gotten a shot at Pettis, who broke away off the corner, but that would have been a difficult throw even without the 6-foot-7 Hutchinson in his line of sight.

Fields did not attempt to get the corner and pass Hutchinson. He kept his eyes on the field at Betis and Mooney before cleverly throwing the ball wide, keeping the Bears in a short-handed situation.

After they line up for third and third, it looks at first glance that Fields might try to catch a quick and sneak up on them, and the Lions stuff the middle of the line.

Instead, it’s a sweep plane haul to Betis. The timing is perfect, as many Lions D-lin men still overlook a potential offside. The Bears have blockers ahead of Bettis, who converts this into an eight-yard touchdown run.

Getsy called for a quarterback draw in the first and tenth. Fields, known more for his straight-line speed than his lateral agility, did a great job taking advantage of the Lions’ running backs to over-turn anything into something.

Lions fullback Charles Harris was spinning around, so Jones couldn’t get mass on him, and he would have been ready had Fields run up the middle, so he switched gears to his left. As he stalked Fields, the quarterback stopped again on a dime to change directions, then slid quickly to avoid injury and gained five yards.

On second down, Montgomery takes the handoff and follows the combo block from Jones and Whitehair to gain six yards and a first down.

Then came the first drop. The play opens with a fake Montgomery doing to lure the front seven. Fields holds him and moves to his right – his running threat should catch the attention of the Lions’ defenders.

Meanwhile, Kmet acts like he’s blocking a Fields guard’s run. When a defender catches his hand, he dumps it dead and turns around and Fields is ready to throw.

“A play from all the elective stuff we’ve been running,” Kmet said Monday. Justin’s reading of The Man’s End, I’m Able to Walk Out on a ‘Supporter or Body Safe’. Just give that presence and running style a go to take up some space on him, make him make a quick decision, and get over it. A play that we’ve been really working on for the last four or five weeks that we’ve had, we have a good chance of calling it that and it’s been done really well.”

The score was a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, one that included two third down conversions and had seven plays going for at least five yards. It’s the eighth touchdown drive in the past three weeks that lasted at least 10 games. They had 12 touchdown drives that took at least 10 plays the entire 2021 season.

It included two of Fields’ best passes of the day, a smart decision to throw the ball away, a smart design on two plays by Kmet and a handoff to Pettis, and two productive runs by Montgomery.

These are the triggers that show how the fields and the entire offense progress, and highlight coaching adjustments in the first half.

With the Bears defense likely poised for close games the rest of the way, the start of the third quarter will still be critical, an area where the Bears finally thrive.

(Top photo: Daniel Bartel/USA Today)


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