LAS VEGAS — It felt like a game the Chicago Bears were going to let slip away. The offense had disappeared. The Raiders were gaining momentum.
And then something happened that usually doesn’t for the Chicago Bears: With a deafening roar echoing through Allegiant Stadium on 3rd-and-12, the quarterback dropped back and delivered a strike in a tight window to pick up 13 yards and a first down.
Yes, my friends, the Bears have a quarterback now. They have Justin Fields.
The stats in Sunday’s 20-9 win over the Raiders weren’t necessarily mind blowing (12-for-20, 111 yards, one touchdown), but Fields was much better than the numbers indicated. The Fury-Wilder fight on Saturday night wasn’t the only heavyweight fight in Las Vegas this weekend, as Fields absorbed some major body blows early that sent him to the sideline twice in considerable pain.
"We talked about that last night in the team meeting,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “We talked about it all week long — this was going to be a fistfight in a back alley and, ironically, we’re out here with that big fight last night and I think you could kind of feel how that was going to go today.”
Fields was in the middle of the fight early, taking a shot on the third play of the game that knocked the wind out of him. Later, he hyperextended his knee, but he kept coming back. And the 3rd-and-12 strike to Mooney was the decisive punch the Raiders couldn’t overcome.
"That was a big-time play in that game. And if you don’t get that, now, the momentum meter swings to them big time,” Nagy said. “Mooney, to get open and make the play, Justin went through his progression, the offensive line blocked, and Justin made a great throw.”
With the Raiders dropping eight into coverage, Fields had time to operate in the pocket, but there wasn’t very much space behind the sticks to fire the ball. Mooney ran a great curl at just enough depth to get behind the sticks and Fields put the pass low where only his guy could get it. Mooney went down to secure the football and the drive continued, ending in a big 46-yard field goal from Cairo Santos to make it 17-9.
It wasn’t the only big throw that Bears fans probably aren’t used to. At this point, they’re used to red zone ineptitude and end zone interceptions. Fields managed to complete a 2-yard touchdown throw to a tight end who basically wasn’t open.
Fields said Jesper Horsted was “a little open.” Nagy said he wasn’t. Either way, it was a touchdown, and it came after he had suffered the knee injury.
“When you’re in that moment, you can’t think about what’s hurting. You just think about executing that play,” Fields said. “Of course, Jesper was kind of open in the back of the end zone and the DB had his back turned. So of course, I knew he couldn’t see the ball. So I just threw it up and gave Jesper a chance. Of course he came down with it.”
Not everything needs to turn into a Mitch Trubisky comparison, but the touchdown throw was the exact kind of big play by a quarterback the Bears have not been getting when knocking on the door in the red zone. And it has to be relieving for the coaching staff to see.
Of course, just seeing Fields reenter the game had to be relieving for the coaching staff, considering knee injury did not look good.
"It looked scary. It looked bad,” running back Damien Williams said. “But to see him get over that ... it's a kid playing football."
Fields’ toughness has never been questioned, but it still matters that it has transcended to the NFL in a big way. Ideally, the Bears would like their rookie quarterback to take less hits. Some of that is on him and some of it isn’t. But it’s still comforting to know that those hits won’t phase him.
“That son of a buck is tough,” Nagy said.
After the game, Fields was at the center of the Club Dub celebration, a sign that his knee is just fine. In fact, he even teased that we might see a video of it.
For the Bears, they’ll take all the videos of Fields dancing in Club Dub that they can get.