The Chicago Bears built some positive momentum for Justin Fields in their win over the Detroit Lions. He made some outstanding throws including four of at least 20 yards or more. It was the first real showcase of how good the rookie is. Given enough time he has a chance to become something special for this organization. The next step will be seeing what he can do against the Las Vegas Raiders.
This opponent is considerably better than Detroit. They’re 3-1. Their best start in several years. One key part of that is an improved defense. Last season the Raiders were 30th in points allowed. So far in 2021, they’re 19th. A considerable jump. Part of their success is driven by new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley who has implemented a new scheme. One that Dan Orlovsky of ESPN broke down here.
Bears fans should be familiar with a Cover-3 defense.
Chuck Pagano ran that scheme for the past two years. It’s a primary zone defense meant to keep everything in front of you, forcing offenses to work their way down the field in small chunks. Limit the big plays. However, like any scheme, it does have weaknesses. Time has proven that attacking the seams, going to the flats off play action, and four verticals are among the most popular. Also finding ways to create numbers advantages (2 on 1 or 3 on 2) works as well.
This is significant for the Bears because it is the type of defense that Fields tends to play well against. At least according to his history dating back to Ohio State. While his processing speed when throwing the seams can be a bit slow, his accuracy is undeniable.
Then of course there is the vertical strike.
This is Fields’ favorite play. Nobody in the 2021 draft loved attacking deep like him. He lives for the kill shot. Fans had a glimpse of it against the Lions. The Bears gave him great protection on 2nd and 11 deep in their own territory. Darnell Mooney ran a strong route to get himself free vertically and Fields hit him in stride for 64 yards.
Now that play wasn’t four verticals but the Bears have shown a willingness to use that formation several times this season. The problem has been the protection. Almost every time they’ve tried it with Fields, he’s ended up hit or sacked.
Justin Fields can feast if he’s kept upright
That will be the big challenge in this game. If the Raiders have one strength going for them on defense? It’s their pass rush. Through the first four games, they have 93 total pressures on the quarterback. Maxx Crosby has been a nightmare to block, having 30 of those pressures by himself. Germain Ifedi is going to have his hands full. Then there is Yannick Ngakoue who has 18 pressures of his own. This is a group that can apply heat.
Chicago must look to keep them off balance. That means running the football, screens, and quick passes. Don’t give them a chance to pin their ears back. The Bears should be able to do this. Las Vegas’ run defense is 23rd in the NFL. They allowed 189 yards to Baltimore, 133 to Miami, and 168 to the Chargers. Even without David Montgomery, backup Damien Williams should find some lanes. Not to mention Justin Fields himself being a threat as a runner.
Lamar Jackson gashed the Raiders for 86 yards on opening night.
It just seems like this is a game where the rookie has a chance to play well. Las Vegas’ secondary is banged up. Their run defense is leaky. If the offensive line can slow down the pass rush, opportunities will be there. Fields proved in college that his style of play is kryptonite to this type of defense. It will be fun to see if he can prove it.