With the help of NFL Game Pass, I have reviewed the All-22 film of every Justin Fields interception during the Chicago Bears' 2021 season. I keyed in on items like down and distance, point differential, time remaining, play design, number of route runners, number of blockers, number of pass rushers, and so on. In breaking all of these down, I came away with four categories for his interceptions:
- QB Mistakes
- Wide Receiver Mistakes
- Interceptions Happen
Additionally, I have drawn up each of the plays and coverages (as far as I can decipher). Here is the key for defensive assignments in the play breakdowns:
Justin Fields Gets Picked vs. Cincinnati
Fields is forced into action when Andy Dalton leaves in the second quarter with a knee injury. With 3:47 left in the fourth quarter, the Bears are up by 10 points. It is third and seven at the Chicago's 23-yard line, and Fields' interception gives the Bengals the ball at the Bears' seven-yard line. This is a costly mistake that could let the Bengals back into the game.
Logan Wilson takes a blitz step before dropping back into a QB spy. Hidden by linemen, Fields doesn’t see Logan Wilson and throws the quick in route to Goodwin right before getting demolished by the free runner. Fields should have expected the free runner on this play and known to get the ball out fast. That is not where he failed. He failed by losing track of Logan Wilson, who is able to cut off the quick-hitting route and come down with the football. This one falls on Fields' processing. He lost track of Wilson and threw the ball right to him.
Justin Fields' First Interception at Tampa Bay
The Bears have looked overmatched to this point. They have already punted twice, and now face third and five from their own 40. Despite looking overmatched, the score is still within reach. But a bad turnover here could open the floodgates.
The first thing we see in this play is growth, as Fields pumps to his first read in the flat, where a flat defender is lurking to pick the ball off. As soon as Fields recognizes the lurking CB, he pulls the ball down and scrambles. He might have been able to hit Robinson from the pocket on a slant, but it would have needed to be on a rope because the window was closing rapidly.
After evading a tackle, Fields continues right before throwing a desperation heave toward Robinson, who has transitioned from the slant route to a scramble route. Fields flings an off-balance throw across his body right before taking a big hit, but the throw is off the mark and easily intercepted by Dee Delaney. This one is going to fall on Fields' ball placement when facing pressure. He recognized that the first read was gone, but he tried to do too much after that and put a poorly placed throw downfield as he scrambled from pressure.
Justin Fields' Third Interception at Tampa Bay
The Bears are down 30-plus points in the fourth quarter and facing second and 11 from their own endzone. Ultimately, the result of this play is largely inconsequential in relation to the game's outcome. While you would like to see a conversion, this game is already over.
With the Bears backed up in their own endzone, Tampa brings four guys at Fields while asking both DTs to drop into shallow coverage that may have been intended to contain the rookie QB's running ability. While the protection does enough for Fields to get the throw off, there is not enough room for him to step into the throw. Cole Kmet appears to miss his chip block as the blitzing CB comes in unabated.
Fields gets the ball out toward Robinson's sideline go route right before a blitzing CB races by him. It looks like Fields had just enough room to get a full step into the throw, but he might not have had enough time. Not stepping into the throw, he left it short and inside, giving Pierre Desir a gift of an INT. Because the pressure forced him to speed up his mechanics, I am putting this one on Fields' ball placement when facing pressure.
Justin Fields Throws a Pick 6 at Green Bay
To this point, the Bears have jumped on the Packers and are carrying a three-point lead late into the second quarter. Here, they face third and three near midfield. A conversion could allow them to continue to build their lead, while a turnover could give the Packers the football and the lead before half.
Fields drops, looks to his first read (Darnell Mooney on an out route), and throws. Rasul Douglas is lurking over the top on Mooney, licking his chops for the opportunity to jump the out route. He accelerates downhill on the throwing motion, cuts off the route, and takes it to the house for six.
This play reminds me of the first interception in Tampa Bay, but for indirect reasons. Against the Bucs, we saw Fields recognize a lurking CB on a similar play, pump fake, then roll out. On this play, Fields simply missed the man. Learn from it. Improve from it.
He did not have many great options beyond Mooney here. Two of the zone defenders zeroed in on Kmet's hitch route, leaving Damiere Byrd open a hitch a few yards away from Kmet. This was a classic rookie mistake and clearly falls on Fields' processing because he either did not see the defender or did not think the defender could cover that much ground that quickly.
Wide Receiver Mistakes
Justin Fields' Interception vs. Green Bay
After jumping out to an early lead against Green Bay, the Bears are driving with a chance to build on their seven-point lead. They face third and seven from the Green Bay 47 with one minute left in the first quarter. A conversion here could allow the Bears to take a multi-score lead. But a stop would force a punt with similar results to the interception itself.
Upon further review, there was definitely an offsides penalty that was not called on this play. Although Fields thought he had a free play, the refs thought otherwise. As Fields rolls right from light pressure, he keeps his eyes downfield. He airs the ball out for Robinson, who appears to have a step on his coverage. While there is one defender deeper than Robinson, he is all the way on the opposite hash and Robinson should be able to beat him to the catch point. But right when Fields releases the football, Robinson breaks off his route by turning around (hitch route muscle memory?).
By the time Robinson realized the ball was in the air, it was too late. He had no chance to recover, and Darnell Savage is able to reach the ball and make the off-balance intercaption just before it hits the turf. I am tossing this one up to a combination of Allen Robinson cutting his route short and the officiating missing the clear neutral zone infraction.
Justin Fields' Second Interception at Tampa Bay
This is garbage time hero ball. The Bears are down by 30-plus points in the second half and facing third and 12 in the red zone. The result of this play is largely inconsequential in relation to the game's outcome. While you would like to see a conversion, this game is already over.
As the protection falls into Fields' lap quickly after the snap, he throws to Mooney running a short out route from the slot. While the ball was catchable, it came out a little high and outside. Mooney is able to get his hands on the throw, but it bounces off of his hands and into the hands of Jordan Whitehead. Fields also had Goodwin open on the slant route, but the read was not the issue on this play.
The ball location and ability to haul in the throw led to the interception. An indirect cause could also be the pass protection, as the offensive line was going backward quickly after the snap. It looks like Fields did not get a full step into his throw because Whitehair and Mustipher ate up that space combo-blocking Vita Vea.
I am starting to notice a trend. When Fields is not stepping into his throws, they are coming up short and off the mark, leading to interception opportunities. That is a fairly obvious remark, but it is apparent in a few of the throws reviewed. On this one, I am putting 50% on Mooney not catching the throw and 50% on Fields' ball placement when facing pressure.
Justin Fields' Second Interception at Green Bay
This game sure went wayward. At this point, we are back to garbage time hero ball. The Bears are facing fourth and 13 near the red zone while down 15 points with only 53 seconds remaining. The result of this play is largely inconsequential in relation to the game's outcome. While you would like to see a conversion, this game is already over.
With the pocket collapsing on Fields quickly, he fails to see Jesse James open in the flat. As Fields jumps to get away from the defender, he gets the throw off toward a Darnell Mooney in-cutting route across the middle of the field.
Again, we see Fields unable to step into the throw, leaving the ball high and outside. But the ball is catchable, as it hits Mooney in the hands before landing in the hands of Chandon Sullivan. On this one, I am putting 50% on Mooney not catching the throw and 50% on Fields' ball placement when facing pressure.
Interceptions Just Happen Sometimes
Justin Fields' Interception vs. Detroit
After marching downfield in their first two possessions, the Bears boast a 14-point lead just before halftime. Near midfield, they face third and two with a minute remaining. This interception gives the Lions a chance to cut the score down before half.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin drops into coverage before changing direction and coming downhill from what appeared to be a QB Spy assignment. This made Reeves-Maybin the fifth pass-rusher just before Fields gets the ball out.
Fields tries to hit Mooney for a crossing slant route that had room to run (good read), but Reeves-Maybin gets a hand on the throw and sends the ball into the air. Detroit CB Amani Oruwariye comes down with the pop-fly. Because of the tipped pass nature of this INT, I am putting this one into the interceptions happen category.
Justin Fields' Interception vs. San Francisco
Down by 11 with less than two minutes left, the Bears need a miracle to win this game. On first down deep in their own territory, Fields is going big game hunting. This is a spot where you would fare better by taking what is there, but the odds of winning this game at this point are marginal and declining with every second.
Fields rolls out from the pocket with pressure in pursuit. Despite having Kmet open in the flat and Robinson on a comeback route, he goes big game hunting to Mooney deep left. He plants and throws, getting the ball off just before he is swallowed up from behind by the defender in pursuit.
While Fields did put the ball in a good spot, throwing into double coverage for a difficult catch was over eager. The ball bounces off of Mooney's hands as he tries to win the jump ball over two defenders, and into the hands of Josh Norman. Given the point differential and time left in the game, I can live with the aggressive attempt here.
Even though I would like to see Mooney haul this in, I am not assigning responsibility to him here because it was a tough catch in double coverage. Fields could have gone to Robinson on the comeback for a nice gain, so I am putting this one 50/50 on Fields and interceptions happen.
Justin Fields' Interception at Pittsburgh
On second and 11 at their own 42-yard line, the Bears need to answer the seven points Pittsburgh has put on the board. A turnover here could open the floodgates, as you would give the Steelers the ball in Bears territory.
On this play, Fields has a clean pocket and fires right toward an open Darnell Mooney on a quick curl route. But Cam Heyward, who began the play aligned over the LG (Whitehair), gets up and bats the pass down while also corralling it in for an interception.
Heyward slanted across the face of Sam Mustipher with a swim move. With his eyes on the QB, Heyward disengages from Mustipher when he sees Fields wind up to throw. With some well-timed execution, Heyward gets his hands up as the ball leaves Fields' hand, and makes a play. Additionally, Fields' release on this throw was a little wonky, and this could be a result of his longer wind-up. Until we get further evidence of that though, I am tossing this up to the idea that interceptions just happen sometimes.
There is no play breakdown for this one because it was such a quick-hitting play and the play call and defensive coverages had little impact on the result.
The final tally for responsibility on Justin Fields' interceptions comes in at:
- Justin Fields: 5.5
- Interceptions Happen: 2.5
- Darnell Mooney: 1
- Allen Robinson: 0.5
- Officiating: 0.5
Now we know a few areas in which we want to see growth from Fields during the Chicago Bears' 2022 season. Starting off, I want to see him take fewer risks when he doesn't have time to step into the downfield throws. It will be interesting to see if his supposedly sped-up mechanics translate onto the field, as that could help with this issue. That could also help with the number of tipped passes he had in 2021, which would decrease his interception rate. Additionally, I want to see how he progresses with recognizing false pre-snap intentions from supposed blitzers.