Progress but no points for Bears QB Justin Fields, who watches Patrick Mahomes cruise
Fields didn’t play long against the Chiefs in the preseason opener, but he made a few big throws and escaped in good health.
Let’s start with what matters most in any preseason game: Bears quarterback Justin Fields is fine after taking a hard hit to the head.
Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill inexplicably dropped his right shoulder into the left side of Fields as he slid at the end of a run for no gain in the first quarter Saturday. The hit sent Fields’ head whipping back, and he popped up with his arms out in disbelief that no flag was thrown.
‘‘I guess I’ll just have to wait a few years, maybe four or five years, before I get that one,’’ Fields said. ‘‘Hopefully I get it soon.’’
That’s the last thing the Bears want to see in a preseason game.
But the next-to-last thing they want to see now — or when the regular season starts — is a continuation of the cloudiness that has made it difficult to assess Fields since the day the Bears drafted him. The worst thing that can happen for the Bears this season is to get to the end of it and still not know whether Fields is their future.
It’s risky enough when Fields runs by design, but he was on the move for the wrong reasons quite a bit during the 19-14 victory against the Chiefs because of breakdowns in blocking. He navigated the pressure well enough to get off the field intact after completing 4 of 7 passes for 48 yards and adding a 10-yard run. The Chiefs sacked him twice.
Fields arrived at third-and-six on his opening possession and barely had a chance. After his first read, he turned to his right and was eye-to-eye with Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was fresh off shoving right guard Michael Schofield aside. Jones wrapped him up for an eight-yard loss.
Most of Fields’ passes were under pressure, and while it’s still nearly a month until the start of the regular season, there’s cause for concern. The Bears should have starting center Lucas Patrick and projected right tackle Riley Reiff by then, and they were also without running back David Montgomery, tight end Cole Kmet and receivers Byron Pringle and Velus Jones against the Chiefs.
Nonetheless, there’s no guarantee getting those players back will fix everything. While general manager Ryan Poles evaluates Fields, everyone else is evaluating Poles’ personnel choices around him.
But even with so many snags and snafus Saturday, Fields reminded everyone how he got this job in the first place. He played only 18 snaps, and that was enough to show that, at his best, he has the talent to rise above the Bears’ many deficiencies.
Fields’ 10-yard run came as the pocket caved in on all sides, and he darted masterfully to escape it before ramping up to full speed. That’s going to come in handy often this season.
He flung a perfectly placed ball up the left sideline for receiver Darnell Mooney on third-and-four that went for a 26-yard gain.
Near the end of the first quarter, as Chiefs safety Deon Bush hit him from behind, Fields threw to a well-covered Tajae Sharpe on the right sideline for 19 yards. Fields hit the only spot where Sharpe even had a shot, and he made a ridiculous catch.
Ultimately, however, the results were far too familiar. In Fields’ three possessions, the Bears punted three times and failed to advance past the Chiefs’ 43-yard line. The offense had a net gain of 78 yards.
Progress but no points. The Bears did that dance with Mitch Trubisky for far too long.
Fields acknowledged that the offense needs to improve ‘‘pretty much everything’’ and that the key to making that happen is ‘‘just keep going. Keep working. That’s it.’’
Coach Matt Eberflus added, ‘‘We’re trying to score touchdowns every drive,’’ but he called it ‘‘a good performance’’ by Fields.
The Bears had no points at halftime, which must have looked awfully familiar to Matt Nagy in his Soldier Field return. He’s the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach now, standing at the side of the best in the game, Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes is the gold standard, and keep in mind that Poles saw that up close the last five years. That’s the level of competence to which he’ll hold Fields; he needs to be that good or indisputably on his way there.
Mahomes coasted effortlessly, of course. He guided the Chiefs 72 yards on 11 plays and made some tough throws before capping the drive with a touchdown pass and calling it a day after about six minutes of action.
That’s how a star quarterback and a thriving offense moves, even in preseason: confident, smooth, machinelike. Even as the Bears are in the early stage of a rebuild, it’s up to Fields to lead them out of the stop-and-go punt parade and into something like what he saw while watching Mahomes from the sideline.