For the first time in two years, it feels like the Bears are actually headed the right way.
It’s weird for outlook to be so bright after a 20-17 win over the middling Bengals, but it’s all about Justin Fields now. It’s the best thing that could happen to the Bears.
Their offensive line is still a mess, it’s an ongoing fight against time for the defense and it’s hard to trust Matt Nagy. But the Fields adventure is underway.
The Bears slow-played his development because they were so committed to Andy Dalton as their starter, but now that Dalton is sidelined by a knee injury, Fields is where he should’ve been along. Nagy can now abandon his insufferable quarterback merry-go-round and do what’s best for the Bears’ future.
It might even be what’s best for his own future.
It’s going to be choppy for Fields, but the sooner he get through the typical rookie turbulence, the better off the Bears will be. He hit a few of those snags coming out of halftime with two false starts — he jerked his leg as if to start running before the ball was snapped — and fumble at his own 33-yard line that nearly turned into a scoop-and-score for Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson.
The only thing between nearly and definitely was Fields, who lunged from flat on the ground to slap the ball from Wilson and get the ball back so the Bears could punt it away on fourth down.
Athletic. Smart. Gutsy.
Heroic, even? Sure.
That’s how the play will be remembered despite Fields’ loose handling of the ball being the reason the fumble happened in the first place. That’s how good everything feels for the Bears now that the right guy is playing quarterback.
Soldier Field was booming already with fans returning for the first time since 2019, and Fields cranked up the volume.
Exhilaration surged through the seats as he lofted what would’ve been a 23-yard pass to Darnell Mooney in the third quarter. The roar downshifted into a moan as the ball deflected off Mooney’s hand for an incomplete pass, but the roar was unmistakable. It happened again on an almost 35-yard touchdown heave to Allen Robinson that slipped through his hands.
Few fan bases deserve some excitement as much as this one after sitting through 16-16 over the last two seasons and some of the sleepiest offense in the NFL.
The best news for the Bears and their audience: Fields will only get better.
It’s almost irrelevant that Fields completed just 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards, led the Bears to a paltry pair of field goals in five possessions and nearly threw the game away with an interception in the final minutes.
Riding that out is part of the process with any rookie quarterback, and good for Fields that his defense created a safe space to struggle. Best-case scenario for this season is that Roquan Smith and the defense give him enough margin to make mistakes without blowing a game.
Dalton’s bid to hang on to his career wasn’t thrilling anybody. At best he’d be serviceable as the Bears tried to stay afloat and at worst he’d spiral his way out of the job and leave Fields to inherit a midseason mess.
The Bears have been promising you for two years it’s going to be better. Now it actually will.