Good morning, Chicago!
We’ve talked about how the only thing that matters this season is the play of Justin Fields and whether he’s up for the challenge of being a franchise quarterback.
If you doubted that before Sunday’s game, I’m betting there’s a good chance you changed your mind after Fields’ performance turned the mood after a win almost funereal.
Not that there wasn’t anything to be excited about.
• Roquan Smith reintroduced himself as the team’s best player with a monster performance that started with a week on the injury report and ended with an interception of Davis Mills that shook Soldier Field.
• Khalil Herbert rushed for 157 yards in relief of the injured David Montgomery while the entire team rushed for a total of 281 yards — the most since Walter Payton and Co. put up 283 in a loss to Dallas in September 1984.
• Cairo Santos nailed three field goals including a 50-yarder and the winning kick from 30 yards as time expired on the 23-20 Bears victory.
• Eddie Jackson partied like it was 2018 again.
Yet all those performances and the corresponding vibes faded in the shadow of Fields’ halting alarm of an outing. While the Bears are 2-1, each of No. 1’s three performances has been worse than the last.
Fields went 8-for-17 for 106 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions against a winless Texans team, a line that earned him a career-low 27.7 QB rating.
“I just played like trash,” Fields told reporters after the game, a bit of honesty that might be more universally received than the comments about Bears fans that stirred unneeded controversy last week.
I still think that some patience is needed — there’s no reason anyone other than Fields should be starting in 2022 — but my level of concern is much higher than it was last Monday morning. After all, I liked the way he performed in the second half against the Niners and wrote off the Green Bay loss as just par for the course with an inexperienced quarterback and Bears team.
Struggling against a Texans team that will be vying for a top-five pick, though?
In a spot where the entire city agreed you needed to flash and show some consistency?
There’s still plenty of time for Fields to turn things around and elevate the play of those around him, but you almost wonder if the coaching staff will even give him that chance. Their playcalling on third down was conservative and even took the ball out of his hands completely a few times, decisions that should be unthinkable in the NFL in 2022.
When Fields did get the chance to throw, he either waited too long, threw to the wrong spot or found a man in an opposite color jersey (or a combination of all three).
It’s not a great situation the quarterback, the team and our fanbase finds us in.
But facing an uncertain future at that position is a familiar one, which goes a long way in explaining all the long faces around here on a Victory Monday.
CHGO Head of Content
PS — Corey Wootton will be in studio today at noon for the Victory Monday podcast. Also check out CHGO Bears After Dark with Will DeWitt and Greg Braggs Jr. tonight at 6:30!
More from the game
• Nicholas Moreano on the coaching staff’s lack of faith in Fields
• Mark Carman issues his game grades (CHGO members)
• CHGO staff instant reactions
• Watch the replay of the postgame show on YouTube
Thanks to everyone who made our first CHGO Bears tailgate an unqualified success. I had a blast talking to people who came from all over and can’t wait to see you at our next one. (Stay tuned for details.)
The Week Ahead
• The White Sox are playing out the string after posting a winless six-game homestand that handed the AL Central title to Cleveland on a silver platter. The only suspense left: Will they make big changes in the offseason. (Here’s Vinnie Duber to explain to CHGO family members why that will be tough.)
• The Cubs just took three of four in Pittsburgh and return home for the last homestand of the season, two three-game sets against Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Get your fill of Wrigley with the long, cold winter ahead.
• The Blackhawks open up the preseason against St. Louis at the United Center on Tuesday, followed by a Wednesday trip to Detroit.
• The Bulls will hold their media day today, followed by their first practice on Tuesday.
• The Red Stars play their final match of the season next Sunday against Angel City. Last night’s 3-0 loss in Portland means the club will need help from San Diego on Saturday and then a win on Sunday to make the NWSL playoffs.