Playing without a numbing agent but with an extra pad on his separated left shoulder, Bears quarterback Justin Fields felt fine Sunday — except for one play.
On David Montgomery’s seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Fields jumped in the air and collided with 6-3, 314-pound defensive lineman Kenny Clark in the end zone.
“Shoulder held up pretty good,” Fields said.
It showed. Breaking down Fields’ day, from the thrill of another touchdown run to the pain of a game-changing interception against the rival Packers:
With about three minutes left in the first quarter, Fields took a shotgun snap and faked a handoff, correctly reading that linebacker Kingsley Enagbare was crashing down toward Montgomery. The Packers hadn’t played the read-option so aggressively earlier — but Fields was ready for it.
Fields kept the ball and ran right, where blitzing nickel cornerback Keisean Nixon was waiting for him. Fields planted his right foot near the right hash at the 39-yard line and cut upfield, leaving Nixon to slip to the ground.
No one touched Fields as he sprinted up the right hash. By the time he got to the Packers’ 32, he’d run past every player in their defensive backfield. When he got to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown, Fields became the first quarterback since at least 1924 to run for three or more 50-plus-yard touchdowns in one season.
“His legs are crazy,” left tackle Braxton Jones said. “It’s awesome. I wasn’t surprised at all. It’s nice to run down there, kick the extra point and go back to the bench.”
Amazingly, Fields said he “felt like I was moving slower than my top speed” during the run. NFL Next Gen Stats, though, said he hit 20.15 mph, marking the eighth time he’d surpassed 20 mph this season. No player since 2018 has as many such games.
“I like to hit 21, 21.5, or something like that,” Fields said playfully. “So I got to do some extra sprints or something.”
Head coach Matt Eberflus’ favorite throw of the day wasn’t the 56-yarder to Equanimeous St. Brown on the 49-yarder to N’Keal Harry.
Rather, it was a third-and-10 pass to tight end Cole Kmet with 7:14 to play in the third quarter.
Standing in the shotgun at his own 43 with two receivers split right and another left, Fields motioned Kmet from right to left. At the snap, the tight end chipped Enagbare before Jones blocked him, and ran into the left flat.
Montgomery blocked a blitzer. Fields stepped up in the pocket and stopped at the 39, where Enagbare had doubled back and threatened to sack him. Fields looked left and with, Enagbare jumping with two hands in the air, threw to Kmet along the sideline for 24 yards.
“Saw him late on the sideline, just chilling over there by himself,” Fields said. “So I got that ball out and we were able to convert.”
That’s an important step in Fields’ development. His running prowess is undeniable. He throws an accurate deep ball. But to shift in the pocket, go through his progressions and find the open man — all with a hand in his face — is progress.
“Went out for his first, second read, kept his eyes down field and threw it down there,” Eberflus said. “That was really good.”
One of the overriding questions of the Bears’ offseason was whether one of the league’s least impressive receiving groups would hurt Fields’ development. It did Sunday, when a “trust throw” turned into a disaster.
The Bears had first-and-10 at the Packers’ 43 with 2:57 to play. Down one, they were in the driver’s seat, needing only a field goal to take a lead.
Fields dropped back and threw a dig route to St. Brown up the left seam. It’s an anticipation throw — Fields needs to fire the ball and trust that St. Brown would hit the brakes and turn right in time for the ball to arrive.
St. Brown was slow in getting out of his break. Cornerback Jaire Alexander, who’d been beaten deep earlier in the game, jumped the route for an interception.
St. Brown left the locker room before media was allowed in. Both Eberflus and Fields said the receiver needed to do a better job coming back for the ball — if for no other reason, to knock It down for an incompletion.
“It was unfortunate,” Eberflus said.
The play calling
About 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, Fields looked left for receiver N’Keal Harry, who’d run a hitch.
“[Alexander] was sitting on it, trying to jump it,” Fields said.
He moved onto his next read. Feeling pressure, he pirouetted and rolled left. Harry took off deep and Fields lofted a pass. Harry leaped and caught it for 49 yards.
“I already knew it was a catch because he’s probably the one of the best jump ball guys that we have on our team … ” Fields said. “Of course, he made a hell of a catch.”
Fields wouldn’t have another chance to throw deep on that drive. On first down from the Packers’ 28, Fields checked down to Montgomery for a two-yard loss. On second down, Montgomery ran for seven.
On third-and-5, the Bears, surprisingly, handed off — and Montgomery gained only one. He ran behind right guard Teven Jenkins, who was pulling left. Packers defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt shed the block quickly, though, and made the tackle.
The Bears then had a 40-yard field goal blocked.
The play-calling to end the drive was suspect. Fields was asked whether he was frustrated he didn’t get another opportunity for a big play after finding Harry; his answer instead cast blame on Montgomery for the third-down run.
“We just got to execute it,” he said. “I don’t think the running back did the completely right track. Of course, he hit right hole, but I think he just has to hit that harder.”