What Justin Fields, Bears can do in a QB game against Micah Parsons, Cowboys
The Bear the offense should enter Week 8 with a bit of swagger, and that’s a good thing considering their opponent.
Strategist Justin Fields and company travel to Dallas to deal with a Cowboys team that is second in points allowed, second in yards per play allowed, third in yards per pass allowed and first in sacks per pass attempt.
“He’s got a few players that are a handful and we need to do a good job of finding out where those guys are,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said of Cowboys coordinator Dan Quinn’s unit.
In the Bears’ best win of the season, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy set Fields in motion, moving the pocket for Fields the setter and designing plays for Fields the runner.
The result was 82 rushing yards for Fields and seven passing plays that went for 16 yards or more.
As Eberflus said on Tuesday, however, the rest of the league has now seen the changes made by the Bears in their mini-bye. The Patriots fell victim to Fields’ runs. The Cowboys will be ready.
“Once you put it on tape, guys have to defend it,” Eberflus said. “Then you want to be creative in how you do things and you want to do it in a safe way because he’s your quarterback. You want to make sure you’re doing it the right way. He has to know when to do things the right way, when to slip, when to go out of bounds and all those things.
My colleague Nate Tice has broken down some of these designed races in his Week 7 Rewind. Here are two more from the second quarter of Monday’s win, when the Bears responded to the Patriots’ rally.
It’s the third and fifth with 2:14 left at the New England 34-yard line. The Bears start with an empty backfield. The call is a Fields race to his left.
wide receiver Equanime Saint-Brown held his block on Patriots cornerback Marcus Jones long enough for Fields to earn a pitch. wide receiver Dante Pettis won his block. Left tackle Braxton Jones entered the space to get his hands on the cornerback Jalen Windmills. And left guard Michael Schofield, on his first start, held off defensive lineman Davin Godchaux.
The result was a 9-yard run to get a first down and put the Bears in a set field goal range. They wouldn’t need it, though, as Fields hit the running back Khalil Herbert for a 25-yard touchdown on the next play.
When the Bears got the ball back after a Patriots fumble, Fields ran for 4 yards, was sacked for a loss of 8, scrambled for 20 on third-and-14, then lost 15 yards when he got his own back escaped—Fields’ Complete Experience.
Facing a second-and-25 from the Patriots’ 36-yard line with 24 seconds left, the Bears needed some positive yards for Cairo Santos to add to their lead.
The call? A lousy quarterback.
Given down and distance, and the clock, the Patriots are playing not to give up a big play. They have four linemen and a linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (No. 8) at the line of scrimmage.
He’s the key, and he hesitates slightly on the snap, then crosses Sam Mustipher lay hands on him.
Schofield holed up with Godchaux and rusher Matthew Judon – primed for a pass – tried to get around Jones, but Fields was already gone.
Fields gained 9 yards on the play, then found Darnell Mooney for 17 yards on third-and-16. Santos’ field goal gave the Bears a 20-14 halftime lead.
Cowboys vs quarterbacks running
giants strategist Daniel Jones rushed for 79 yards against the Cowboys in Week 3, the fourth most yards gained by a quarterback against Dallas. He did most of that work via scrambles, but the Giants had a pair of draws at quarterback.
This can be a great way to shut down Dallas’ best player, linebacker Micah Parsonsseen here rushing uphill against a Giants guard, only to have Jones take off in the middle.
On that next play, Parsons isn’t on the field, but Durance Armstrong — who has six sacks and eight QB hits — rushes on Jones’ blindside, and the quarterback runs for positive yards.
Either way, Jones ran back Saquon Barkley in pre-snap motion to clear a linebacker from the zone.
Two weeks ago, the Cowboys faced Jalen hurts and the Eagles. Hurts had just 155 passing yards and was sacked four times. He was also held to 27 yards on nine carries, although a few of them were stealth QBs for first downs.
On that first down play, Hurts holds it on a zone read and rushes for 5 yards. Parsons is drawn into the middle by the running back’s false play.
Parsons had seven tackles in that game and one for a loss, but was held bagless and did not register a quarterback hit. He had two passes defended.
“When I was watching the game, they just didn’t block it,” Fields said. “They just made him read most of the time, so of course that’s a way to get him to stop the rush. And I mean, he’s a great athlete on the edge, so of course we’ll have to make sure we know where he is at all times, but… he’s a great player — fast, physical. We will certainly have a plan for him.
Parsons has seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits this season to go along with eight tackles for loss. Eberflus noted how the Cowboys are doing a good job moving Parsons, forcing Fields and the offense to always know where No. 11 is.
“Just his speed and he’s very strong,” Eberflus said of Parsons’ strengths. “So the quickness of the ball and he can beat you to the punch and then really his strength. You really know that his intensity is also very good.
On another play, the Eagles threw an option play, and when Hurts faked the pitch, Parsons covered the running back, creating a traffic lane for the quarterback.
A few stats to consider, courtesy of TruMedia and colleague Aaron Reiss:
• Two of the Cowboys’ three worst defensive performances this season by EPA rush defense (expected points added) by snap have come against the Hurts Eagles and the Jones Giants.
• Dallas is tied for 27th in defensive pass rate against quarterback runs, but it’s only 26 runs.
• While the Cowboys rank first in DVOA pass defense (Football Outsiders Effectiveness Indicator), they are 12th in DVOA run defense.
The chess game will be between what Quinn’s defense has in store for Fields’ runs and how Getsy adjusts as well. One thing that will always be in play is Fields’ jamming ability. That’s how Jones got most of his yards and against a team with a pass rush as good as Dallas, Fields may need his rare ability to escape the rush and make multiple plays. occasions.
“He’s got the unscripted plays where on the third down he backs off and will take off for a first down, or even on the first down,” Eberflus said. “I think it’s very difficult to defend. I’ve tried to defend these guys over the years, and it’s very difficult. We just have to do it the right way – and we have to be creative in how we do it.
Fields, who converted 10 of the Bears’ 11 third downs on Monday night — five with his legs, five through the air — knows other teams will be better prepared, but he’s also confident in what the Bears have against the Patriots.
“It was the first time we really did this,” he said. “I don’t think their defense expected that from us. But to be honest with you, I don’t care. If the coaches think this is going to help us win then you already know I will do anything for this team to help us win games. If it’s going to be more quarterback runs, then that’s what it’s going to be. Of course, I expect teams to prepare more for this.
(Top photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)