Two plays before Ihmir Smith-Marsette had the ball stolen from him, the Vikings nearly had the game won.
On first-and-10 from the Chicago 36-yard line and with two minutes left in Sunday’s game, Za’Darius Smith sacked Justin Fields and forced a fumble. A scrum of players jumped on the ball but Lucas Patrick recovered it.
Fields faced pressure again on second-and-19, when a Vikings defender dove at his legs, but the second-year quarterback stayed composed and completed a pass to David Montgomery for a 21-yard gain.
Even though the game ended a play later with the strip-sack fumble, it was how Fields handled the second-and-long situation that stood out the most to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
“Honestly, the biggest takeaway from that is the reaction after the fumble,” Getsy said. “We have a breakdown in the protection, there’s a miscommunication and we leave a free runner. He ends up fumbling the ball, and we recovered it, and he got back up, then there was more pressure and he found a check down and went for whatever it was, 20 yards or whatever. To me that’s a really cool moment for a quarterback that can compose himself after that, then make a really nice play after that.”
Fields demonstrated that composure from start to finish and said after the game that it was the most comfortable he has felt. Getsy isn’t one to use extreme positive adjectives to describe Fields’ progress, but it was a step in the right direction for the 23-year-old quarterback.
“Yeah, no matter how good you play, I feel like there’s always gonna be room to improve, for sure,” Fields said.
After a rough start to the season for Fields, where he threw four interceptions and completed just 34 passes through the first four games, he had a breakthrough against the Vikings. He ended the game 15-of-21 for 208 yards and a touchdown and led the Bears to three straight scoring drives in the second half.
Against the Vikings, Fields trusted the pocket, identified where blitzes were coming from and distributed the ball to his pass catchers. All signs of progress for a young quarterback.
Fields has also been working on improving his breathing. The Bears have a yoga instructor come to Halas Hall two days before games to work on certain techniques, like breathing in for four seconds and then exhaling for another four seconds.
“I think just doing that automatically like keeps me more calm in the pocket,” Fields said.
Getsy acknowledged Fields still has room to improve with his overall pocket presence and isn’t quite ready to execute an entire two-minute drill by himself, but he isn’t too worried about all of that at the moment.
“But, no, there’s been progress, right? And we’re sticking to the plan,” Getsy said. “I thought he did a really nice job in that game in the sense of he kept his composure. They got off to a big lead, he kept the team together, he did a really job of hunting completions for us. Then, you know, he had three or four unbelievable escapes that were ridiculous. I thought he did a pretty good job. Again, we’re getting a little bit better each week and that’s truly our purpose, that’s our goal.”