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Keeping the wraps on Justin Fields

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor called a ultraconservative game plans the last two weeks but insists it had nothing to do with lack of confidence in Justin Fields.

The popular view of the job Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is doing as play caller is he is being intentionally restrictive.

That is, Lazor is calling games ultra-conservatively because the team is worried quarterback Justin Fields lacks experience to handle all aspects of the offense and reading defenses.

It's why the Bears are pulling in with 111 yards passing one week, 39 and 37 rushing attempts the last two weeks.

While there are elements of truth in this, it's not the entire story according to Lazor.

"Seriously, when the game is going that way, that's just how we thought to win the game," Lazor said. "I'd rather have 500 yards but winning's more important."

Lazor saw no need to take risks with the play calls when the Bears owned leads of 17-9, 14-9 and 14-3 through much of the game. So he didn't.

Other Bears options were better

The running game tore up the Raiders, the offensive line was opening gaping holes, and besides, Fields had already taken a few big hits. There was no need to put him at further risk.

The negative aspect of this is it doesn't necessarily further Fields' development as quarterback. However, Lazor insists Fields is practicing those deeper or more imaginative throws and has them in his repertoire.

"We feel good about some of the things that we had in the last game plan and did not use," Lazor said. "I probably regretted not using some when you looked at the stats, but I mean, the stats are secondary to winning. 

"So we did what we thought we had to do to win."

At least they are in lock step.

"I'm simply doing whatever I need to do to help my team win," Fields said. "If that's hand the ball of 80 times during a game or throw for however so many yards, that's what I'm going to do. I'm not worried about comparisons between touchdowns, stats. I'm worried about winning. That's it."

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Fields did show he could air it out if it's there in one game. They hit the Lions with five explosive passes but mixed it in with the running game. 

The win over the Raiders included no gains of 20 yards or more in the passing game.

"I think we feel good about what we've worked on on the practice field yesterday (Wednesday) in that regard," Lazor said. "We would always like to have the ability, I'll use the word balance, but balance of being able to spread the field: quicker throws, medium-range chunks, deep throws down the field in the pass game.

"The way the defense plays might dictate the way you're going in if you're heavier in one area or the other, the way we want to attack them. And then as the game goes, you have to be ready to adjust. There's always some balance of those three things in the plan and we think we did a good job on our first and second (practice) day of kind of having that ready to go."

Doing just about anything seems like it could be difficult for the Bears this week. Besides the fact Green Bay's defense is ranked sixth under first-year coordinator Joe Barry, the Bears simply lack manpower at key positions.

They're using another backup tackle. It appears third running back Khalil Herbert must start with Damien Williams on the reserve COVID-19 list. Allen Robinson may or may not be ready to go on Sunday as he hasn't practiced this week due to an ankle injury. Oh, and the tight ends seem to be missing. A few were last week, J.P. Holtz and Jesse James, but Jimmy Graham has had one target in the last four games and no catches while Cole Kmet's yards per catch have actually declined from last year to 8.1 after it was said getting him longer passes was an offensive goal.

Low reward but also low risk for Justin Fields

However, what Fields hasn't done, by and large, is throw risky passes into coverage. One interception he threw against Detroit was on a tipped ball. The other one against Cincinnati was his only real poor passing decision and throw.

"As you talk about it, I can probably in my mind picture all these plays through training camp where he took the shot ... and shouldn't have, or took a shot and we're pleased he tried even though the defense got their hands on the ball," Lazor said. "That's the balance for the quarterback, because what you don't want is a cautious quarterback.

"You want a guy who's aggressive, but who's smart. The balance of that is the key to growth. And I think he's done a good job with that and he's taking some throws down the field."

So, expect they'll try more at some point.

"We didn't get nearly as many this last game, but he’s taken some and there have been some where he's decided to bring it down," Lazor said. "So it's just a constant balance. Obviously, the turnover battle is huge. Everyone understands what the statistics with winning and losing are."

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