Whether or not Andy Dalton returns to the starting lineup for the Bears, the Justin Fields era feels like it’s begun in Chicago, and it started with a win. Fields made several highlight reel plays, like a deep completion to Darnell Mooney along the sideline, and his 10-yard scramble on 3rd-and-9 to help seal the win, but it wasn’t all pretty. He ended the game 6-13 for 60 yards and one interception for a 27.7 passer rating, with another 31 rushing yards on 10 carries.
“I don’t think I’m pleased with how I played at all,” Fields said. “I think there’s a lot more in me that I have to show.
“I’m just anxious to see what I messed up on, and what I have to do better, really... Of course I played well enough to get the win, of course, but I think there’s a lot of room for me to improve. I’m just going to watch the film and see what I need to get better, see what I could’ve done better and just work on that.”
Fields’ self-assessment may be a little harsh, but there were obvious things he and Nagy will have to clean up if he needs to start next week. There were several rookie mistakes, lending credence to the idea that Fields leading the offense this early in his career will likely come with growing pains. On one drive, Fields committed two false starts. The latter penalty pushed a 3rd-and-5 try to 3rd-and-10, which the Bears couldn’t convert. They ended up settling for a Cairo Santos field goal.
“Those are mistakes, rookie mistakes,” Fields said. “But yeah, the ref said I was flinching a little bit, and I guess I can’t flinch. So I know that now, and hopefully it won’t happen again.”
Then there was Fields’ interception from the Bears’ 23, with less than four minutes to go in the game. That set up a Bengals touchdown one play later to make the score 20-17. It appeared that Fields never saw the linebacker at all, but he’s also using that moment as a lesson to carry forward.
“They were showing Cover 0 at first, and our hot on that Cover 0 check was a shallow (route),” Fields said. “So that was just a great play call by the defense. They showed Cover 0 and they popped out the linebackers right where I was supposed to throw the ball. So I really can’t do anything about that. I’ve just got to move on and keep getting better.”
But for all those rookie mistakes, Fields also flashed the promise of what his ceiling could be as he becomes more and more established in the NFL. The scrambling, the arm talent, the off-schedule playmaking was all on display. On several occasions, Fields made a good throw, but a receiver dropped the ball. If those plays connect一 like Allen Robinson’s drop in the end zone一 not only does Fields’ stat line look better, but the complexion of the game changes.
Yes, Fields can play better. But if he continues to develop on his current trajectory, he will play better.
“I’ll be prepared,” Fields said. “I’m gonna do the same thing that I did this past week, and if Andy can’t go, then I’ll be getting reps with the first-team offense, so I think I’ll even be more prepared for that than I was today.”