Bears quarterback Justin Fields runs Sunday.
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Justin Fields is going to spend the rest of the season running.
There was no other conclusion to draw after the Bears quarterback ran a whopping 18 times — with only four of them scrambles on called pass plays — in Sunday’s 31-26 loss to the Lions. The 18 runs tied a career high set last year against the Falcons and was a decided change from the game plan earlier this season.
“It should be around in that range,” coach Matt Eberflus said Monday, “but you don’t want it to be that high all the time.”
That wouldn’t be sustainable in a season where the Bears need Fields to take every snap remaining this season as part of his evaluation. Calling so many run plays, though, does play to his greatest strength. In three years under center, his running prowess has been the one element Fields offers that is indisputably unique.
Fields’ 104 rushing yards were the third-most of any Week 11 player entering Monday night’s game. He was the reason why the Bears outgained the Lions by 68 yards despite Bears running backs carrying 28 times for only 79 yards.
Fields could have run the ball even more in his return from a dislocated right thumb but he handed off to running back Khalil Herbert on read option plays when the Lions didn’t crash their edge rusher.
Before Sunday, Fields’ previous season high was 11 carries, twice. He averaged almost eight runs per game before Sunday. Now he’s back near the top of the league. Through Sunday, Jalen Hurts was leading NFL quarterbacks with 9.7 carries per game. Fields averages 9.3 rushes per game, and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson 9.2.
During last year’s historic run — Fields finished with the second-most rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history — he averaged 10.6.
Four games off only helped his rushing prowess.
“I felt like it was the first game of the season out there — my body felt good,” Fields said. “I was just trying to, at practice, just keep my conditioning, running-wise.”
The only run Fields would have liked to have back: a third-and-1 sneak on the first play of the fourth quarter that was stuffed for no gain. Rather than run more clock and have a chance to score a touchdown, the Bears kicked a 40-yard field goal to go up nine.
“That was as big as they come … ” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “Maybe in a normal sequence of a game, they may be going for it and doing it again, but that’s an opportunity to go up two scores with a field goal.”
When it mattered most Sunday, the Lions weren’t going to let Fields beat them.
With a five-point lead, and 2:55 left in the game, the Bears needed a first down — or maybe two — to salt away their divisional win since 2021. On second-and-10 at their own 25, the Bears came out in heavy personnel with two tight ends on the right side of the line and a third on the left. Herbert stood to Fields’ right.
The Bears called a read option. Fields took the snap, held the ball out and looked at Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes, who was rushing over the right tackle. If Barnes crashed down toward Herbert, Fields would keep the ball and run around the right end.
“If I’m getting any option, 50/50 [to] pull, I’m going to do it,” Fields said.
There was no way Barnes was crashing down. The Lions wanted Fields to hand the ball off, and he did. Herbert gained one yard. The Bears eventually punted — and lost.
“The [Fields] runs certainly were an issue,” Campbell said. “Look, we had a good plan. He’s just a hell of an athlete and he’s tough in space. And he caused some issues.”