Film study: Why did the Bears run out of shotgun on 4th down?

In Week 1, Bears quarterback Justin Fields showed such awareness that he was able to scramble left, look 30 yards downfield and almost completely across it — from one set of field numbers to the other — and find Dante Pettis for a 51-yard touchdown.

In Week 2? Fields sprinted three yards past the line of scrimmage on third-and-10 Sunday — and then decided to throw the ball. Was he thinking of scrambling first? Just unsure where he was on the field? Either way, he was flagged, the Bears punted, and the Packers scored again.

“I saw it afterwards, and I was just like, ‘Dang,’ Fields said after the Bears’ 27-10 loss at Lambeau Field. “I just have to get the ball out earlier –or just run it.”

Breaking down the Bears’ discombobulated rivalry game:

A shotgun?

The Bears needed 1 yard to pull within seven points with 8:13 left.

After Fields fell just short diving right pylon, the Bears faced fourth-and-goal. Rather than handing off to David Montgomery, who had 68 rushing yards on six rushes that drive alone, the Bears decided to let Fields keep the ball himself. That was defensible — the Bears trust Fields to run — but the formation was not.

The Bears put Fields in the shotgun, meaning he caught the snap at the 5–and needed to run about five times as far to score as he would have from under center.

The Bears put tight end Cole Kmet to the left of tackle Braxton Jones and had two receivers split right and another one left. Montgomery was lined up to Fields’ left.

The Bears ran quarterback power to the left, with Fields running behind pulling right guard Lucas Patrick and Montgomery, who blocked outside linebacker Preston Smith to Kmet’s left.

Hit by De’Vondre Campbell, Smith and others, Fields couldn’t break through the line.

The fact the Bears drove the field exclusively via the run in the fourth quarter and down by 14 points — with the Packers happily letting the clock run — was bad enough. But really, a shotgun snap?

“You are using your quarterback as a runner and you have an additional blocker and so you like your numbers in the box there,” head coach Matt Eberflus said. “So that is why we called it. It was the best play we had there at the time.”

At the snap, the Packers had four linemen, plus Smith, at the line of scrimmage. The Bears had five offensive linemen and Kmet.

“It’s just the trenches,” Fields said. “Our O-line versus the D-line. We’ll never know if I got in or not.”

The Bears challenged– Fields thought the ball crossed the goal line –but the play was upheld.

“I think whatever way the officials ruled it, it would have stood,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “And I think a lot of times those [challenges] are tough to overturn.”

Tunneling out

The Packers scored three second-quarter touchdowns, but no play was more important than a screen pass thrown near midfield.

“You could argue,” LaFleur said, “that might’ve been the most pivotal play of the game.”

Eberflus said “It was a big sequence for us.”

A holding penalty made it first-and-20 for the Packers on the Bears’ 34. Trevis Gipson’s sack of Aaron Rodgers made it second-and-28. Down three points, the Bears were two plays away from getting the ball back in the second quarter.

The Packers split three receivers left and two right. Rodgers took a shotgun snap and threw a tunnel screen to rookie receiver Romeo Doubs, who was split furthest left. When he caught the ball, he had two receivers — Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard — and three offensive linemen between him and the closest Bear.

Rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon took on Cobb to force Doubs inside, but only for a second. Once Gordon was knocked to the ground, he kicked the screen back outside the numbers. Doubs split linebacker Nicholas Morrow and cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who were occupied by blockers, before being tackled by safety Eddie Jackson.

Rodgers then completed a nine-yard pass on third-and-8. Two plays later, he shoveled to Aaron Jones for an eight-yard touchdown pass.

The Bears weren’t surprised by the screen — “That is a common play that people run in that ‘get back on track’ situation,” Eberflus said — but couldn’t stop it. Morrow couldn’t get across his blocker in time to turn Doubs back inside, where the Bears had help from their linemen chasing the ball. Eberflus calls it “cupping the ball.”

“You have to hammer, hammer, hammer –and then turn it back to the defensive linemen that are coming inside out,” Eberflus said. “The play hopefully gets six or seven yards at worst. But when you don’t get the guy over the top, sometimes they cut the ball back inside or take the ball outside …

“The guys on the second level have to get on top of those blocks and turn it back to the defensive linemen that are running inside.”

TD run

The Packers were in second-and-11 at the Bears’ 15 on the first play of the second quarter when Rodgers pitched right to Jones. Lazard had gone in motion from right to left, stopped in the slot and targeted the Bears’ linebacker best player, Roquan Smith, on a crackback block.

Smith tried to shoot to the inside of Lazard, who shoved him just enough to create a running lane for Jones. Right guard Royce Newman kicked out cornerback Kindle Vildor, Center Josh Myers pulled and popped linebacker Nicholas Morrow. The Bears didn’t lay a finger on Jones until the 2, when safety Eddie Jackson and Morrow lunged for him.

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