Earlier this season, Justin Fields said he feels like a robot when he plays. He wants to play with freedom and spontaneity.
Whatever has changed since then, it’s still working.
After a rough start to the season, Fields has been outstanding the past two weeks. On Thursday, he went 15-of-29 for 282 yards and four touchdowns to help the Bears beat the Washington Commanders 40-20 for their first win of the season. This type of play has the Bears hoping Fields can put it all together and become their quarterback of the future.
There could be some complicated decisions to make before next April’s draft, but that’s still far away. Now, the Bears have a 24-year-old quarterback who has shown great improvement over the past two games.
Justin Fields has big two weeks
Fields had a stellar performance against the Denver Broncos last week. He passed for 335 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. The Bears led 28-7 and lost the game, and Fields was a part of that, but it was a good day.
Fields doubled down that Thursday. In Chicago’s final two games, he had 617 yards and eight touchdowns. His 11 passing touchdowns this season are tied for the most in the NFL. That will change come Sunday, but it’s a good place for Fields.
It’s only two games and against a poor Broncos defense and a play-calling defense that’s probably not much better, but it’s certainly improvement for a quarterback who’s less than a third into his third season.
“Just calm. I see calm all the time,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said after Thursday’s game. “You can see he’s comfortable in the pocket, reading his reads carefully and throwing the ball on time.”
Every week in the NFL is a referendum on everyone. This is just a by-product of the overwhelming interest in the league. Look at Fields. A few weeks ago, the answer to whether the Bears should commit to Fields long-term seemed to be an emphatic “no.” Over the past few weeks, he’s pushed that answer closer to possibility. He has the rest of the season to prove it.
The answer may be the biggest piece of the NFL’s puzzle next offseason.
Bears like Fields’ momentum
According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, in 15 of the past 21 years, the No. 1 pick has been taken by a team that started 0-4. It’s about 71.4%. There are two 0-4 teams in the NFL, and the Bears own the 2024 first-round picks from both teams.
Even if Thursday’s win marks the Bears’ breakout and better play the rest of the season, they still own a first-round pick from the 0-4 Carolina Panthers. If the Bears get the No. 1 pick, or even the No. 2 pick, they’ll have a very interesting decision to make. By then, will Fields’ performance be enough for Chicago to pass on an elite prospect like Caleb Williams? Or even Drake Maye with the second pick? If the Bears trade the No. 1 pick to a team in need of a quarterback, it could lead to a historic haul.
A few weeks ago, this seemed like a no-brainer. Fields’ flaws as a passer were exposed. But since then, Fields has had two of the best passing games of his NFL career. He had the only two four-touchdown games of his career in consecutive weeks. He threw for more than 254 yards in a game four times, two of which came in five days. His two best passer ratings of his career came Sunday against Denver and Thursday against Washington.
He’s still not a great passer, but he’s a young player with first-round pedigree who is improving. At this point in his career, it’s a completely reasonable position.
“He’s really learning the position, learning the offense, just growing,” Eberfuss said. “Now he is starting to reap the fruits of his labor over the past few weeks and we will build on that.”
If Fields continues to play like he does and the Panthers continue to play like they do, what the Bears do will be the talk of the offseason. Those decisions won’t happen for a long time (Williams also needs to make a decision about whether he’ll come out or stay at USC). The most important thing over the next few months is figuring out what they have in Fields. The last two games have started to change that narrative.