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Bear Down, Nerd Up: Another week of ugly numbers for Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields

The Bears are among 15 teams in the NFL who are 2-2 after four weeks of football. That mark ties the 2017 season for the most 2-2 teams ever at this point in the year, according to ESPN State & Info.

But those 15 teams at 2-2 illustrate that there are 15 different ways to get to 2-2. Some are more painful than others.

In Chicago, the vibe around its 2-2 football team is a little more dire than others. The passing numbers are historically bad. Let’s dive into some of those numbers.

QB rewind: Justin Fields has finally surpassed the 1982 Patriots. Last week, the statistical nugget was circulating that the Bears had thrown the fewest pass attempts through three games of any team since the 1982 Patriots. In Week 4, Fields finally passed former Patriots QBs Matt Cavanaugh and Steve Grogan, who attempted only 60 passes in the first four games of the 1982 season.

On the season, Fields is 34-for-67 passing for 471 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Fields currently ranks 32nd among QBs in pass attempts.

Here’s some weird and whacky numbers to put Fields’ performance into perspective. Jimmy Garoppolo, Mac Jones, Cooper Rush, Jameis Winston and Joe Flacco have all played fewer than four complete games for injury-related reasons, and have all attempted more passes than Fields.

Jets QB Zach Wilson made his first start of the season on Sunday and has already attempted 36 passes. Saints QB Andy Dalton made his first start of the season Sunday and completed 20 passes, more than half of what Fields has completed in four games.

Individually, Rams receiver Cooper Kupp has more catches (42) than Fields has completions (34). Kupp has been targeted 54 times in four games.

Fields current passer rating of 58.7 ranks dead last among qualified QBs, well behind Mitchell Trubisky’s 73.7. No NFL quarterback has finished a full season with a passer rating below 60 since Jimmy Clausen with the Carolina Panthers in 2010. Clausen had a 58.4 rating in 13 games, including 10 starts. Former Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer was perilously close to that mark with a 60.5 rating in 15 starts for the winless 2017 Browns.

Drawing comparisons to the pro careers of Clausen and Kizer is not a good sign for Fields. Following those disastrous seasons, neither QB started more than four games the remainder of his career.

ESPN’s total quarterback rating does a better job of accounting for throwing distance, sacks, fumbles and scrambles. By QBR, Fields (26.2) is actually ahead of Carolina’s Baker Mayfield (15.3). Fields had the worst QBR in the league a year ago at 31.4.

No QB has had a QBR under 30 for an entire season since Arizona’s Josh Rosen in 2018.

Hold your block: Not everything is Fields’ fault. The offensive line had one of its worst games Sunday, exacerbated by the fact that left guard Cody Whitehair left the game with a knee injury.

ESPN Analytics tracks pass block and run block “win rates” for offensive linemen. In pass blocking, they define a win or a loss as whether or not a linemen held his block for 2.5 seconds.

As a team, the Bears rank tied for ninth in the NFL in win rate at 64%. Whitehair was their leading pass blocking winner at 98%.

On paper – at least by this one metric – the Bears are a top 10 pass-blocking O-line. The problem, however, is that the metric measures success in a 2.5-second time frame, but QB Justin Fields is holding onto the football for an average of 3.12 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats. That is the fourth-longest rate among qualified QBs. In Sunday’s game it was even slightly higher at 3.23 seconds.

Offenses are complicated machines, particularly in the passing game. The blocking needs to be there, the receivers need to be getting open and the QB needs to see those open receivers and pull the trigger at the right time.

The O-line might be the best of those three phases for the Bears right now, but the QB and receivers are making it harder on the linemen than it needs to be.

Giants on the run: The Bears let Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley run all over them on Sunday. The Giants racked up 262 rushing yards. It was the most rushing yards the Bears allowed in a game since they surrendered 289 rushing yards on Dec. 22, 2013, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles beat the Bears, 54-11, in that 2013 game between Marc Trestman’s Bears and Chip Kelly’s Eagles. The Eagles’ LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown both surpassed 100 rushing yards that day. As a team, the Eagles averaged 8 yards per carry.

Ground game: On the other side of the ball, the Bears have rushed for 709 yards through four games. That is the organization’s sixth-highest team total since 1970, per the team. It’s the highest total since the Bears ran for 708 yards through the first four games of the 1989 season.

Jackson’s INT: Eddie Jackson recorded the 13th interception of his career Sunday. He now has three picks in four games this season. The last Bears player with three interceptions in the first four games of the season was cornerback Kyle Fuller in 2014.

Sunday’s loss to New York was the first time Jackson intercepted a pass in a game that the Bears lost. The Bears were previously 12-0 when Jackson recorded an interception.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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