Two steps forward, one giant step back. That’s what it feels like for the Chicago Bears after Thursday night’s 12-7 loss to the Washington Commanders.
The Bears were once again their own worst enemy at Soldier Field, missing opportunities to score touchdowns in the red zone and another special teams meltdown with the game on the line.
However, if there was any silver lining in the Bears’ frustrating performance, it was the toughness displayed by QB Justin Fields.
Bears fans would prefer a takeaway that highlights Fields’ touchdown throws and bundles of passing yards, but now six weeks into the 2022 season, it’s safe to say those highlights are at least one year away. Instead, what we’re seeing from the second-year passer is a level of toughness that’s as unteachable as pinpoint accuracy.
Fields was pressured on 15 of his pass attempts Thursday night. According to Pro Football Focus’ analytics, he was hit four times and sacked once. The hits he took were each more brutal than the next. His upper and lower body were punished equally, but his mental toughness didn’t waver.
“I think he took a step forward,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said of Fields after the game. “The toughness … the ability to take the ball and drive it down at the very end to give us a chance to win it. That’s to me what was the improvement.”
Fields’ final stat line wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful, either. He finished 14-of-27 for 190 yards. He threw a gorgeous 40-yard touchdown to WR Dante Pettis and added 88 yards as a runner.
What will haunt Fields, however, were the opportunities he missed. He said as much after the game. He referenced the missed touchdown to TE Ryan Griffin as a play that angered him. It was an inexcusable misfire.
Thursday night marked the 16th career start for Fields. Essentially, he’s just now finishing his first full season in the NFL. We’ve learned quite a bit about him as a quarterback; mainly, we know — for sure — that he’s one of the toughest players in the league. He’s also a dynamic runner and high-level deep-ball thrower.
Over time, Fields should improve on things like faster processing and trusting what he sees. He needs some help, too. General manager Ryan Poles has to surround him with established talent this offseason in free agency. The offensive line needs an overhaul, as does the wide receiver corps.
But one thing we know is already in place in Chicago is a quarterback who refuses to quit. He won’t stay down, even when he knows another big hit is right around the corner.
Some media members and football fans will say Justin Fields took a step back in Week 6. And, sure, there were some ugly moments. But in the first year of a massive rebuild, the Chicago Bears must construct a roster with leaders who have infectious qualities. Fields is that guy, even if he isn’t stuffing the stat sheet yet.