Asking for a big performance from a rookie quarterback against a rival feels like a lot. Especially for the Chicago Bears. Justin Fields hasn’t had a great statistical start to 2021. Still, there are signs of steady improvement from the 11th overall pick. This despite difficult circumstances around him. Now he’ll get his first taste of the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Is it possible he can deliver a good game to help his team win?
Yes, it is. There are a few reasons to believe it’s possible. For starters, there is the health situation on the Packers’ defense. They were already down their best pass rusher Za’Darius Smith to a back injury. Now they’ll be missing two of their top cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander and Kevin King as well. Those are some considerable blows to their pass defense. It doesn’t stop there though.
Their safeties have also proven vulnerable.
Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos have allowed six touchdown passes combined this season. Opponents have a passer rating of 147.9 when targeting Savage in coverage and 99.5 when targeting Amos. In other words, when quarterbacks have tested them deep they’ve usually had some success. That neatly leads into the final reason for optimism in this game. That is Fields himself.
No quarterback loves to throw down the field this year more than him. Among quarterbacks who have attempted at least 10 passes or more over 20 yards, Fields has the highest attempts percentage at 18.1%. Usually, when you combine a secondary that is susceptible to the deep ball and a quarterback that likes throwing deep and can do it accurately? It isn’t hard to connect the dots.
Justin Fields’ day will be dictated by his protection
While Aaron Rodgers is the primary reason the Packers have dominated the Bears for so many years, one can’t overlook how effective their defense has been at getting pressure. This season is no exception. Despite not having Smith, Green Bay has still managed to manufacture 78 total pressures this season. Good for 15.6 per game. The Bears offensive line has allowed 35 pressures by contrast.
In other words, a lot of the responsibility will be on them to keep Justin Fields upright. If they can provide him enough time to take his shots? The results should be positive for the most part. Running the ball and using play action should only help matters in that department. This is an important game. Not so much for Fields himself even though it’s his first taste of Green Bay.
For the coaching staff.
They’re already under a ton of pressure to win this game. Head coach Matt Nagy is 1-5 against the Packers. He also hasn’t been able to generate points consistently enough. Mitch Trubisky rarely played his best in these games. So getting Fields to play well today would go a long way in getting some of the heat off his back. This isn’t 2018 anymore. The head coach doesn’t have the protection of saying the QB wasn’t “his guy.” Fields is his personal choice. Nagy needs this game.