Column: Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields feels like he’s ‘just playing ball’ after career-best starts, but growth is key

A long weekend coming off the most complete performance in Justin Fields’ three seasons gave the Chicago Bears quarterback an opportunity to reflect.

The passing game in the last two games has looked, well, like a full-fledged attack and that’s not something we’ve seen with any regularity in these parts. Whether Fields reflected or not, he didn’t have anything revelatory to share about what those at Halas Hall have to hope is a breakthrough.

“I think I’m just focused on continuing to get better each and every day,” Fields said. “The offense, as a whole, we’ve gotten better each and every week. Our main goal is to just do that.”

It’s surely for the best Fields’ full attention is focused on the Minnesota Vikings now that he’s six days removed from completing 15 of 29 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns in a 40-20 blowout of the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field. He gained another 57 yards rushing on 11 carries in a victory that breathed life into a team that had stumbled to an 0-4 start and lost its previous 14 games dating back to last year.

“Not really a sense of relief because we knew that we could do it the whole time,” Fields said of the win. “I think at this point, it’s now just keeping it going.”

The current challenge is for the Bears to win consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 16-17 of the 2021 season, something that can be accomplished if they snap a 10-game losing streak against NFC North foes by prevailing Sunday at Soldier Field against the Vikings (1-4).

Fields has won consecutive starts once previously back in his rookie season when the Bears defeated the Detroit Lions and Las Vegas Raiders in October 2021. Those were the second and third starts of his career and it’s been a roller coaster since.

He’s looked like a completely different quarterback in the past two games — vastly different from 2022, different from even the first three weeks of this season. Fields has completed 43 of 64 passes for 617 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception combining the win at Washington with the home loss to the Denver Broncos the week prior.

The numbers jump off the page in comparison to the rest of his Bears career. He totaled 600 passing yards in his final four starts of the 2022 season. He passed for 17 touchdowns all of last season. The Bears’ passing volume was so low a year ago it looked like a throwback to the kind of offense that was en vogue when disco was hot.

It’s remarkable considering three weeks ago, Fields was recounting the reasons why he was playing “robotic” and then he went out and mustered only 99 yards passing in a miserable loss at Kansas City. Lately, it’s been big plays galore with 12 passing plays that gained 20 or more yards in the previous two games. It’s not unusual for that to be two months’ worth of big passing plays for this offense.

“I feel like I am just playing ball,” Fields said. “The main thing is just being locked in through the fourth quarter. Personally, I think I can be better in the second half with staying locked in, keeping all the guys locked in and putting up the same amount of points. That’s our next step as an offense, keeping our foot on the gas.”

The Bears have not swapped out playbooks. It’s not a new set of play calls coming from offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. What the Bears have stumbled onto now, 30 starts into Fields’ career, is a balance in which he can be an effective pocket passer, a prerequisite for high-level play at the position, and be himself as an athletic threat who challenges defenses. It was the fear of Fields taking off and running that led the Commanders to repeatedly load the box with an eighth defender, leaving DJ Moore in single coverage, a matchup Fields exploited over and over for 230 yards and three touchdowns.

In the last two games, Fields has been more decisive as a thrower from the pocket. That’s led to the passing game operating in rhythm. He’s been more aggressive as well, challenging tight-window throws he seemed less inclined to throw into previously. He’s not looking to escape the pocket. Add it all up and he’s seeing the field better.

“When you look at the growth that he has had over this year, it’s been really good,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “The steps he has taken the last couple of weeks has been where we all want it to go. He’s done that. We’ve just got to keep building on that. Just being the consistent performer that he is.

“He’s always going to work hard in practice. He’s always going to work his tail off to get that done. Putting himself in position and us as coaches putting him in position to succeed is paramount. He has done a good job with that the last couple weeks.”

The Bears are still leaning into Fields’ running ability. Getsy has been sprinkling in designed runs — there was a G-T counter with Fields following behind pulling right tackle Darnell Wright at Washington — and after a long search the Bears have arrived at a happy balance that has elevated the passing game.

“Last week, like I said, all the stars aligned,” said Moore, who became the first Bears’ wide receiver to win NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors since Marcus Robinson in Week 15 of the 1999 season. “Looking (to) this week, we want the sun to align with us out there.”

Two games are a very small sample size, not the kind to draw conclusions from. If things are still trending in this direction next month, Getsy will sure look prophetic for the moment last month when he said they were building something special.

Remember, Mitch Trubisky put together consecutive games in 2018 when he passed for 670 yards with nine touchdowns, only one pick and ran for another 100 yards. No, that wasn’t Trubisky turning the corner. That’s not to say Fields cannot succeed where those who came before him veered off the path.


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