CHICAGO — It’s the right call this time. The Bears’ defense was leaking oil throughout the second half. A chip-shot field goal would have given them a 31-28 lead over the Denver Broncos with four minutes left, but Russell Wilson had a good chance to get the last word against an undermanned secondary.
So, facing a fourth-and-1 at the Broncos’ 18-yard line, head coach Matt Eberflus went for the throat. The Bears tried to draw the Broncos offsides before forcing a timeout from Schneid to set up the play.
The Bears found the run on Sunday and elected to call a read-option, hoping that either quarterback Justin Fields or Khalil Herbert would gain 1 yard. The Broncos were wide on the edge, so Fields handed it off to Herbert, but Jonathan Cooper and Delaryn Turner-Yell threw through the line to plug the backs on the line.
The Broncos drove down the field and settled for a 51-yard field goal that proved to be the final punch in Denver’s 31-28 comeback victory.
Eberfluss explained that the decision was made because of his confidence in Bears Run game.
“Yeah, just because of the way we ran it. It was a half-yard. So I felt pretty confident about getting it there,” Eberfluss said. “Every situation is different. You have to look at the game as a whole, I’d say you know the way we run the football and the confidence we attacked at the time. I’m going to put it there.”
After the game, the Bears, both offensively and defensively, sided with their head coach for not kicking a field goal.
“If you get that, it’s game over, mostly,” Fields said. “You’ve got to make them use their timeouts. Maybe you’re over the two-minute warning and you’re kicking a field goal with less than a minute left. I like the result. It shows coach has confidence in us. We have to change that and in that situation. We have to execute. There was a missed block on the backside – that’s why somebody was able to sneak up on Khalil and tackle him. In that situation, it’s a tough spot. As a player, your head coach can count on you in those situations when you need him. Like I said, if we get it, how big are you all here? You’re talking about the call. It didn’t go our way. We missed a block on that side. We just have to execute in that situation.”
Herbert kept himself unable to reach one side.
“Got to find a way to get it going,” Herbert said after the Bears blew a 21-point lead and fell to 0-4.
The decision was universally supported throughout the Bears’ locker room after the heartbreaking loss.
No risk, no biscuits.
“We loved it,” Cole Kemet said. “I think we’ve got to execute it at the end. It was there. The play was there. We’ve got to execute. We know coach is going to do it 10 times out of 10 and we’re all for it. We’ve got to execute there at the end.
“We want to put that on our shoulders. Offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks and running backs. Especially how we run the ball, we felt good about that.”
Wide receiver T.J. Moore said he had no doubt the Bears were going for it and defended the decision not to give Denver a chance to touch the ball again.
Eberflus’ conclusion is correct based on charts and success probability metrics. But it’s arguable that the shotgun ran out of choice and couldn’t put it in Fields’ hands.
When asked why the play was called, Eberfluss said they could move the Broncos off the line. Admittedly there were “many plays” that could have been run in that situation, but the Bears preferred the call.
While a failed fourth-and-1 conversion sapped most of the oxygen after the Bears’ epic collapse, Fields and the offense still had one shot to tie the game.
The Bears’ offense took over at their own 25-yard line with 1:46 left. Despite the intentional grounding penalty, Fields found Pierce at midfield with 37 seconds left.
That’s when the final nail was hammered into the Bears’ coffin.
Fields retreated and looked for Kmet in the middle of the field. Fields let a tight end rip, but Gmet turned left and Broncos cornerback Kareem Jackson sealed Denver’s comeback win.
Both Fields and Gamet acknowledged there was a miscommunication on the play. Fields read the man coverage and wanted Kmet to sit, but the tight end thought it was match coverage and tried to pull it back.
“Kinda freelance, boom, go up there, turn around, sit down, go to the next play,” Fields said of what Kmet wanted to do. “Obviously, in that situation, you’re in the bottom four right there. Miscommunication between me and him. It comes down to my fault at the end of the day.”
The fields were spectacular on Sunday.
He started the game 23-of-25 for 285 yards and four touchdowns. It was his best game as a passer in the NFL. Yet an interception and a costly fumble that the Broncos returned for a game-tying touchdown marred his otherwise brilliant day, sending the 0-4 Bears back to the drawing board in search of more answers.
In the end, playing Fields like he did Sunday — but writing a better result — is their best course. It may be their only one.
“I have to be better for the team in that situation,” Field said.