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LAKE FOREST — Just seven starts into his NFL career, Justin Fields showed, at the time, that he had all the makings of being a franchise quarterback.
On Monday Night Football against the Steelers at Heinz Field, Fields threw for 291 yards and a touchdown in the 29-27 loss. That passing mark is still Fields’ highest total to date.
The Bears were down 26-20 with 2:47 left in the fourth quarter. Fields led his team on a 7-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Darnell Mooney 16-yard touchdown in the back left portion of the end zone. One play before, Fields dropped a dime to Allen Robinson down the right sideline for a 39-yard pick up.
The Bears took a 29-27 lead with 1:46 left in the game, but the Bears defense allowed the Steelers to score the game-winning field goal. Cairo Santos attempted a 65-yarder, but the kick fell way short.
Although the Bears lost, the takeaway was the Bears had themselves a quarterback. In addition to what Fields did through the air, he also added 45 yards rushing — his third-highest total in his rookie season.
A lot has changed for Fields since that Monday night performance.
Fast forward to now, and the Bears are currently on a 13-game losing streak dating back to the 2022 season. And the Fields who went into Pittsburgh and gave his team a chance to win, seems like a distant memory.
Former Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas, who was a part of the Bears when the team moved up to select Fields with the No. 11 overall pick, gave his thoughts on the quarterback in an in-depth interview on the Parkins & Spiegel Show.
“I went back and watched the Pittsburgh game from 2021, Monday Night Football,” Lucas said. “That’s a different player out there. I’m telling you that is a different person wearing that helmet with the swag and the way he is moving around versus the guy I’m seeing right now.”
For Bears fans, this is a doomsday type of comment, especially since it’s hard to argue with at the moment. Fields may have lit the league up in 2022 with his 1,143 rushing yards, but the passing element has not been there.
There are a lot of reasons to that, too. It starts with Fields not processing and seeing the field as quickly as a quarterback in Year 3 should. The playmakers, especially last season, were non-existent.
The game plans from Luke Getsy — who was not with the Bears in 2021 — have not helped either.
Regardless of the reasons, Fields is not showing the progress that was expected through the first three games of the 2023 season. Through three games, Fields has completed 51 of 88 passes for 536 yards, thrown three touchdowns and ran for one and has been intercepted four times, including two pick-6s.
Despite Fields’ struggles, Getsy still sees the same quarterback when it comes to confidence and the ability to throw downfield that played against the Steelers in 2021.
“Yeah, Justin has a tremendous amount of confidence,” Getsy said. “I think it’s like you said, there is a lot of moving parts when you’re playing on an offense. It’s 11 as 1, and right now we’re not clicking all 11 as 1. I know it’s easy like I said to pinpoint it on one person, but it’s not. And so we got to make sure that we go out and we got to get that synchronized a little bit better and we’ll go and get some points.”
Obviously Getsy wasn’t going to say Fields doesn’t have that confidence and ability to throw downfield anymore, but there needs to be more tangible evidence on the field to see if Fields can turn things around and become the quarterback that many envisioned him to be.
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