Justin Fields is a perfectionist.
In the Bears’ 21-20 preseason victory over the Browns on Saturday, Fields lit up Cleveland’s defense with three passing touchdowns. One of those was a 24-yard pass to a wide-open Cole Kmet near the front right corner of the end zone.
Before Fields threw his third touchdown on the night, he faked the handoff to Khalil Herbert, rolled to his right, pump faked and used his left hand to direct traffic on the play.
Perfect execution, right?
“After the touchdown, I just told Cole like that route I just wanted him to be a little bit wider,” Fields told reporters in Cleveland. “But the post did a great job taking the corner and the safety … I was just telling him to get a little bit wider cause I didn’t want the corner to fall off and, you know, take away his route.”
The 23-year-old quarterback is always looking for improvements – even when things do go right. That is just the high standard he holds himself to.
And on Saturday night, Fields showed Bears fans everything they needed to see to instill confidence in what the second-year player is capable of doing this season.
Fields played 30 snaps against the Browns and finished 14 of 16 for 156 passing yards and three touchdowns with a 146.9 passer rating.
“I just think he’s getting better, you know, he’s just getting better,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “Like I said the other day, he is a young player. He needs experience, and I think this was like game-like experience for him that he needed to have, and he took a big step forward for him and for our football team. Just getting comfortable, operating the offense and doing his thing. And I thought he did that tonight.”
Fields took full advantage of his final preseason game by utilizing and testing a variety of different throws. From his rifled 22-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Griffin, to a 7-yard touch pass over a defender in the flat to Nsimba Webster and even an almost “no-look” pass to Dante Pettis, the arm talent was on full display.
For Fields to execute these types of throws — whether they were from the pocket or on the move — he needs to trust his pass catchers will be in the right place, at the proper depth and at the right time. And sometimes that can be difficult when players are constantly rotating in the lineup.
Fields, though, sees the positives in the constant change.
“I definitely feel like I have a better connection with more guys on the team compared to last year,” Fields said. “Just, you know, kind of been rotating. I think that’s one positive thing you can bring out … You know in practice you’re throwing to different guys and stuff like that, so I feel like I’ve built chemistry with a lot of the guys, receivers, tight ends and running backs.”
Fields hit 10 different pass catchers before his night was finished with 2:39 remaining in the second quarter.
But it wasn’t just Fields’ ability to throw and distribute the ball that was promising, he also used his cadence to draw the defense offside to pick up five additional yards on first down. Right after the penalty, Fields connected with Griffin for the first touchdown of the game.
Earlier on that drive too, Fields saw an open lane to his left and used his legs to pick up nine yards on second-and-5 to convert the chains. Browns linebacker Jacob Phillips hit Fields after he slid and immediately Cody Whitehair and Sam Mustipher came over to assist their quarterback. The late hit also drew an unnecessary roughness penalty.
“I feel good. I’m glad I got the call,” Fields said. “I’m definitely happy about that one. Hopefully it doesn’t have to be that egregious next time for them to call it.”
Fields said in his postgame press conference that he went into Saturday night’s game feeling confident and fans should feel the exact same way after Fields’ performance. No, the Browns didn’t have defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney or corners Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome play, but that doesn’t take away from Fields’ throws, decisions and overall execution of the offense.
Saturday night was a good night for the Bears and one that could hold significant meaning as the team prepares for the regular season.
“Definitely a turning point,” Fields said. “We can just build on this and we will go into next week and get better and prepare for San Fran in two weeks.