Bears QB Justin Fields must show game vs. Vikings was just a step, not the destination

Justin Fields gave the Bears something they’ve been needing to see: Proof that he can be a competent NFL quarterback.

But let’s not make more of that than it was.

He certainly was good against the Vikings on Sunday, and it was by far the best he has played in the new offense, but that game needs to be something that will be viewed in retrospect as merely one step in a climb to greatness. If that performance was the high end of what Fields can do, it’s not enough.

“That’s not gonna be the best I ever play in mylife,” he said. “For sure.”

He’s sure, but everyone else will need some convincing. And a perfect opportunity awaits Thursday night against the Commanders for him to strengthen his case that he’s the franchise quarterback.

No matter what opponent Fields was facing after the Vikings, it’d be imperative that he progressed, but the Commanders are a particularly favorable matchup. Not only are they 1-4 with their only win being a squeaker against the Jaguars, but they have one of the NFL’s weakest pass defenses.

The Commanders are begging Fields to light them up.

The short schedule presents a challenge for the young quarterback, but this defense does not.

They have allowed a 103.7 passer rating this season, just three points better than the league-worst Raiders, and they’ve intercepted just one of 163 passes they’ve faced. Three of the quarterbacks they’ve played — Cooper Rush, Jalen Hurts and Jared Goff — put up their best game of the season.

Fields is just days removed from completing 15 of 21 passes for 208 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a career-high 118.8 rating. He also ran eight times for 47 yards.

His day would’ve been even better if not for another 64 yards rushing wiped out by penalties and two drops by wide receiver Dante Pettis that cost him another 27. Imagine, too, what Fields might’ve done with a few more chances at the end rather than watching from the sideline after Ihmir Smith-Marsette got stripped.

Beyond the numbers, Fields’ aesthetics were good.

His throws were accurate with minimal exceptions. He also showed a much better awareness of where pressure was coming from and had the patience to sidestep it rather than hit the eject button and take off running prematurely.

“It’s not good enough yet, but I think [he’s] showing signs of growth there,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. “[He’s] showing signs of being willing to sit in there and go through progressions. He’ll keep getting more comfortable. It’ll feel a little bit better for him each and every week.”

But again, the goal is to treat that game as a baseline and build on it. And while it was clear from Fields’ tone that he felt good about how he played, he also saw quite a bit that he left on the table.

“No matter how good you play, I feel like there’s always gonna be room to improve,” he said when askedabout his filmreview of that game.

The Bears need him to maintain that level of efficiency for an entire game, which will lead to increased production. His 208 yards passing against the Vikings felt like a million for the sputtering Bears, but two dozen quarterbacks are averaging more than that.

Fields played very well against the Vikings. That’s undisputed. He’s had other games like that, against the Steelers and Raiders last season, but hasn’t been able to stack them. The question is what significance it carries in the big picture, and he can start piecing together the answer with another sharp game Thursday.

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