Home Sports ‘Tons of progress?’ Despite signs of growth from the Chicago Bears offense, Justin Fields and his coaches know many steps lie ahead.

‘Tons of progress?’ Despite signs of growth from the Chicago Bears offense, Justin Fields and his coaches know many steps lie ahead.

by staff

The throw that awakened the Chicago Bears offense Sunday came on the final drive before halftime, a deep shot up the left side by quarterback Justin Fields to wide receiver Darnell Mooney. Fields, seeing a one-on-one matchup against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chandon Sullivan, hit the top of his drop, took his time and launched.

Mooney, with minimal separation, adjusted to the throw and made a leaping, one-handed catch.


“That definitely gave us a lot of momentum,” Fields said.

The sequence was enlivening in so many ways, an explosive passing play that put the Bears back into what had been a lopsided game to that point.


That completion set up a touchdown that cut the Vikings lead to 21-10 before halftime. Another touchdown on the first drive of the second half further fueled the Bears rally. With 19 unanswered points, they surged ahead of the Vikings in the fourth quarter.

And while they eventually lost 29-22, the growth that came out of the performance, particularly for Fields and the offense, was encouraging.

“The timing is getting better,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “The rhythm is getting better.”

That deep ball to Mooney was impressive not only in the yards gained. It was also an attack-mode shot that came immediately after the Bears benefited from a shanked punt by Ryan Wright that gave them their best starting field position of the afternoon.

Furthermore, it came on a similar concept to one Fields and Mooney failed to connect on in the first half, with a potential 26-yard touchdown resulting instead in an incompletion and an eventual field goal. On the first try, Fields attempted to make a back-shoulder throw, but the timing and precision were off.

The run-it-back effort at the end of the half was on point.

“They were more in sync,” Eberflus said.

In a game with a smattering of calming flashes from Fields and the offense, that was the Bears’ biggest gain, a glimpse at how they can provide juice when it’s needed most.


On top of that, when Fields returned in the second half to complete 12 of 13 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown, he served as both an energy source and a calming influence, contributions that weren’t lost on offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.

Still, as a process-obsessed group marches forward, trying to carry momentum into Thursday’s quick-turnaround game against the Washington Commanders, a grounded approach is required. That’s why, when Getsy fielded a question Tuesday that asserted Fields had shown “tons of progress” in recent weeks, he quickly activated a yellow light.

“Tons of progress? I don’t like using those adjectives that are extreme,” Getsy said. “I’m just not that type of person. But, no, there has been progress. And we’re sticking to the plan.”

Step by step, the Bears remain persistent with their offensive evolution while resisting any urges to skip too far ahead or land on any exaggerated conclusions.

“Your goal is to just have progress all year,” Fields said Tuesday. “Progress takes patience.”

It’s fair to acknowledge the moments of progress Fields showed Sunday and to assert without blinking that the Bears offense, from the final drive of the first half onward, appeared competent and, at times, exciting.


Fields was the engine.

“He was playing smooth, confident,” Mooney said. “He was playing calm.”

Fields said Tuesday he is working on that latter quality and just this month began adopting some basic breathing exercises he learned from a yoga instructor who visits Halas Hall regularly.

Slow inhale for four seconds. Calm exhale.

“Doing that automatically keeps me more calm in the pocket,” Fields said.

Still, the NFL demands high-level consistency. And tons of it. So it will take a couple of months’ worth of forward steps such as Sunday’s to validate that Fields and the Bears are even in the earliest stages of a legitimate rise.


Another solid performance Thursday night would be welcome.

Perspective remains a must in the evaluation of any young quarterback. Thus, just as stretches of struggle shouldn’t immediately be interpreted as panic-inducing trouble spots, flashes of promise should not trigger instant intoxication either.

In Chicago, though, hyperbole became a free runner into the football conversation this week with the most enthusiastic Fields believers eager to declare that he has turned a corner or taken his game to a new level. Predictably, others have shown an urge to label Fields’ performance against the Vikings as outstanding, potentially marking an arrival on the path toward stardom.

As a reminder, the Bears totaled 176 yards and 12 points in the second half of a loss. That’s the bungee cord that will keep the internal view in Lake Forest attached to reason.

Getsy was asked Tuesday how Fields’ production in Minneapolis — most of it after halftime — altered his stance on whether Fields has what it takes to lead the Bears to a Super Bowl.

“I truly don’t think about that,” Getsy said. “I really don’t. My focus is on helping him and these other guys get better each week.”


Two plays before Ihmir Smith-Marsette became Chicago’s spirit-killing scapegoat by making an imprudent decision to stay in bounds and losing a fumble that sealed the Bears loss, Fields exhibited his own shaky ball security.

Done in by a protection breakdown, Fields was engulfed in the pocket and had the football swatted from his right hand by D.J. Wonnum. Had it not been for the hustle of left guard Lucas Patrick, who kept the Bears alive by recovering the fumble, the defeat might have become official there.

Fields’ final mistake might have easily reduced Bears fans’ buzz and changed the tone of Chicago’s quarterback conversation heading into this shortened week.

That’s at the crux of all of this, that an antsy fan base — and far more important, a success-starved franchise — must retain clear eyes to accurately interpret what they’re seeing in their quarterback’s development. Everything must be assessed, the good and bad mixed together.

Fields’ second-half rhythm Sunday provided fuel for an offensive performance that was encouraging and competent but far from landmark.

For the offense as a whole, there was a long list of woeful moments, starting with but not limited to the delay-of-game penalty taken before the Bears’ first play when fullback Khari Blasingame forgot he was supposed to be on the field.


“That should never happen,” Fields said. “We go over the first 10 plays at the walk-through.”

Added Eberflus: “That’s not good ball. We’ve got to be on point there.”

The Bears have been masters in “not good ball” through too much of the first five games. Against the Vikings, their offensive sloppiness included the following:

  • Fields’ abrupt movement forward and inadvertent cue to center Sam Mustipher to snap the ball when the quarterback was simply trying to audible. The result: a fumble that Fields recovered plus an illegal motion penalty against Fields.
  • Late in the first half, with the Bears fighting to mount a scoring drive and keep the game within reach, Fields had time, a clean pocket and an open receiver along the left sideline. He threw a decent intermediate pass to Dante Pettis, who had to reach above his head to snare it. Alas, Pettis dropped what should have been a routine completion. (Not that it would have mattered. Mustipher was flagged for holding.) The easy conclusion: This Bears offense, given its talent and depth deficiencies, may remain erratic and error-prone throughout the final three-quarters of the season, a potential deterrent to the group’s overall growth potential.
  • One play before Montgomery’s 9-yard touchdown run on the Bears’ final first-half possession, Fields tried to make an off-script play with his legs and his arm as he scrambled left. He was fortunate that linebacker Jordan Hicks batted down his pass toward the end zone. That throw was headed into a sea of traffic and easily could have become a turnover that would have punctuated a miserable first half. That’s the tightrope an NFL quarterback walks on every play.
Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) walks off the field after a 29-22 loss to the Vikings on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Still, for the first time this season, the Bears offense seemed to exhibit a promising level of comfort in Minnesota.

“You can feel Justin comfortable with where he is right now in the offense,” Eberflus said. “He’s taking command.”

Fields operated within the pocket with much more calm and purpose. In Getsy’s words, he “hunted completions” and made a handful of “unbelievable escapes (on scrambles) that were ridiculous.”


A debatable block-in-the-back penalty against Smith-Marsette negated what could have been a game-changing 52-yard touchdown run by Fields in the fourth quarter.

Fields also slowed himself within the game, making a handful of routine yet critical completions, perhaps none more impressive than a dart to Cole Kmet to convert on third-and-10 in the third quarter.

On that play, Fields combined NFL-caliber pocket awareness and trust with an on-target fastball to an open receiver. The result was a 23-yard gain and offered additional evidence to support Fields’ postgame assertion that he is steadying himself within the frenetic world of NFL quarterbacking.

“That’s the experience part of it,” Getsy said. “That’s hard for everybody to have patience with. (But) it’s cool that he’s seeing that and saying that.”

Getsy also took note of the way Fields responded to his final-drive fumble, immediately resetting and beating significant pressure on the next snap to find Montgomery for a check-down completion. That pass, caught 4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, turned into a 21-yard gain in crunch time.

“To me, that’s a really cool moment for a quarterback who can compose himself after that (fumble), then make a really nice play,” Getsy said.


In his appropriately demanding way, Getsy continues to push Fields to reach an elevated standard, stressing Tuesday that Fields’ improving pocket presence still needs work.

“It’s not where we want it to be and it’s not good enough yet,” he said. “But I think we’re showing signs of growth.”

Detached from any exaggerated outside praise or over-the-top criticism, Getsy wants Fields to continue on his path. One step at a time.

“He’s starting to play within his style and his ways,” Getsy said. “And he’s finding his own way within our system and helping his teammates. There’s a lot that goes into playing the position. Each week he’s been able to take on more and feel more and understand more.”

Who knows what the longest-term results and ramifications will be? At this point, that’s not Fields’ focus.

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