LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Sunday's debacle at Soldier Field falls on everyone's shoulders. But, fair or not, it's the starting quarterback's job to wear the brunt of it.
Bears quarterback Justin Fields was average Sunday in the Bears' 38-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He finished the game 24-for-37 for 216 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was pressured 36 times, per Pro Football Focus, and was handcuffed by an offensive game plan that failed to take advantage of the deep shot and couldn't get the ball to No. 1 target DJ Moore.
The Bears had much bigger issues Sunday than Fields.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Chicago sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
They were outcoached, outclassed, and outexecuted by a rival breaking in a new starting quarterback for the first time in 15 years. The blocking was putrid, the tackling horrid, and the pass rush non-existent.
But Sunday's performance wasn't good enough if this season is going to be all about Fields cementing himself as the Bears' future under center.
"He knows he can play better," head coach Matt Eberflus said of Fields' performance on Monday at Halas Hall. "He knows that. He’s well aware of that and he’s going to work diligently to do that. It's important that everybody looks that way."
The Bears needed Fields to be exceptional on Sunday to overcome the lack of execution and energy from Chicago's other units. Last season, that special playmaking came via Fields' legs. But with the Packers containing on the edge and spying Fields with linebacker Quay Walker, the opportunities for explosive runs were minimal.
The Bears needed Fields to throw them back into the game. With offensive coordinator Luke Getsy sticking to a heavy dose of screen passes and quick game, Fields' opportunities to strike downfield with his arm were limited until things got out of hand.
But even when Getsy opened up the playbook, Fields failed to see and rip throws consistently.
With the Bears down 31-14 early in the fourth quarter, Fields tried to force the ball to Darnell Mooney over the middle. The pass never had a chance. Walker had dropped in coverage, easily picked the pass off, and raced back 37 yards to put the final dagger in the Bears' Week 1 coffin.
Fields locked onto Mooney and tried to cram the throw into a nonexistent window instead of moving on to his next read.
It's only one game, but some of the issues that plagued Fields last season -- the things Fields needed to fix -- popped up in Sunday's disaster.
"I think it was working back to a quarter side," Eberflus said of the interception. "He ended up trying to squeeze it in there. It was obviously a good interception and a good return. Yeah, he certainly needs to scan the field there on that one.
"I’d say that he probably needs to move on to his next progression. That’s what I would say."
Fields also made a critical error on the Bears' first trip to the red zone.
Trailing 7-3, the Bears faced a second-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Fields rolled to the right but was tracked down by Packers rookie defensive end Lukas Van Ness, who threw Fields to the ground for a 7-yard loss.
The Bears could not convert on third-and-goal from the 11, settling for another field goal.
It was another example of how Fields has to be better at situational football. He needs to know when to try and make a play and when to live to fight another down.
Fields knows he should have thrown that ball into the stands and saved the Bears a critical 7 yards.
"I talked to Justin right after that," Eberflus said. "He knew that. He said, ‘Get rid of it.’ He doesn’t need to take that one.”
Despite an offseason of talk about building an offense that could take advantage of Fields' arm strength and deep ball, the Bears only had five passes that traveled 10 or more yards in the air on Sunday, per ESPN Stats and Info.
The Bears want Fields to hang in the pocket and scan the field before tucking and running, but that remains a work in progress.
"I think he’s OK right now," Eberflus said when asked about Fields' growth in that area. "I think always looking at those things downfield, we can always improve on that. And the receivers need to improve on their scramble drill as well. It’s not just him. It’s also the receivers working the scramble drill too."
There were very few silver linings to take out of Sunday's throttling at the hands of the Packers.
Fields executed a bad game plan while being constantly pressured by a Packers defensive line that whipped the Bears upfront from the opening kick.
Fields was a C- on Sunday. He didn't have much of a chance, but when he did, he failed to consistently deliver the big-time throws needed to will the Bears back into the game.
Things aren't often black and white in the NFL. It can be true that Fields was dealt a tough hand Sunday, but that we should expect more from him.
The Bears certainly do.