The best thing Justin Fields did Sunday was not a pass or run or block or even a handoff.
It was a doglike scramble on the ground in the third quarter to regain possession of a ball he fumbled at the Bears’ 33-yard line.
If Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson had been able to scoop up the ball — which he would have without Fields’ leaping slap and recovery — he’d have waltzed into the end zone for a touchdown that could’ve been the difference in the game.
A white-knuckle 20-17 Bears victory is simply proof that every game in which the Bears might be leading this year could be lost at almost any moment.
Quite frankly, Fields stunk at quarterback. Let’s be honest. He did some good; he did some bad. But he did more bad than good.
Yet his hustle on a play in which he could have lain on the turf, wealthy quarterback-style, and watched the results — that was nice. It was real.
There’s no great offensive stat for recovering your own fumble. But there’s an intangible one that translates into teammate approval and an infectious desire for winning.
It also means Fields should learn.
First lesson? Pass rushers will come from your blind side. Fast. And they will clobber you, make you fumble, possibly destroy you.
The interception Fields threw in the fourth quarter was another lesson.
The seven-man Bengals rush turned into a sneaky six-man rush when Wilson suddenly dropped into coverage and snagged Fields’ pass intended for Marquise Goodwin.
Don’t think he saw that in the Big Ten.
The best thing for Fields, who could be the de facto starter if Andy Dalton can’t go or keeps getting injured, would be to watch the other NFL quarterbacks — good and bad — and learn from them.
Start with the Buccaneers’ Tom Brady. The dude is 44, says he’ll play till he’s 50 and seems to be getting younger, with thick, rich hair and (maybe?) Gisele’s skin toner in action. On Sunday, he threw five touchdown passes in a win over the Falcons. He has nine in the first two games for the 2-0 Bucs.
Whatever this man is doing, no sane young quarterback should ignore.
Then there was the dazzling display put on Sunday night by the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson.
What the pair did was amazing. Mahomes threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns, and Jackson threw for 239 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. But Jackson rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns, and some of those runs were astounding.
Jackson punctuated his night by joyously flipping into the end zone on a one-yard option late in the fourth quarter. That gave the Ravens the 36-35 victory and made viewers shake their heads in wonder.
Those star quarterbacks made mistakes, but their creativity overwhelmed the flaws. Mahomes’ scrambling, falling sidearm throws were amazing, and Jackson’s jump-pass TD throw was something out of a basketball point guard’s repertoire.
What Fields should see are the risks and rewards of being brazen and making stuff up. Not being crazy, but knowing when breaking the rules will work. He has 4.4 speed in his pocket, and that’s like a gift from the Hall of Fame.
Young quarterbacks go up and down. The Bengals’ Joe Burrow has been all over the map. And there are some, like Jets rookie Zach Wilson, who are just down and may get booed into cave-dwelling. Rookie Mac Jones is playing it safe for the Patriots, and that worked Sunday while beating the Jets.
Fiery Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is so reckless, he simply gets his bum non-throwing shoulder yanked back into its socket after it’s dislocated and keeps playing. And you can believe his teammates respond to that guttiness.
Quarterbacks get hurt all the time. Running ones perhaps most of all. There are so many ways to lead a team, and Fields must figure out what the best way is for him.
Getting hurt does nobody any good. But playing to the edge of injury — simply holding the ball for that extra millisecond — is where the greatness lies.
Little Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a touchdown in a win against the Vikings. And he survived.
Fields needs to watch it all and figure it out.