NFL’s best and worst Week 2 coaching decisions: Luke Getsy hinders Justin Fields

NFL’s best and worst Week 2 coaching decisions: Luke Getsy hinders Justin Fields
By Ted Nguyen
Sep. 19, 2023

Cover 7 | Tuesday A daily NFL destination that provides in-depth analysis of football’s biggest stories. Each Tuesday, Ted Nguyen analyzes the best and worst coaching decisions he saw during the week’s games.

Old Bill Belichick shows young Mike McDaniel that he has some fancy tricks up his sleeves, too (when he wears sleeves, that is). With a quarterback he trusts, Kyle Shanahan might have turned a new leaf. Steve Spagnuolo re-establishes why he’s one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, while Luke Getsy shows why he’s one of the worst offensive coordinators in the league. We cover all that and more in this week’s edition.


Kyle Shanahan getting frisky

Everyone knows the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach is a brilliant play designer and play caller, but sometimes he gets in his own way with his conservatism. The 49ers ranked 28th in fourth-down attempts from 2017 to 2022. Last week, the 49ers went for a fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 45-yard line, and this week, he had the offense on the field for another fourth-down attempt before a catch was overturned by replay, which pushed the sticks too far back.


Right before halftime, the 49ers had the ball on the Los Angeles Rams’ 1-yard line with one second remaining. Instead of kicking a field goal, they ran a quarterback sneak and scored a touchdown. The four-point difference from getting into the end zone mattered because the Rams got the ball back with 1:34 left, down 10 points rather than six points. Giving Matthew Stafford a chance to beat you with the final possession of the game could have been season-altering.

But the 49ers avoided the drama because Shanahan made an aggressive decision before halftime. Shanahan’s trust in quarterback Brock Purdy is changing the way he manages the game in a good way. That doesn’t mean he’s suddenly going to be as aggressive as Doug Pederson, but dialing up just a couple of notches for the 49ers could make a huge difference.

Read more: Is it time for the Bears to think about Justin Fields and their future at QB?

Bill Belichick’s version of fast motion

Even though the New England Patriots lost, Belichick showed against the Miami Dolphins why he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. He used a three-safety shell against Miami to take away explosive pass plays and the middle of the field and force Tua Tagovailoa to beat them throwing outside more than he’s used to.

Tagovailoa made some good throws outside but also threw an interception trying to hit Tyreek Hill on a fade route. The game plan worked for the most part, but the Patriots still gave up 24 points. The coaching decision that I really loved from Belichick was his pre-snap running start field goal block tactic.

The Patriots had special teams ace Brenden Schooler line up close to the sideline. Schooler had his eyes locked on kicker Jason Sanders before the snap. As soon as Sanders put his head down, Schooler started running toward the ball and got to full speed just as the ball was snapped. I can’t help but think Belichick and the coaching staff got inspiration for this tactic watching the Dolphins give their offensive players running starts with their short out motion.


On Sanders’ next field goal attempt, Schooler didn’t get home, but he might have spooked Sanders into missing the kick. Opposing kickers will have to watch out for their pre-snap tells. Schooler will be in their heads.

Steve Spagnuolo taking away Calvin Ridley

Belichick gets praise for taking away an opponent’s best weapon, and Spagnuolo deserves to be recognized for doing the same. The Kansas City Chiefs shut out Amon-Ra St. Brown last week on third downs, and they made Calvin Ridley invisible this week. In Week 1, Ridley had 11 targets, eight catches, 101 yards and a touchdown. Against the Chiefs, he had eight targets, two catches, 32 yards and no touchdowns.

The Chiefs don’t have their corners travel often, but they had L’Jarius Sneed follow Ridley all game. Spagnuolo also switched up the coverage looks they gave Ridley throughout the game. They pressed him. They bracketed him. They played Cover 2 to his side to keep a safety over the top of him. They made his life tough.

9:01 remaining in the first quarter, third-and-5 

On third down, the Chiefs initially showed a one-deep safety look, which gave Trevor Lawrence hope that Ridley would have a one-on-one, running a slant. However, after the snap, safety Justin Reid dropped over the top of Ridley.

This meant that Sneed could play trail technique and be aggressive, knowing he had deep help. Sneed undercut Ridley and batted down the pass.

When Spagnuolo didn’t double Ridley, the defense disguised like it was going to put a safety over the top of him to encourage Lawrence to look elsewhere, and it would rotate away from Ridley. Doubling a receiver isn’t as simple as it seems. You have to play mind games with the offense so it doesn’t get a bead on what you’re doing and find your weaknesses. Spagnuolo did it masterfully against the young Jaguars.


Whatever the Chicago Bears are doing with Justin Fields

Two things could be true: Justin Fields is struggling and there is no staff doing a worse job of supporting its young quarterback. It took six weeks last year for offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to start committing to calling designed rushes for Fields. From weeks 7 to 16, the Bears averaged 2.16 points per drive (12th in the NFL). They’ve abandoned that strategy this season for some reason.


According to TruMedia, the Bears have called only two designed rushes (not including sneaks and kneeldowns) for Fields. That figure doesn’t include simple zone-read plays in which Fields has an option to keep, but the Bears have to have many, many more ways for Fields to run the ball. With Fields struggling, the option should be heavily featured.

Read more: If Justin Fields fails at QB, blame the entire Bears organization

There also have been several plays in which receivers are running in the same area with terrible spacing. It’s hard to tell what the purpose is of some of Getsy’s designs. If that wasn’t bad enough, they also put Fields in a position to fail on his fourth-quarter pick six.

Earlier in the game, Getsy called two successful running back screens. After a drive in which Fields led the offense to a touchdown with downfield throws, the Bears got the ball back, down by three, on their own 12-yard line after a defensive offside. Getsy called a running back screen to the right, but it was negated by an offensive pass interference penalty.

Backed up on their 6-yard line, Getsy called the same screen to the same side. Edge linebacker Shaquil Barrett recognized the screen and dropped back to intercept the pass. There was no room for Fields to ground the ball, and because he was backed up in his own end zone, he needed to get rid of the pass and couldn’t take a sack. It was an impossible situation for the young quarterback and an absolutely terrible decision by Getsy. Fields is to blame for some of the Bears’ struggles, but it’s hard to see any young quarterback developing in this situation.

Green Bay Packers punt

The Packers drafted kicker Anders Carlson in the sixth round for his strong leg, and the rookie showed he could nail long-distance kicks, connecting on a 57-yarder in the preseason. That’s why it was puzzling when head coach Matt LaFleur punted from the Atlanta 38-yard line. The Packers were flagged for delay of game on fourth down, but the field goal would have been a 56-yard attempt inside a dome.

“It was a really long field goal,” LaFleur said. “I mean, that was a silly penalty. We can’t have that. Those are penalties that get you beat, and obviously, when you lose a game by one point, that’s one of the critical points in the game.”


Going backward right before the snap might have given LaFleur just enough hesitancy to try the field goal. The punt ended up as a touchback, so the field position difference was 18 yards.

Minnesota Vikings’ soft fronts

Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores came into Thursday night’s game with the intention of stopping Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles passing game. He lined up in some three-high structure, a lot of two-deep coverages and funky fronts. They did an adequate job of confusing Hurts, but once the Eagles decided to run the ball, there was no stopping them. They just called inside zone repeatedly.

The Vikings made it easy on them, lining up in light fronts like their “diamond” front with three interior linemen, two edge linebackers and an inside linebacker (pictured in the third image). The Eagles rushed for 259 yards with a ridiculous 66.7 percent offensive rushing success rate. The Vikings were overmatched up front, but it was hard watching the Vikings get gashed 4 yards at a time without much of an adjustment.



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(Top photo of Luke Getsy: Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

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Ted Nguyen

Ted Nguyen is a NFL staff writer for The Athletic. He breaks down film to uncover the story that the X's and O's tell. He also covers the latest trends around the league and covers the draft. Follow Ted on Twitter @FB_FilmAnalysis