All Justin Fields does is win. Inspiring the Bears’ defense to make three interceptions and serving as the wind beneath linebacker Roquan Smith’s wings while he ran 53 yards for a pick-6, the rookie quarterback . . .
What? Too much? OK, let’s try again:
All Justin Fields does is win. Heroically putting aside a fumble, two false starts and a bad interception that set up a Bengals touchdown, the rookie quarterback . . .
You’re right. Still a bit over the top. How about this:
Thank God that’s over. Overcoming a rough day, Bears rookie Justin Fields was able to pick up a much-needed first down in the fourth quarter, helping his team avoid a late-game collapse in a 20-17 victory Sunday against the Bengals.
Better. The story of a wild game at Soldier Field is that Fields saw his first significant action because of an injury to starter Andy Dalton and that it’s going to take awhile for the kid to be everything his many ardent supporters want him to be.
The problem with coronating someone as the most exciting thing since color TV — and doing it before he has started an NFL game — is forgetting two realities: 1) The league is filled with smart, talented defensive players and 2) Fields’ athleticism can’t hide the fact that he has a ton to learn.
Oh, I forgot a third reality: Dalton, who left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter and briefly returned before being replaced by Fields, is still the Bears’ starting quarterback. I think.
Will coach Matt Nagy bench Dalton if the veteran is healthy enough to start next week against the Browns? What if Dalton is out two games with the injury? Is it still his job when he comes back?
It’s probably naive to suggest Nagy will give the job back to Dalton if Fields does fairly well as the starter for a few weeks. Nagy knows how much public pressure there is to play the rookie. About 75% of the pressure is on Nagy’s shoulders; the other 25% is on his head.
The good news for ESPN is that there still will be a quarterback controversy Monday. So their talkers can sob over the terrible injustice being done to Fields The Backup for at least a few more hours. It’s hard to imagine how they’ll fill time when he does become the full-time starter, though I’m guessing it will involve LeBron James and the Cowboys.
There’s no doubt the Bears’ offense is more exciting with Fields on the field because, at this point, you truly don’t know what’s going to happen with him on any given play. Could be a great run, such as his 10-yard scramble for a crucial first down on third-and-nine with less than three minutes left. Could be an interception right to a defender, as there was in the fourth quarter. Could be a leper being healed, I’m told.
But it should be pointed out that the Bears’ only offensive touchdown was scored with Dalton at quarterback. He looked pretty good on that opening drive, a nine-play, 75-yard march for a score. It also should be pointed out that he averaged 12.5 yards on two carries. Those are some uncomfortable truths if your life’s work is to scream at the top of your lungs that Fields should be starting.
Fields didn’t need to see his 27.7 passer rating to know he didn’t perform well. In fairness, however, he did have receivers drop some passes.
‘‘I don’t think I’m pleased with how I played at all,’’ he said. ‘‘I think there’s a lot more in me that I have to show. I know it’s going to come with time.’’
The Bears’ defense was great most of the game, picking off Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on three consecutive passes spanning the third and fourth quarters. Then came a shaky stretch where Burrow threw consecutive fourth-quarter touchdown passes, the second thanks to Logan Wilson’s interception of Fields, which had given the Bengals the ball at the Bears’ 7.
Fields’ scramble followed, and all was right with the world — provided the world was dealing with some amnesia.
‘‘Justin made a great play with his legs, and [those are] things he can do,’’ Nagy said.
‘‘I knew a first down was going to win the game,’’ Fields said.
He can build on that.
It isn’t just Fields who has a lot to learn. The Bears as a team continue to look undisciplined. Immediately after a timeout in the first quarter, offensive lineman Germain Ifedi was called for a false start. Safety Tashaun Gipson was called for taunting, and outside linebacker Robert Quinn was called for unnecessary roughness after Burrow conned him into hitting him as he was about to step out of bounds. All of it was a bad look for the Bears and their ‘‘culture.’’
But the important thing is that they won. And that we, as a nation, still have a quarterback situation to howl about.