As Justin Fields’ errors compound, so does his frustration — ‘we have to finish’ — in Week 6 – The Denver Post


Less than a week ago, there was widespread optimism that what happened in Minneapolis would provide momentum. There was hope that Justin Fields’ newfound yoga breathing techniques could instill calm. There was anticipation the Chicago Bears offense was hitting its stride and ready to use one encouraging rally on the road as a springboard toward bigger and better things.

Instead, that one solid half for the Bears’ passing attack in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings turned out to be an outlier. A cruel tease. A fountain of false hope.

On Thursday night in front of a national audience and in a dreadful 12-7 home loss to the Washington Commanders, Fields and the Bears tripped all over themselves. In almost every way imaginable.

Poor protection. Dropped passes. Missed reads.

Red-zone issues. Continued third-down struggles.

Fields continues to be erratic. His supporting cast isn’t providing nearly enough help. The passing attack remains broken.

As the frustration compounds, so too does the beating the young quarterback is taking.

On at least four occasions Thursday night, Fields was slow to get up, needing to draw from an admirably deep tank of toughness just to get to the end of the game.

“I’m hurting,” Fields said after the game. “Hurting pretty good.”

How much more of this can one young player take? Understandably, outside worry regarding the quarterback’s long-term potential is growing.

Fields’ patience seemed thin Thursday night.

“Everybody is feeling this way,” he said. “Everybody is mad. Nobody is happy about this loss. We always get told that we’re almost there, we’re almost there. Me personally? I’m tired of being almost there, tired of being just this close. I feel like I’ve been hearing it for so long.”

Truth be told, neither Fields nor the Bears offense is almost there.

Here’s your comprehensive Week 6 QB rewind.

Defining moment

Perhaps it makes the most sense to start at the end, to revisit the Bears’ final play Thursday night, a fourth-and-goal pass from Fields to Darnell Mooney with 35 seconds remaining and the Bears somehow still having one final chance to salvage something meaningful from a miserable night.

One big play, one 4-yard touchdown pass, and victory was waiting.

Mooney was open, too, running a sharp route against Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, making a hard stop at the goal line, then pivoting back toward the front-right pylon in Soldier Field’s south end zone. It could have been a game-winning moment. Fields, after a fake toss and a five-step drop, could have quickened his timing and throwing motion and released the ball a fraction of a second earlier. It’s a small detail. But this is a league in which success often hinges on the smallest of details.

Mooney should have caught the ball cleanly. Instead, he said after the game that he lost it for a split second in the lights. As he jumped and got his hands on the pass, St-Juste hit him and the ball popped into the air.

In the 0.78 seconds it took Mooney to resecure it, St-Juste hit pushed him back outside the goal line. By maybe 8 inches.

“I’ve just got to close the game for us,” Mooney said. “If I want to be that player, if I want to be that guy for our team, I’ve got to make that play for sure.”

Added Fields: “As an offense, we have to finish.”

That’s how close the Bears were Thursday night. But the best response is to ask “How close to what exactly?” That close to a 13-12 victory against the bottom-tier Commanders, who came in on a four-game skid and offered a C-minus/-level performance?

That close to another week of reassuring praise?

That close to emptying an entire can of Angel Whispers Glade over an otherwise malodorous performance?

Even if that sequence had flipped the result, how much should that final play have changed the review of a performance that was so obviously flawed?

The Bears managed 71 net passing yards and didn’t score in the first half.

Fields had a first-half passer rating of 40.5.

Three times in the game, the Bears had first-and-goal inside the Commanders 10-yard line. On all three occasions, they came away without points.

Mix in five quarterback sacks and 11 Fields scrambles and the 43 passing plays the Bears attempted to run resulted in 14 completions.

Thursday’s end result proved just given the performance.

The eye test again revealed a Bears offense — with limited talent and an acknowledged thin margin for error — playing with undeniable sloppiness on a short week. Now they are left to suffer the consequences.

In the first quarter, on second-and-goal from the 5, a Fields pass intended for Cole Kmet was thrown on a reckless trajectory that hit defensive end Efe Obada in the top of the helmet. The football caromed high into the October sky. Jonathan Allen intercepted it. Fields and the Bears left seven points on the table.

They repeated that failure on the next possession, unable to score despite having first-and-goal from the 3. The most confounding mistake came on second down, on a beautifully designed play in which Fields faked an inside handoff to Khalil Hebert and an end-around give to Equanimeous St. Brown, then waited for tight end Ryan Griffin to sneak open into the flat.

Griffin was uncovered. Fields overshot him by a yard and a half.

“He’s wide open,” Fields said. “I’ve got to hit that. I’m an NFL quarterback. I’ve got to hit that.”

No argument here.

The Bears had 11 snaps Thursday night from the Commanders 6-yard line or closer and didn’t reach the end zone. Three were designed runs that gained 1 yard or less. Eight were passing plays, and the only completion was the final-play connection to Mooney that finished less than a foot outside the goal line.

“Summary is we didn’t finish,” Fields said.

That’s losing football from a bottom-tier team.

“When the play is there, make it,” Fields added. “Plain and simple. There are no logistics. It’s not complicated. When you have that opportunity, finish.”

Again, this was equal-opportunity failure. The offensive line had major issues, both in protecting Fields and with a pair of in-game injuries to Teven Jenkins and Lucas Patrick that created some reshuffling.

The Bears receiving corps showed a large Amazon Prime audience the deficiencies Chicagoans have been pointing out for months.

There were moments to wonder about the play-calling. And yes, Fields, the most important player on this roster, made a handful of game-losing mistakes in key moments.


The final stat sheet showed Fields absorbing five sacks and being hit 12 times. Including one plays negated by a Commanders participation penalty, Fields also had 13 runs, 11 of those scrambles and six that ended with Fields being tackled or pushed.

It’s no wonder that by night’s end Fields started to look like Tom after a full day of chasing Jerry. It was almost as if there should have been tweeting birds circling his helmet and bandages wrapped around his entire body. He seemed flattened, frustrated, fatigued. The Bears could have benefited from having a giant spatula in their equipment cart to scrape the starting quarterback up from the Soldier Field grass.

“We’ve got a long weekend,” Fields said. “I will have some extra time to heal up.”

These types of poundings become cumulative. It’s a brand of quarterbacking that, even with such quarterback-friendly rules in 2022, is simply not sustainable without consequences.

Every morning Fields wakes up after a game with pronounced physical discomfort is significant. The game-day beatings can lead to emotional weariness and, eventually for many quarterbacks, pocket skittishness.

That’s why that total of 12 tuck-and-runs from Thursday night is not to be pushed away lightly. At best, it’s undeniable evidence that the Bears passing attack still isn’t anywhere close to working. In the worst case, it’s a show of anxiety from the quarterback.

This is something Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy need to get their arms around. As soon as possible.

On the bright side

Without question, the brightest sign Thursday night was the only touchdown the Bears scored, a go-ahead 40-yard bomb from Fields to Dante Pettis on their first drive of the second half. In up-tempo mode, the Bears caught the Commanders with 12 men on the field and bought a free play. Fields made the most of it, too, hanging in the pocket long enough to take a shot from Montez Sweat but still firing a majestic deep ball to Pettis, who won his one-on-one matchup against Kendall Fuller and made a nifty catch in the end zone for the score.

Fields’ second longest gain came on the final drive, a 39-yard scramble to the Commanders 5 that set up the dramatic finish. That the quarterback was still locked in at that point, after a shaky performance and a physically testing night, was impressive to Eberflus, who saw progress in that.

“The ability to take the ball and drive it down at the very end to give us a chance to win it, that to me was the improvement,” Eberflus said. “It was during two-minute (drill) and it was when it counted. That’s encouraging and that’s a step forward.”

The Bears are fortunate to have Fields’ toughness. It’s one of the strengths that truly will give him a chance to endure and rise.

Odds and ends

  • As much as has been of the Bears’ final play and final drive, their penultimate possession must be run through an intense evaluation as well. Down 12-7 with 7 minutes, 21 seconds remaining, the Bears took over at their 25 and eventually crossed into Commanders territory. But a drive that ate nearly 5 minutes off the clock produced no points and was full of sloppiness. A defining moment was presented to Fields and the passing attack on that series and they failed to meet it. The Bears took 11 snaps and completed only one pass. Within that possession was an array of disarray. Fields had to scramble for a short gain on the first play, then had to scurry for no gain on a busted play on the next snap. He was sacked for a 9-yard loss when Allen burst past Mustipher. (A Commanders penalty negated that setback.) Later in the series, Fields fired wide of Kmet when Obada came untouched off the edge to disrupt a play-action pass. Ihmir Smith-Marsette lost a yard when he ran into left tackle Braxton Jones after a handoff. Fields threw low to Pettis, who contributed by dropping an imprecise but still catchable ball. The Bears took a delay of game on fourth-and-11 and one last time on fourth-and-16, they failed to convert when Smith-Marsette dropped a pass over the middle. Watch that sequence two or three times if necessary. It’s a snapshot of the issues facing the Bears offense.
  • On the Bears’ second-to-last play, Fields almost delivered a heroic touchdown pass to Pettis with a well-placed touch throw that the receiver got both hands on but couldn’t secure. It appeared that Commanders defensive back Darrick Forrest hooked and obstructed Pettis’ right arm before the ball arrived for what could have been a pass interference penalty. That was Fields’ judgment. “It was a PI that we didn’t get,” he said. “Simple.”
  • Thursday night marked Fields’ 16th NFL start, the equivalent of what used to be a full season. His statistics in those 16 starts plus a rushing cameo versus the Rams and a relief appearance against the Bengals as a rookie: .577 completion percentage, 2,739 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, 21 turnovers and a 73.1 passer rating. He also has 702 career rushing yards and three scores.
  • The Bears activated veteran N’Keal Harry off injured reserve Monday. But Harry never had a chance to be ready to face the Commanders, particularly in a week that featured little to no on-field practice time. Harry suffered a significant ankle injury Aug. 6, had surgery the next week and ended up missing the final 15 practices of training camp plus the first 13 of the regular season. He basically has had three full practices plus Wednesday’s abbreviated, short-week speed session to reacclimate himself with the offense and reestablish timing with Fields. The Bears will work to find a niche for Harry soon, perhaps even for his return to New England. But as they assess his physical progress, mastery of the offense and chemistry with Fields, Harry’s potential impact might be limited.



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