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Late in the Bears' loss, Justin Fields shines: 'It was his moment.'
There was a silver lining in the golden arm of Justin Fields in a game highlighted by defence, marred by penalties, ultimately won by the Steelers and leaving the Bears depressed after their fourth loss in a row.
The Bears' offence was lethargic for the first three quarters, as it has been all season, until Fields showcased the qualities that have injected enthusiasm into the franchise since he was selected. He also demonstrated that he's learning, maturing, and developing into the franchise quarterback that Chicago thinks he'll be.
Fields rallied his team for a go-ahead touchdown march that ended with a touchdown strike to Darnell Mooney, providing a glimpse of the brilliance Bears fans crave. On Monday night, Chicago didn't win, but the light in Fields began to shine.
"My mindset was just like, 'It's time. We're here,'" said Fields of his thought process when the Bears took over on the eventual go-ahead drive. "You can either be the guy who always gets put in that position and doesn't show up or you can be that guy who shows up in the big moments. So, I mean that's what my mindset was and I was just calm and just focused on showing up."
The Bears took over with 2:47 left on the clock from their own 25-yard line, needing a touchdown to tie the game at 26-20.
Fields connected with Allen Robinson for a nine-yard gain to start the drive, and he connected with Robinson again later in the drive on a 39-yard touchdown pass. Fields threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Mooney on the next play, setting up a Cairo Santos go-ahead extra point.
It was a seven-play, 75-yard drive that didn't end up being the game-winner, but it did show off Fields' arm, which is loaded with accuracy and strength. It also showcased the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft's calmness under duress, which was all the more amazing given that he was up against a tough Steelers defence. It was a seven-play, 75-yard drive that didn't end up being the game-winner, but it did show off Fields' arm, which is loaded with accuracy and strength. It also showcased the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft's calmness under duress, which was all the more amazing given that he was up against a tough Steelers defence.
"I think that just gives, not only me but the offense confidence, you know? After the game, Cole [Kmet] came up to me and said, 'We're almost there, we just got to keep working,'" Fields said. "So, just seeing that, seeing the explosive plays, seeing our drives get put together, it gives our offense more confidence and just pushes us to work harder because we know we're on the brink of being a great offense. We're just gonna keep working."
For a 3-6 team, finding a silver lining is difficult, but it was there, even in the cold reality of the final score. Matt Nagy, the head coach, saw it in Fields before the game-winning drive.
"The big picture, for him, is great," Nagy said. "When they kicked that field goal and went up six, there was a really, pretty neat moment on the sideline. You can feel it from the players, like, 'OK, we fought back to get to this point where a touchdown wins it.' When I turned to look at Justin, he had this look on his face as if it was his time. It was almost as if he was hoping that this was going to be the circumstance, the confidence that gives you as a coach when you see that. It was a fantastic feeling on the sideline to see him follow through with that and make those plays. So, when you speak about his growth, the growth of the offence, and the growth of our club, that’s a moment. That was a moment. But, in the end, we lost, and it's a team game when you're in that locker room. That's what our people are concerned about, and it's also what we are concerned about. It's up to us to find it out."
In the picture of a drive on Monday night, the promise for the best of things ahead was actually glimpsed.
For bits and pieces of this topsy-turvy 2021 season, Fields has showed electricity in his legs and arm. Even in the midst of defeat, it was on this night that he demonstrated something extraordinary with the game on the line for the first time, bolstering the idea that it would not be the last time.