Three things we learned from Justin Fields’ debutPatrick Finleyon August 15, 2021 at 10:00 am

Three things we learned from Bears quarterback Justin Fields’ tantalizing preseason performance Saturday night:

He beat the clock

Fields did well in the two-minute drill Saturday — or, rather, the 16-second drill.

“We talk about and teach and show tape of it — but we didn’t really practice it a whole lot,” coach Matt Nagy said.

On third-and-five from the Bears’ 37 with 16 seconds left in the first half. Fields stepped up in the pocket and rolled right. He pulled up to throw slightly across his body, but still down the right flank, to Justin Hardy. He caught the ball for 15 yards. The Bears took their final timeout.

“I was just rolling out and I saw him late, last minute and jumped it up to him,” Fields said.

With eight seconds left, the Bears needed at least six yards to give Cairo Santos a field goal try. Knowing he couldn’t stop the clock again, Fields checked the ball down to tight end Jesse James along the right sideline. James stepped out for a gain of eight yards and Santos tried, and made, a 53-yarder.

“I was trying to, of course, pay attention to the clock,” Fields said. “And also throw it to the perimeter so he would have a chance to get out of bounds.”

Fields’ poise jumped out to his coach.

“The one thing you felt from Justin, that we all took away from down there, was, he was extremely calm the whole time,” Nagy said.

He needs to stop spinning

Bears fans across the country winced when Fields scrambled left on third-and-12 from his own 12 with 2:15 left in the first half. Rather than looking to slide or get out of bounds, he tried to put a spin move on cornerback Nik Needham, who tackled him and popped the ball out.

It rolled out of bounds. Lesson learned.

Earlier this month, Fields said he didn’t want a repeat of his scramble in the national semifinal against Clemson. He tried a spin move in that game, was speared and hurt his ribs. The injury left him limited in the national title game.

“So after that, I think I’m going to officially retire the spin move,” Fields said Saturday with a smile. “I don’t see that coming out any time soon. But yeah, I just need to be smarter with ball security, and either slide or get out of bounds in that situation.”

He’s a matchup problem

On third-and-9 about three minutes into the third quarter, Fields was pressured to the right. Receiver Rodney Adams, who started off in the left slot, ran a shallow cross toward the right sideline. Cornerback Javaris Davis was plastered all over Adams until he was forced to make a decision: to keep covering Adams or run toward Fields.

He chose poorly.

Fields sprinted toward the line of scrimmage before pulling up and tossing a pass to Adams, who skittered up the right sideline for 13 yards. It exemplified what the Bears learned interviewing defensive coordinators this offseason: accounting for an athletic quarterback is the biggest challenge in the sport.

“Puts a lot of pressure on the defense and allows me to really play backyard football with the receivers and scramble,” Fields said. “And the more that happens and the more we can get on the same page when I do get out of the pocket, the better we can be.

“Of course I also have to be able to make smart decisions. I can’t always force the ball. Of course sometimes I have to throw the ball away. But, yeah, it’s definitely a part of my game where I feel very comfortable.”

Particularly against man defenses.

“That’s going to put a lot of stress on [them] because they don’t know whether to come and get me or stay on their man,” Fields said. “With zone teams, it’s a little bit different.

“But, man, literally, you’re playing backyard football.”

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