With four games to go, Justin Fields focuses on the future
Half an hour after the Bears’ 45-30 loss at Lambeau Field on Sunday, rookie quarterback Justin Fields spoke the six most meaningful words of the night.
“This is the only positive point that we are going to take away from this defeat, is that we continue to improve each week,” he said. “And we’re going to keep doing it and hopefully building, not just the next game, the next game, the next game – but also next year.” Just keep building and somehow changing the culture here. “
Those words – “But also next year too” – have been largely ignored, at least publicly, at Halas Hall, throughout the season.
Bears coach Matt Nagy has always pushed back questions about developing young players in the lone 2022 goal, whether it be Fields or rookies Teven Jenkins, Larry Borom and Khalil Herbert. The reason, Nagy says: he’s worried about this week, this opponent, this game.
What’s not said, however, is this: Nagy doesn’t expect to be there next year. He won’t be focusing on next season until the Bears are officially eliminated from the playoffs. And they’re not yet, technically – according to Football Outsiders, they have a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs.
When Fields talks about the future, as he did on Sunday night, his teammates had better listen. He’ll be inside Halas Hall in 2022, after all. Its coaches and general manager are not sure if they are saying the same thing.
Until then, Fields plans to keep his teammates engaged in the last four games of the season.
âShow them physically and tell them verbally,â Fields said. âKeep telling them, ‘We’re getting better.’ ”
It is only in this context that Sunday evening can be considered a success. Fields was not impressive in his first comeback from a rib injury. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Even these stats make her night better than it used to be. Jakeem Grant’s 46-yard shovel touchdown was caught four yards deep in the Bears’ backfield. Damiere Byrd’s 54-yard touchdown in the second quarter came on a Fields pass that flew five yards through the air.
Fields was 70.8 passer, threw two interceptions – including 55-yard pick-six Rasul Douglas – and missed the ball after Jenkins was whipped by the Packers’ Preston Smith. The rookie tackle held Smith while allowing him to sack Fields and force the ball out. The Packers scored a play later on a 23-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to running back Aaron Jones – meaning two of Fields’ three turnovers led the Packers to 14 points in seconds.
Fields chose to focus on the good.
âI think that’s one of the hardest things about losing,â Fields said. âThere are so many people saying this and that, but you just have to look at the positives and build on that. And just know that this isn’t going to change overnight. You just have to keep building. It’s going to be tough, but you just have to find the positive. “
During three quarters on Sunday night, the Bears must have narrowed their eyes. They scored 24 points in that frame – and six in the rest of the combined game.
Fields was harassed most of the night. According to Pro Football Focus, Fields was pressured on 22 of 43 withdrawals. Under pressure, the rookie averaged 3.2 yards per passing attempt. When he wasn’t, he had an average of 10.2.
While Nagy said the tight ends helped block half of their setbacks, the Bears didn’t help Fields enough in his first game back from injury. When in an empty lineup, Fields made 6 of 11 passes for 45 yards and a horrific 26.7 passer rating, per PFF. Fields injured his non-throwing left hand on Sunday night – Nagy said Fields should be able to play against the Vikings – and said his cracked ribs were around 90%.
When asked specifically what he saw Fields translate to next season, Nagy outlined the three-step process on Fields’ throwbacks: reading his passing progresses, using his legs, and being smart. to slide.
“He didn’t take a lot of hits, did he?” Nagy said.
Fields ran nine times for 74 yards on Sunday.
“When he has that and the defensive coordinators know it, it’s scary, you know?” Nagy said. âIt’s scary. Because he can do special throws. He does that. He’s proven it. But now when you throw that element of using his legs on extended plays, it’s hard. It’s hard, it’s going to be a great weapon for him.
Whether Nagy is there to see is another question. But it’s clear Fields is starting to think about next year – and the stepping stone to the next four games may be towards her.