All by himself, Justin Fields is making the Bears’ rebuild bearable

In a 35-32 loss to Miami, he rushes for 178 yards, the most by a quarterback in an NFL regular-season game.

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Bears quarterback Justin Fields runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Dolphins at Soldier Field.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Dolphins at Soldier Field.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

I’ve experienced rebuilds by the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks, so I consider myself an expert on the subject. I know what rebuilds look like (various shades of darkness) and what they mean for fans (widespread suffering, with a 50% chance of hope for some far-off season). 

But all those teams and all those teardowns didn’t have Justin Fields, rebuild pain reliever.

The Dolphins, who are good, beat the Bears, who purportedly aren’t, 35-32 on Sunday at Soldier Field. The afternoon reinforced what I’ve been thinking the past few weeks: Rebuilds aren’t supposed to be this entertaining. Or, if you prefer, if this is what tanking looks like, more of it, please.

Almost all of this has to do with Fields, a walking, talking, mostly running antidote to the modern-day idea that you have to hit rock bottom before you can get to the top in professional sports.

Fields was terrific Sunday, rushing for 178 yards, the most by a quarterback in an NFL regular-season game. He still has a long way to go as a passer, though that would seem to be a tough argument to make after a game in which he threw for three touchdowns. If you had told me he was capable of this kind of performance a month ago, I would have asked if somebody had slipped you a few infused gummies.

What happened? Credit goes to head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who realized several weeks ago that, “Hey, you know what, this Fields kid can fly.’’ Getsy started calling designed runs for his quarterback. Once that happened, defenses not only had to worry about Fields the scrambler, they had to worry about Fields the running back. Twelve of Fields’ 15 carries Sunday picked up first downs.

Someday, he’s going to have to learn to pass the ball downfield — I think. It’s not that opposing teams are going to figure out how to stop his running, because that might not be possible. But to win in the NFL, you have to be able to throw the ball. The corollary to that truism is that there are only two kinds of running quarterbacks: Those who have been injured and those who are going to be injured. So he’s going to have to evolve — I think.

Fields doesn’t have the weapons that the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa does — Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle — but there’s more that separates the two quarterbacks than the ability of their receivers, at least right now. Tua has confidence and accuracy. Fields’ success as a runner eventually will open up the passing game, and if general manager Ryan Poles can get him help on the offensive line and at receiver, we’ll find out what kind of passer the kid can be. Adding Chase Claypool at the trade deadline was a start.

When will Fields the passer make an appearance? It’s a nice discussion, but for the moment, it’s the definition of “beside the point.’’ He had a 61-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that very few people on the planet can make. Under pressure, he scrambled up the middle, pump faked a couple of defenders into thinking he was throwing and then was gone like summer.

“Instinct took over,’’ Fields said.

Instinct is fun.

“The quarterback was really amazing today,’’ said Eberflus, not normally given to flowery praise. 

I’d recommend the Bears get rid of a few more of their better defensive players. After trading Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith in consecutive weeks, the Bears played two of their best games of the season on offense. It doesn’t make sense, but there you go. The Bears play Detroit next. Is there a cornerback Poles can waive? 

The defense — the same defense that gave up 379 yards Sunday — stopped the Dolphins twice on fourth down in the final quarter. Some things are inexplicable. This is one of them.

The Bears are 3-6, having lost five of their last six games, but that doesn’t quite tell the story of what’s going on here. The whole idea of any rebuild is to have as bad a record as possible in order to accumulate the highest draft picks possible. But the Bears are doing what was previously considered impossible: They’re losing and putting on an entertaining show. They’re failing and they’re fun. Three straight games scoring at least 29 points? From an offense that managed just seven points against Washington a little more than three weeks ago?

What happened?

Fields happened.

“Obviously a huge step for Justin Fields and the franchise today,’’ Eberflus said.

A huge number of huge steps.

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