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Bears film study: QB Justin Fields’ trajectory more important than wins or losses

Fields made several big-time throws — even before his late heroics — that point toward big things ahead.

Justin Fields threw for 291 yards and ran for 45 in the Bears’ 29-27 loss to the Steelers.
Justin Fields threw for 291 yards and ran for 45 in the Bears’ 29-27 loss to the Steelers.
Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

With seven playoff spots and a 17-game schedule, it’s going to be awhile before the Bears are too far gone to talk about vying for the postseason. It’s guaranteed that coach Matt Nagy will try to keep that in the conversation as long as he can.

But this team is 3-6 after losing to the Steelers on Monday night, and that’s the worst record they’ve had at any point under Nagy. They’re the seventh-worst team in the NFL, just ahead of the Jaguars.

The rest of the season isn’t about results. The Bears have slid to a point where they don’t matter. Does anyone care if they crawl into the playoffs at 8-9 rather than stagger to 6-11 and miss them?

What matters now is where they’re headed in 2022 and beyond, and that assessment starts with rookie quarterback Justin Fields. If he’s good, this team has a chance to be good. With the emphasis shifting fully to Fields’ development and what it means, set aside yet another disheartening defeat and look at the bigger picture of what his performance points toward:

Go-ahead drive

Fields’ combination of talent and inexperience makes him wildly unpredictable at this stage, and that’s exciting to watch. Bears fans’ viewing experience has turned from bracing for disappointment the last few seasons to the eager exhilaration that something amazing might happen.

Fields delivered a thrill in the final minutes by making three perfect passes.

Starting at the Bears’ 25 and trailing 26-20 with 2:47 left, Fields kick-started the drive by standing in the pocket with pressure closing in on him and throwing across his body to Allen Robinson for nine yards. The big gain allowed the Bears to take a shot on second-and-one, and Fields fired a great deep ball for Darnell Mooney that Mooney just couldn’t catch up to.

Regardless, Fields kept it going with a couple of scrambles before facing third-and-two at the Bears’ 45-yard line.

That’s when Fields made one of his best throws of the season. Robinson beat cornerback Arthur Maulet early in his route and had two yards of separation when Fields hit him at the Steelers’ 27-yard line. He put it perfectly over Robinson’s shoulder so he could catch it without breaking stride and run another 11 yards.

On the next play, the Steelers forced Fields to scramble left, and Mooney extended the play expertly. On the left side of the end zone, Mooney improvised by stopping and drifting toward the left sideline. Fields has had some issues with touch, almost always defaulting to his fastball, but dropped this pass gently enough for Mooney to focus on keeping his feet in bounds for the touchdown and a 27-26 lead.

Last desperate push

The Bears should’ve been done after Chris Boswell’s 40-yard field goal put the Steelers up 29-27 with 26 seconds left and Nagy out of timeouts, but Fields came through again to give them a chance.

He took as much yardage as he could as quickly as he could with back-to-back completions to tight end Cole Kmet. Fields hit him on the left sideline for 11 yards on a pass that ate only five seconds off the clock and on the right sideline for 12 yards that took six seconds even with him having to maneuver out of pressure first.

Those plays got the Bears to the Steelers’ 47-yard line with five seconds left, allowing Cairo Santos a chance at a long field goal. Nagy opted for Santos to try a 65-yarder rather than have Fields heave it into a crowd in the end zone. The kick landed a few yards into the end zone.

Monster plays

Fields’ late heroics were only part of his great game. He had four other passes of 20-plus yards.

He flipped the field in the third quarter on first-and-10 at the Bears’ 36 with a 50-yard pass up the right sideline to Marquise Goodwin at the Steelers’ 14. Goodwin had separation from safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Fields led him just enough without throwing it out of bounds.

Fields showed off his accuracy again on a 28-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham as the pocket collapsed on the first play of the fourth quarter. Fields threaded the ball just over Fitzpatrick and safety Terrell Edmunds.

Fields hit Kmet for 25 and 21 yards in the second quarter. On the first pass to Kmet, Fields rolled left on a bootleg and gave him plenty of room to finish the catch before running out of bounds on the left sideline. The second was in the last minute of the first half and helped set up a field goal. He found Kmet in the middle of the field just in front of Fitzpatrick to reach the Steelers’ 10-yard line.