Inside Pettis' 51-yard TD, which turned tide in Bears win originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Football games are often decided by a handful of plays. Sometimes it’s a big goal-line stand, or a timely takeaway. Other times one moment can turn the tide, turning a loss into a win, or a win into a loss. That was the case for the Bears in their upset victory over the 49ers and Justin Fields’ big 51-yard touchdown to Dante Pettis on a completely broken play.
“I think that was the play that changed the momentum of the whole game,” said Fields. “Once that play happened, that started everything else.”
The first half was miserable for the Bears offense. Fields was 3-9 passing, for three yards plus an interception. David Montgomery was trudging on the ground for a 1.4 yards per carry average. The team found new ways to keep points off the board, by taking a 15-yard penalty for using a towel to dry the ground on a would-be field goal attempt.
Things weren’t looking much better to start the second half, as the Bears once again found themselves in a 3rd-and-long situation on their side of the field. That’s when Fields and Pettis finally broke through for the big score.
“Just ran a deep route over the middle,” Pettis said. “I was supposed to sit there in the zone, and I broke back because there was nobody there. Then I turned around, saw Justin running the other way, looked around and there was nobody by me so I was like, ‘Uh oh.’ All of a sudden I see him step to throw to me, and I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s go.’
“Ball felt like it was in the air forever. Waited there, caught it basically like a punt, took off, and (Equanimeous St. Brown) had a good block for me. Then yeah, that was it.”
Fields had a feeling that once he escaped the initial pass rush, he’d have an opportunity to make a big play, knowing that the 49ers play a “vision and break” style of defense.
“They’re just watching me, watching my eyes, kind of watching where I go,” Fields said. “I knew he was over there and once I looked right and saw him there wide open, I just wanted to– I lofted it up just to make sure he caught the ball. He did a great job with the yards after the catch and EQ threw a great block so he could get in the end zone.”
Pettis had a feeling it could be a big moment, too.
“Did that a lot in college,” Pettis said. “Whenever the quarterback breaks the pocket, DBs kinda scramble a little bit. I feel like I’m able to find space pretty well. Obviously that one was a lot easier than others.”
Other Bears felt the momentum begin to swing in their favor after that play, too. That touchdown led to the loudest cheers of the day up to that point, and the players fed off the energy.
It’s also a play that the Bears have practiced in their scramble drill. Both Fields and Matt Eberflus credited the success of the play to working on it in practice, and other players have noted over the summer that they’re working on situations like that more than they have in the past.
“What a great play,” said Eberflus. “The vision by Justin to see that and throw it back there was a great play. That’s the kind of play he can make. That’s what makes him dangerous. Because he can throw on schedule, he’s got the off-schedule throws too. We’ve always said he’s an outstanding deep ball thrower. He can throw the ball deep, accurately. We’re all excited about that play, for sure.”
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