Bears’ Justin Fields unintimidated as he takes on ultimate winner Tom Brady
Brady is playing some of the best football of his career, which is really saying something, and the Buccaneers have won 13 of their last 14. It’s a monumental challenge for a rookie quarterback making his fifth start.
For the second consecutive week, Bears rookie Justin Fields tried to downplay a showdown between himself and a future Hall of Fame quarterback. The way he spins it, opposing QBs are never on the field at the same time and thus don’t really play against each other.
That’s technically true, but the Bears’ chances of upsetting the Buccaneers on Sunday most likely hinge on whether Fields can outperform seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady.
By the way, here’s a glance at Fields’ calendar: Aaron Rodgers last week, Brady on Sunday, then Ben Roethlisberger and Lamar Jackson in November and Kyler Murray, Rodgers and Russell Wilson looming in December.
And while not a single one of those players will be in coverage or blitzing the pocket when Fields drops back to throw, NFL games typically come down to which team has better quarterback play. Brady and Fields are up against reasonably comparable defenses, so whoever plays better will almost certainly get the win.
Beating Brady, like Rodgers, is extremely difficult. Peyton Manning pulled it off just six times in 17 career attempts.
Including the playoffs, in which Brady has played the equivalent of almost three seasons, he is 269-81 as a starter. He has won 10 or more games in all but one of his seasons as a full-time starter. Fields is 2-2, just for context.
There’s endless argument about whether Brady is football’s most talented quarterback, but there’s no debate about him being the ultimate winner. His seven Super Bowl titles are more than what 28 of the 32 NFL franchises have in their entire histories.
The only quarterback to beat Brady so far this season is the Rams’ Matthew Stafford, who had a monster game of 343 yards and four touchdowns in Week 3. That kind of game is probably a reach for Fields at this point. But if the Bears’ defense forces Brady into a middling performance, as it did last October, Fields has a shot at keeping pace. When these teams met at Soldier Field a little over a year ago, Brady managed just 253 yards and a touchdown. Nick Foles virtually matched him at 243 yards and a touchdown, and the Bears topped the eventual champion Bucs 20-19 on Cairo Santos’ 38-yard field goal with 1:13 left.
That was a different version of the Bucs, however, with Brady yet to find his groove after more than two decades with the Patriots. The Bucs meandered to a 7-5 record before catching fire. Since then, they have won 13 of 14 and averaged 33.3 points per game.
And Brady, now 44, is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. He had a 96.8 passer rating last season after losing to the Bears, then closed with a 104.7 over the last 11 games. This season, he leads the NFL with a stunning 344 yards passing per game, which would be the highest ever if he keeps it up. He’s second in the NFL in touchdown passes (17), sixth in passer rating (107.9) and 10th in completion percentage (68.5) and is among the safest passers in the league with just three interceptions out of 267 throws.
Even with Fields being so single-minded and clinical about his job, it’s impossible for him to ignore how daunting this matchup is. And with the Bucs having the NFL’s best run defense, there’s a strong likelihood the Bears will put the game in Fields’ hands.
Nonetheless, it’s an opportunity. Fields seems fearless, which is helpful in this scenario. Whether he’s actually ready for this challenge is irrelevant to him. He’s not intimidated, and that’s a good start when he’s taking on one of the sport’s all-time greats.