Regardless of Bears’ flaws, turnovers land on QB Justin Fields’ shoulders

Fields now has as many career pick-sixes (four) as Aaron Rodgers has in 19 seasons. His decision-making is a significant piece of the offensive struggles.

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A photo of Justin Fields’ fumble on a sack by Cam Gill.

Fields’ fumble on this sack by Cam Gill was recovered by Bears center Lucas Patrick.

AP Photos

The Bears have surrounded quarterback Justin Fields with an abundance of problems in his first three seasons. There’s no disputing that. Whether it’s been the coaching, the scheme, the offensive line or the wide receivers, it’s never been quite right.

But he’s still been the one with the ball in his hands — not Matt Nagy, Luke Getsy or anyone else who has contributed to the various hindrances. Fields makes the final call on where the ball goes and must show awareness and good judgment regardless of anything else going on around him.

Fields’ ongoing turnover trouble is squarely on him, and questions about his decision-making loom as the Bears weigh whether to build their future around him.

Fields threw two interceptions, including a game-sealing pick-six, and fumbled in the Bears’ 27-17 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday. He also lost a fumble and threw an interception on back-to-back plays in the third quarter that were overturned on replay review, but that didn’t make those errors any less concerning in the big picture.

In 29 career games, Fields has now thrown 24 interceptions and had 31 fumbles attributed to him, though that total includes bad snaps that might not have been his fault. His pick-six was the fourth of his career, matching Aaron Rodgers’ total in 19 seasons.

The interception problem has been persistent, too; those aren’t frontloaded in Fields’ career. He has thrown as many picks in his last 10 games (eight) as he did his first 10 and has the highest percentage of passes intercepted (3.7) of any quarterback over the last three seasons.

Fields’ fumble total also is the most in the NFL since his debut, but again, not all of those are on him.

He’s getting the reputation of being a turnover machine, and that’ll give the Bears some hesitation. General manager Ryan Poles is debating whether to invest a massive chunk of salary-cap space in Fields and bet his own job on it. Fields is eligible for a contract extension after the season, and even the more conservative avenue of picking up his fifth-year option for 2025 is projected to cost $23.3 million.

The Tampa Bay game was Fields’ second in a row with a pick-six, and both times a defensive player fooled him.

In the Packers game, linebacker Quay Walker faked like he was helping in deep coverage, then stepped in front of Darnell Mooney’s route to intercept Fields’ pass. Buccaneers pass rusher Shaq Barrett charged as though headed to the backfield, then faded back to pick off the fateful screen pass Sunday.

On the would-be interception by Bucs backup cornerback Zyon McCollum at the end of the third quarter, Fields tried to force the ball to a tightly covered Chase Claypool on the sideline. If he’s going to do that, he has to put it where the worst thing that can happen is it sails out of bounds.

McCollum was millimeters from securing the ball in bounds. Fields was fortunate.

The fumbles are a major liability as well considering how mobile Fields is and his tendency to stand in the pocket too long.

In his first ever preseason game, he lost a fumble carelessly on a spin move and caught a break when the Dolphins couldn’t corral it in bounds. He was dismissive of that play, saying it wouldn’t happen when the games counted.

They have, though. And like the interceptions, he can’t blame the haphazard circumstances created by the Bears. No matter how bad the blocking or how few options are open for a downfield throw, it’s a crucial job requirement to see trouble coming and protect the ball.

Almost all NFL quarterbacks can keep the ball safe in an ideal scenario. That’s not special. What sets someone apart is showing sound judgment amid chaos and imperfection. The Bears aren’t making Fields’ job easy, but it’s still his responsibility to play prudently.

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