Why Bill Belichick won't take a struggling Justin Fields lightly


The way Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears have played this season offensively combined with Bill Belichick’s ridiculous 3-42 record against first- and second-year quarterbacks, Monday night’s primetime game should end up a win for the New England Patriots without too much fuss.

The Patriots have a far better roster, superior coaching and a much clearer grasp of who they are in a football sense than the Bears, who find themselves trying to remain competitive while fielding one of the worst rosters in the sport and asking a flawed young quarterback to overcome that.

Bill Belichick made sure to say all the right things and glow about a team he knows his squad should handily beat this week. But not all of it was merely for show.

In his weekly “Belestrator” segment with Patriots.com, the coach pinpointed Fields’ 39-yard rush at the end of last Thursday’s loss to Washington as an example of what the quarterback can do when the passing game breaks down.

“Very fast, very athletic, kind of a Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson type of guy,” Belichick said of the play. “If we don’t contain him on the pass rush, he’s got the speed and athleticism to get outside…tough kid. Fast and strong, and really can run for 40 or 50 yards on virtually any play.”

On one hand, the fact that Belichick chose that particular play bodes well for the Patriots in a way: Fields running the football is the most dangerous offensive play they have even with him having the ability to throw the ball well down the field. The Bears would be a much more dangerous team if Fields were a more refined pocket-passer with better protection and better receivers than they are with Fields largely living off of scrambles and taking a lot of sacks in the process.

But that facet of his game almost singlehandedly won the Bears’ previous two contests, including a 52-yard touchdown that was called back in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago.

Though the Bears don’t call as many designed runs as you’d think for a quarterback with his speed, Fields scrambles on 19.3 percent of his dropbacks, which is third in the league according to The 33rd Team. The Patriots will have to play especially disciplined to keep him in the pocket — something they’ve been inconsistent with at points this season, even against Lamar Jackson.

They’ll likely try to balance that with trying to send pressure at Fields, who is one of the worst passers in football against blitzes, and playing a man-heavy defense, which can open itself up to being gashed by mobile quarterbacks if discipline isn’t kept.

Long story short: the Bears can’t beat the Patriots if Fields can’t throw the football effectively, and it’s hard to think he’ll do so against a Patriots defense that makes life hard on young quarterbacks.

But New England can’t afford to lose discipline when he leaves the pocket, or this game could end up closer than it should. Fields hasn't been good this season, but he's pulled one too many big plays out of thin air for the Patriots to get comfortable.

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