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CHICAGO — Usually when there are two defensive linemen running freely at your quarterback on a third-and-long situation, it doesn’t end up in the offense’s favor.
But most teams don’t have a quarterback like Justin Fields, and he was exactly what the Bears needed on Sunday to secure a 19-10 victory over the 49ers.
With Arik Armstead in striking distance to Fields’ right and Charles Omenihu closing the space on the opposite edge, the second-year quarterback quickly looked downfield before turning to his left to avoid Armstead.
Now Fields had room – and plenty of it – to operate. When he looked back to his right, he saw a wide-open Dante Pettis. Fields flipped his hips and delivered the pass to Pettis, and the wide receiver scored a 51-yard touchdown to give the Bears their first points of the game.
Fields went on to say that Pettis’ touchdown “changed the momentum of the whole game. Once that play happened, that started everything else.” And he was spot on with that assessment as the Bears went on to score 19 unanswered points.
“What a great play,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “The vision by Justin to see that and throw it back there was a great play. That’s the kind of plays he can make. That’s what makes him dangerous. Because he can throw on schedule, he’s got the off-schedule throws too. We’ve always said he’s an outstanding deep-ball thrower. He can throw the ball deep, accurately. We’re all excited about that play, for sure.”
In order for that type of play to happen it takes more than just outstanding individual effort from Fields (even though that is a large part of it). Luckily the Bears have been practicing for those types of moments throughout training camp.
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“Yeah, I mean. It’s a lot (of preparation),” Fields said. “So just scramble drill rules, just knowing what your receivers are going to do. Just kind of them feeling out the spacing. And really just trying to extend plays as long as I can to where I can either throw it to them there or maybe run for a few yards or even throw it away. So yeah. I think they did a great job with that today though.”
On the following offensive series, Fields started the drive with a 22-yard completion to Byron Pringle. Nine plays later, Fields capped the drive off with an 18-yard touchdown throw to Equanimeous St. Brown, giving the Bears the lead for the first time with 12:45 left in the fourth quarter.
If you were to just look at his stats, most wouldn’t be impressed. Fields went 8 for 17, threw for 121 yards and added 28 more on the ground. He threw two touchdowns and one interception (and it could’ve been more). On the interception, though, Fields tried to connect with Darnell Mooney over the middle of the field on third-and-7 but was picked off by safety Talanoa Hufanga.
Fields knows he just needs to be smart on those types of plays.
“The highest average for third-down percentage is 48%, so I’ve just gotta not force anything down the field, boom, just take the checkdown and maybe he (Cole Kmet) catches the ball before the sticks and breaks a tackle and gets the first down,” Fields said. “So I’ve just gotta be smarter and, of course, just know who I’m playing and just take the odds.”
In the second half, Fields did take the odds and made smart decisions, especially on third down. Six plays before St. Brown’s touchdown, Fields faced a third-and-9 from the Chicago 39-yard line. Somehow Fields avoided Nick Bosa and ran right toward the sideline. He didn’t try to force the ball downfield and only picked up five yards, but the 49ers were flagged with defensive holding, which gave the Bears a first down.
This victory over San Francisco wasn’t pretty by any means, but Fields’ ability to create plays when nothing was there helped his team to secure an upset Week 1 victory. And in the process of securing the win, the team also created their own slip n slide while rain was pouring down at Soldier Field.
“That was awesome. That was awesome,” Fields said with a smile. “We talked about it right before we took the last knee. All the guys were excited to run to the end zone and do that. That was a snapshot moment, for sure.”