There are instances where Fields holds the ball too long and takes sacks through his own fault. For example, not putting his eyes in the right places based on pre-snapshot indicators and hesitating to pull the trigger for open receivers in the NFL.
In an alternate universe, the sophomore quarterback could be knocked down in this game if the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft plays out differently.
And the career trajectories of these two quarterbacks could have easily evolved differently if that had been the case. Giving Fields the guidance and stability provided by Belichick would benefit any young quarterback like he did with Jones and Bailey Zappe.
However, things are as they are and all of the Patriots are focused on winning. In that regard, it’s hard to imagine Fields consistently moving the ball against the Pats’ defense on Sunday as long as they stick to two keys.
First, win up front again by pressuring the quarterback with peak lane integrity, so Fields’ legs and the Bears’ running game don’t take over. And second, delay the offense by slowing down Chicago game sequencing and action concepts.
Likely with a similar formula to the past two weeks, the Patriots defense will have a clear advantage if it forces Fields to beat them as a traditional pocket passer.
Patriots Offense vs. Colts Defense
After facing his Indianapolis Colts defense last December, the Patriots are familiar with the zone-based system of new Bears head coach Matt Eberflus.
“Mat is [Eberflus] obviously brought his highly successful Indianapolis system with him. In Indy, they led the league in turnover for four consecutive years. Forced a lot of fumbles. They’re very disruptive on the ball,” Belichick told reporters on Wednesday morning.
Although they weren’t extinguished, the Chicago defense held their end of the bargain for the most part and ranks a respectable 19th in the Football Outsiders DVOA metric. The 14th-ranked pass defense has disruptive players at all three levels: point carrier Robert Quinn, lanky linebacker Roquan Smith and ball-hawking safety Eddie Jackson.
The Bears sometimes pressure third down, but Eberflus defenses aren’t known for being blitz-heavy teams, relying on a four-man pass rush and zone coverage behind it. Eberflus primarily composes covers three and two, but is playing more male cover this season.
In last season’s game, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones struggled with rotating zonal structures through the first three quarters. The Colts intercepted two passes, and Jones averaged just 6.8 yards per pass attempt and wasted an additional 6.55 expected points.
As a result, New England trailed 20-0 heading into the fourth quarter, with the rushing game also struggling on just 19 carries due to the play scenario (Stevenson – 10 carries, 38 yards) .
Eventually, Jones began to figure out Indianpolis’ game plan, throwing for 142 passing yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. It was too little too late that night, but with another battle against Eberflus this week, the Patriots can build on that fourth quarter success.