The comparisons were all over social media this week.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields has 28 pass attempts in two games this season.
Every other team in the league has at least 28 completions and 52 attempts. New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco has 103 pass attempts. Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been targeted more times (29) than Fields has attempted a pass. And on and on.
The Bears’ measly passing-game numbers, which total 15 completions and 191 yards, have dominated talk at Halas Hall in the lead-up to Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans at Soldier Field, with coach Matt Eberflus saying the Bears need to strive for a better balance in the running and passing games.
Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy understands it: “I love to throw because I’m a quarterback guy, right?”
And surely Getsy knows Fields needs to throw to develop in his second season. But Getsy also believes in following a plan tailored to what a defense is presenting them.
“I truly believe in evaluating the matchups each week and saying, ‘OK, here’s where we have the advantages. Here’s where our disadvantages are,’ ” Getsy said. “If it’s 50 throws, 50 runs, I don’t really care. It’s about winning. It’s about giving us the best chance to win.”
During his weekly availability Thursday in Lake Forest, Getsy pointed more to execution from players and coaches as the problem over the balance of run and pass calls. In reality, Getsy noted, the numbers don’t paint the full picture of the first two games.
Fields attempted 17 passes in a rainy, sloppy win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. And in the 27-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Bears had only 41 plays, of which Getsy said 19 or 20 were pass plays. Fields had 11 pass attempts, was sacked three times and ran on a few other pass plays, including his 3-yard touchdown run.
And the Bears were gashing the Packers defense in the running game in the second half, including totaling 104 rushing yards on a drive in which they didn’t score in the fourth quarter.
“Whatever the defense presents to us, that’s what we’ve got to be able to do,” Getsy said. “And I believe we can do that. Each week, different personalities of defensive coordinators present different things. Last week, I was around it for a long time (in Green Bay), they build that shell and they don’t let you get behind them. We were able to get behind them, and that’s where we’ve got to take advantage of those couple of opportunities that we did have.
“We didn’t execute in those situations and take advantage of those certain opportunities. When you play those types of styles of defenses, you’re not getting many shots. You’d better hit it when you can, and we didn’t do that. So we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
The execution obviously has to improve so the Bears have more than 41 plays. They went three-and-out on three straight first-half drives after scoring on their opening series, and Getsy was open about where he and players needed to be better.
On one of those missed-shot plays on that key fourth-quarter drive, it looked as if Fields overthrew wide receiver Darnell Mooney — who has two catches for 4 yards on five targets this season — by a few yards. But all parties agreed this week that Mooney wasn’t where he needed to be.
“Mooney didn’t have great detail with the route,” Getsy said. “The landmark where you’re trying to hit that thing was way off from where he was. Justin could have helped him by throwing him over to that point. So that part of it, the two of them were just not executing at the highest level necessarily right there. We learned from it. We studied it a bunch this week and made sure everyone is on the same page — not just Mooney but for whoever else might be in that situation the next time.”
Getsy also pointed to execution — and coaching — on Fields’ failed fourth-down run from inside the 1-yard line. Getsy defended the play call, which had Fields lined up in the shotgun formation and right guard Lucas Patrick pulling.
Getsy said the coaching staff did their research and felt the play was the best opportunity to score based on the defense presented.
“We love that play. We didn’t execute it properly,” Getsy said. “For whatever reason, we were seeing ghosts a little bit up front. They were able to get penetration where we should have had two linemen on one to stop that penetration, which kind of got Lucas off a little bit instead of cleaning that gap. And then it would have just been Lucas with (De’Vondre Campbell) in the hole and then Justin still would have had to run through some contact.
“We knew what was coming. That was exactly what we wanted. We just didn’t execute it well enough. We’ve got to get them coached up a little bit better so that they don’t make that mistake.”
It was one of many small things that added up to a 17-point loss. Getsy said the Bears this week need to approach walk-throughs and practices as if in a game so the details feel easier on actual game days.
Bears players are trying to keep patience as they work for a breakthrough. Mooney said his mantra is “don’t stress it too much.” Fields said he’s keeping in mind “selflessness” as things unfold.
“Knowing that if these are the plays that he thinks are going to win us the game, then I’m all with it,” Fields said. “Like I said about Darnell on Sunday, if he caught zero passes and won the game, he wouldn’t have any problem. If I threw zero passes and we won the game, I wouldn’t have any problems. Our goal as a team, as an offense, is to win games. Nobody’s looking at how many passes did I have, how many yards did I have. We’re just all trying to win the game.”
Perhaps Sunday’s game will give Getsy the opportunity to get Fields going. Lovie Smith’s Texans have given up 433.5 yards per game but held the Indianapolis Colts to 20 points and the Denver Broncos to 16.
Getsy left Lambeau Field on Sunday at least feeling good about how the Bears continued to work despite an ugly stretch of offense in the second quarter.
“I’ve been on a lot of sidelines that when you go three-and-out that many times in a row, things get weird, right?” Getsy said. “Those guys were tough. They stuck together. It was about, how can we get better the next play? And how we’re ready to roll. We’ve got the right kind of men in that room. I’m excited to see what’s next for them.”