In a ‘dark place,’ Justin Fields needs to run to the lightPatrick Finleyon September 26, 2021 at 10:44 pm

CLEVELAND — To commemorate the 75th anniversary of their franchise’s founding, the Browns turned their scoreboards retro Sunday, using graphics that looked like the old yellow bulbs on a black screen. The Bears went along with the theme and posted an offensive display that would have been at home in 1946 — 47 yards on 42 plays — in a 26-6 loss.

At the center of the offense was quarterback Justin Fields, the rookie making his first start. At no point in his life, at any level, had his offense been so thoroughly dismantled.

Afterward, he searched for the words to describe how it felt and settled on this: a dark place.

He needs to use every bit of his 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed to run to the light. Because the only thing more disturbing than the Bears’ offensive performance Sunday was the harm it could do to the first-round pick’s development.

Fields was sacked nine times, tied for the second-most in Bears history, and hit 15 times. It wouldn’t be surprising if, in his dark place, Fields still sees shadows of Browns edge rushers Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney racing to tear him to the ground.

“Kind of like, you’re in a dark place,” Fields said. “You just want to do everything you can to just get a win, like no matter what it is. Like no matter how long I have to stay in the facility and no matter what, you just want to come out and after the game on Sunday, you just want to come out with a win, no matter what you have to do.”

Adding injury to insult, Fields had X-rays on his throwing hand after the game. He said they came back negative and that he was fine.

On the sideline, veteran quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Nick Foles tried to tell Fields that bad days happen. Fields refuses to think that way, even if the offense was more a failure of its play-caller and blockers than its first-time starting quarterback.

At Ohio State, Fields went 20-2 — and both losses came in the playoffs. Asked how he’ll try to bounce back, Fields referenced his history.

“The way I feel right now — I’m not used to this,” Fields said. “I don’t like feeling like this. Just me not wanting to feel like this.

“And literally while I’m saying this, I’m getting goosebumps. Because I just don’t like feeling like this. So I’m just going to get back and I’m going to work. That’s it.”

It’s unclear to what end. Coach Matt Nagy wouldn’t engage when asked whether the Bears were planning on starting Fields next week against the Lions, saying he needed to know more about any progress Dalton was making from his knee injury.

“It’s not going to damage his development because I know who he is and, again, on the sideline, how he was,” Nagy said. “I think when he watches and sees, let’s see as we go through it what the whys are, whether it’s a protection or a timing element. Whether it’s something in the run game. Whatever it is, let’s use this to try and help you get better and see where things are.

“He’s very coachable. He cares. I think that he’ll definitely do that.”

Sunday was not an isolated incident, though. Fields replaced an injured Dalton in the second quarter against the Bengals and led the offense to just 101 yards on 39 plays. Over the past two games, the Fields-led offense has averaged 1.83 yards per play — or about 5 1/2 feet.

After the Bengals game, the Bears used the built-in excuse that Fields hadn’t practiced with the first team before that game. Last week, he did.

It’s unclear if Fields will be given that chance this week, too.

“When things don’t go your way, it shows who you truly are on the inside,” Fields said. “Just the way you bounce back and the way you react to those moments.”

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