Justin Fields flourishing means far more for Bears than 35-32 loss to Dolphins

The Bears can succeed without actually winning.

It’s time to recalibrate expectations to where they should’ve been from the beginning. The best thing that can happen for the Bears this season is to see steady, convincing strides from quarterback Justin Fields. That’s the most powerful determinant of their future.

As for their stripped-down defense? That’s a project for another season.

Nothing matters more than Fields flourishing into a franchise quarterback, and he was a dynamic force Sunday against the Dolphins despite falling 35-32.

He set the NFL regular-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 178 and a touchdown on 15 carries and continued his stretch of efficient passing, and that outweighs any frustration about taking another loss in a season that was sunk from the start.

“The quarterback was really amazing today,” Matt Eberflus said.

When’s the last time a Bears coach said that and no one laughed?

Eberflus went on to call it, “a huge step for Justin Fields and the franchise today.”

And it was. That’s the reality of a rebuilding season. The final score usually isn’t the point.

The standard for any team is to be contending for a championship or clearly headed toward doing so. In the Bears’ case, if Fields is headed the right direction, so are they. The rest of the roster is just details.

Along with his rushing total, which topped legend Michael Vick’s record by five yards and was three short of Colin Kaepernick’s 181 in a playoff game, he completed 17 of 28 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns for a 106.7 passer rating.

Over his last five games, he has completed 63.3% of his passes and thrown for eight touchdowns against two interceptions for a 99.7 passer rating. He also has averaged 91 yards rushing per game and 7.9 per carry. The Bears have averaged 24.6 points per game.

“I’m just growing and getting better,” Fields said. “My main goal right now is just to continue to do that — continue to trend up.”

Fields’ highlight of the day was a 61-yard sprint down the left sideline for a touchdown, which was the longest quarterback run in Bears history and beautifully illustrated why he’s an exceptional athlete even in a league full of them.

Fields dropped back, saw the pocket instantly collapse and darted forward, still looking to throw. With no one open and two Dolphins closing in, he tucked and ran from them. A linebacker dove at his feet at the line of scrimmage. A cornerback had him squared up, but Fields cut right and lost him. Two defenders in the secondary couldn’t get an angle on him.

He was gone. The last 20 yards were a formality.

“Instincts took over,” Fields said.

“The Madden ratings better go up,” wide receiver Darnell Mooney said.

“He’s insane, bro,” running back David Montgomery chimed in.

There are more steps to take, though.

As clean as this five-game stretch has been for him, averaging 170.2 yards passing per game isn’t enough to win consistently because he’s not going to rush for triple digits every week. There’s no question about his running, but he needs to ramp up his passing production.

And Sunday, he had missed multiple chances to, you know, actually win. Down three with 7:50 to go, he couldn’t push the Bears past midfield. He got another shot with 2:38 remaining, same thing.

“That’s what you play this game for: to be in those moments and shine,” Mooney said. “[We want to] be a threat and have dominance and maketeams scaredto put us in that situation. Eventually we’ve gotta execute and shine in that position, and we will.”

It’s far more credible when someone says it about Fields than it ever was with Mitch Trubisky.

Fields and the Bears are turning into one of those fun upstart teams, and that’s a good place to start. Those teams are fun to watch as they take their shot each week and gradually grow together into something that offers optimism about the future.

It’s been a while since the Bears provided entertaining Sundays, let alone legitimate hope.

“Everything makes sense in what we’re doing,” Mooney said. “I don’t see any flaws in our organization. Everything’s going well.

“Except for the losing part.”

Oh right, that.

There will come a day when that becomes the only measure of whether the Bears are thriving, and there won’t be any rationalizing and clinging to positives amid defeat. That’s what life is like at the top.

The Bears have a long way to go, but with the way Fields has been playing, it’s conceivable that he’ll get them there.

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