As we inch closer to the season’s end, I’ve started thinking about what this space’s future might look like. In Justin Fields’ first full season as a starter, it made sense to have a full-blown film study every week. There have been plenty of highs and lows for the second-year quarterback. But as we head into the Bears’ bye, I think most of us can comfortably say that they have their long-term solution at quarterback.
With that being said, this space will feel slightly different moving forward. I’m going to experiment with some things these final few weeks, much like the Bears should be doing, so I have a better idea of what to carry into next season and what to scrap.
So, there will be a weekly Fields-dedicated story next season. And it will feature a healthy serving of film study, which is something I can’t wait to improve on this offseason. Because, like Fields, I’m developing too. But how it’s packaged will feel a little different and more appropriate for the next phase in Fields development.
The bar has been raised for Fields by Justin himself. And that is a massive win for the Bears because that’s exactly what they wanted him to do. So we’re going to start looking at some of the things he does a little differently.
Let’s get into the good stuff.
By the Numbers
- 325: That’s the number of total yards that Justin Fields racked up on Sunday afternoon against the Packers. Fields’ 325 yards accounted for 91 percent of the Bears total yardage and was just 84 yards less than the Packers total team yards.
- 80.1: Fields completed a career-high 80.1 percent of his passes on Sunday while also attempting his third most throws of the season. Fields 28 attempts in Week 10 against Miami and 27 in Week 7 against the Commanders are the only two other times this season that Fields threw the ball more than 25 times in the Eberflus-Getsy era.
- 10.2: Fields’ 10.2 yards per completion was the highest mark of his career in a game in which he attempted more than 20 passes, and the first time this season, he has been north of 10 yards per completion.
- 22: That’s the percentage of times Fields was pressured on his dropbacks on Sunday, the lowest of his career as a starter. The results? Likely the best passing game of his career in many ways. Imagine what Fields could do as a passer with a consistently competent offensive line in front of him.
- 905: Justin Fields has 905 yards on the ground this season, putting him in elite company in NFL history. Fields has four more games to gain 301 rushing yards (75.2 YPG) to tie Lamar Jackson’s all-time single-season rushing record for a quarterback. Fields is averaging 75.4 yards per game on the ground this season, making it very possible that he will pass Jackson before it’s all said and done. There’s a solid chance that Fields can jump Randall Cunningham and former Bear Bobby Douglas and move into fourth in Week 15 when the Bears come out of the bye.
The proof is in the pudding that Justin Fields is becoming a better passer every game. Every week, one or more passes make you go “wow!” when you’re watching him. This week, the 56-yard shot to Equanimeous St. Brown set up a David Montgomery touchdown did it for me:
There appears to be some confusion on the coverage assignment that allows ESB to blow by Jaire Alexander on this route. But the impressive part here is the ball Fields uncorks. Fields sees ESB has Alexander beat deep — something he often missed earlier in the season — and delivers a strike with about 52 yards of air time right into the stride of St. Brown.
The arm talent is so darn good when it comes to Fields. And as we’ve seen more and more in recent weeks, the processing is catching up.
The FOX broadcast crew gave Aaron Rodgers plenty of praise for the little things that he does. Sliding in the pocket and making off-platform throws are two small but impactful things that Rodgers does so well. So much so that they almost seem automatic at this point. You probably wouldn’t even notice or think about it if it wasn’t mentioned.
Here’s an example:
Rodgers (who has all the time in the world here, but that’s a conversation for a different day) slides left in the pocket to change his launch point and find A.J. Dillon for the completion.
On a third-down play in the third quarter, we see Fields adding this to his bag of tricks:
Fields gets up in the pocket, changes his launch point, keeps his eyes on the reads (going right to left), finds Cole Kmet, who snuck out after a pick at the line, and makes the off-platform throw for the first down. Say what you want about Rodgers, the person or teammate, but he’s a Hall of Fame quarterback. So seeing Fields pick up some of his tricks is fine by me.
Finally, the interception sealed the deal in the fourth quarter. I’ll sum this up quickly: He should not have forced that throw. St. Brown should have fought for that ball (which he admitted), and he also ran a lazy route. Either way, it’s on Fields to see these things and make a different choice. You can dwell on this and hyper-analyze it for two weeks (although I suggest you don’t). However, these mental mistakes by Fields are less and less by the week, and they’ll continue to shrink.
You can point out, like the Trib’s Dan Wiederer does here, that Fields is 0-10 this season when getting possession of the ball with under six minutes left in the game and a chance to tie or take the lead and has failed nine out of 10 times. But in doing so, you would also be cherry-picking team statistics to push a tired narrative. And you’d be placing all the blame for nine losses squarely on Fields instead of appropriately distributing the responsibility to the handful of deserving candidates and groups on this team. (Luis: And if you do that, I’d offer up that it probably isn’t the best way to go about evaluating a player, set of games, or team. But to each their own I guess.)
There’s zero doubt that we would all like to see the pair of fourth-quarter interceptions be cleaned up from Fields game. So would Fields. But he’s not solely to blame. Should he have held onto that pass to ESB? Yeah, hindsight is 20/20. That doesn’t mean that St. Brown didn’t blow the route. See where I’m going with this? It’s not making excuses for Fields; it’s calling it like it is. They both screwed up.
If that’s what gets you going in the morning, more power to you. But for my money, Fields had the best passing game of his career on Sunday against the Bears’ boogeyman, the Packers. Fields might be 0-4 against Green Bay, but that record is due for balancing in the coming years. And Fields sees it, too:
“I think this was one of my best games passing-wise. Of course, the stats aren’t going to show that, but I felt really comfortable out there in the passing game. I’m just going to keep improving and keep getting better.”Courtney Cronin/ESPN
We can play the what-if game all day. What if the Bears’ secondary wasn’t missing multiple starters to injury? What if Darnell Mooney and Khalil Herbert were playing? What if Luke Getsy didn’t neuter his quarterback during the best passing performance of his career?
In the end, the circumstances were what they were, and Fields threw the team on his back just two weeks after tearing up his left shoulder in Atlanta and almost beat Rodgers and the Packers in front of the Soldier Field crowd. That’s damn impressive, and that’s what I’m taking into the bye week from this game.