Look, I’m not here to convince you that 8-of-17 for 121 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception are great numbers. But as we’ve discussed all summer, the development of Justin Fields this season remains paramount to the long-term outlook of the franchise. So while I want to see Fields make plays and light up box scores as much as anyone else, we have to remember that those visual treats, for now, are going to be a byproduct of development.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
To that end, Fields had his fair share of ugly plays on Sunday (who didn’t?), but there were some decisive moments we can point to in his overall development in the Week 1 win over the 49ers — plays that didn’t necessarily result in a TD (and yes, some were even in the first half!). Let’s dig in.
Savvy Play Creates Third Down Conversion
Possibly lost in the excitement of the Jaylon Johnson peanut punch/Jaquan Brisker recovery that gave the Bears their second set of downs in the opening quarter was a dandy of a play by Justin Fields and David Montgomery.
After the San Francisco front gobbled up David Montgomery on first and second down, the Bears were faced with a 3rd & 6 with 9:14 to play in the first. Fields took the snap out of the shotgun while Montgomery stayed home to help pass block. Fields looked to check it down to Montgomery when the pass rush was getting home, but Javon Kinlaw would have batted the initial look down. Fields held onto the ball for an extra tick despite Jordan Willis and Samson Ebukam closing fast to his left and was able to change his arm slot and fit a throw just past the outstretched hand of Nick Bosa.
Montgomery did the rest, picking up 12 yards for the first down and then some. While the drive would ultimately end two plays later on a terrible throw by Justin Fields into the arms of Talanoa Hufanga, this was a pretty savvy play by Fields. So, credit where credit is due.
More of these decisions and less of the Hufanga throw is the key for Fields this season. A mixed bag on this drive, but it’s still very early. We’ll see how they balance out in the end.
All I could hear when Justin Fields hit Samson Ebukam with this juke was Chris Berman letting out the highest-pitched “Whoop!” as he’s done for so many years while helping bring NFL highlights to life.
The first half wasn’t full of bright spots for Justin Fields (or the rest of the offense), but this was one of them. Fields picks up Ebukam quickly, snatches his soul with a gorgeous juke move, and hits the open space for a first down scramble that puts the Bears in field goal range with less than two minutes to play in the first half.
Understanding the Internal Clock
One of the things that Justin Fields needs to do is gain a better sense of when the pocket is no longer sustainable. Sometimes the pocket gets sloppy, but it’s still intact, and Fields has time to make a throw before deciding to bail. It’s tough for young quarterbacks, especially young quarterbacks with wheels like Fields; it’s second nature to boogie when that clock expires in their head. I get it, but Fields must know when that clock actually expires.
Fields did an excellent job on his 22-yard strike to Byron Pringle. The pocket was collapsing around him, but he stuck in there and found Pringle wide open and nailed him for a significant gain on a drive that would eventually lead to the go-ahead touchdown.
If the Bears want to run an offense laden with RPOs and QB options, Justin Fields will be tasked with quick-decisions. While we saw some bad ones on Sunday (the Hufanga interception and Gipson near pick later are two easy reference points), we saw plenty of good ones.
On 3rd & 1, Justin Fields pulls the ball on the QB option and takes off for the first down marker himself. Fields gets the first down, gives himself up, and draws a 15-yard penalty on the late hit that set the Bears up for their go-ahead score a few plays later.