Justin Fields

Schrock: Justin Fields' GW drive could mean everything or nothing for Bears' future

Justin Fields delivered in Minnesota as his teammates always knew he would. Now, the Bears have to decide what it means for the big picture

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Following the Bears’ thrilling, last-second 12-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night, quarterback Justin Fields addressed the locker room, thanking them for continuing to have his back on a night where the offense was less than explosive.

That wasn’t needed after the third-year quarterback delivered the first real game-winning drive of his young career. After he ripped a 36-yard dart to DJ Moore to set up a game-winning field goal and deliver tangible proof of what his teammates have long believed and voiced publicly throughout the ups and downs.

“It’s who he is,” safety Jaquan Brisker told NBC Sports Chicago after the win. “I’ve been telling y’all.”

“It was just awesome,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “Everyone on our sideline knew that when the time came that he was going to make a play.”

A postgame address of gratitude from Fields isn’t new. The young signal-caller has done this before, but the postgame address to the defense has come after a game the Bears lost. On most occasions, like last year’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons, it comes after a game in which the defense didn’t exactly hold up its end of the bargain.

But on Monday, the Bears’ defense carried a heavy load. They picked off Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs four times, giving Fields and the offense a myriad of chances to put the game away.

They didn’t take advantage of those opportunities, turning those four turnovers into just three points.

In a game in which he was pressured on 52 percent of his dropbacks, Fields and the Bears’ offense attempted to rely on a screen-heavy approach to offset Minnesota’s constant pressure. Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores adjusted early, and an ugly slog of a game broke out in the Twin Cities.

Fields had a chance to put the Bears up by two scores early in the fourth quarter but was stripped by Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter. The Vikings recovered as the Bears’ offense watched another opportunity to put the game away slip through their fingers.

“First off, can’t fumble,” Fields said after the win. “Need better ball security on that. It’s crazy because Roschon [Johnson], he fumbled a play or two earlier. So, I’m telling him, ball security is the most important thing right now. Two plays later, I fumble.”

As is often the case in the NFL, if you leave the door cracked long enough, the other team will kick it down.

Dobbs promptly engineered a touchdown drive to put Minnesota up 10-9 with under six minutes to play.

That touchdown drive gave Fields an opportunity to show the Bears’ staff and front office something that is high atop their evaluation list over the final month of the season – that he can deliver in the clutch.

But disaster struck on third-and-10 as Fields bolted from the pocket and tried to pick up the first down with his legs. He was hit just as he was reaching the marker, and the ball once again squirted out. The Vikings jumped on it, and Fields walked to the sideline after another attempted game-winning drive went up in flames.

“The second one was a back-breaker,” Fields said.

But the Bears’ defense stood tall and forced a quick three-and-out to give Fields one final chance to deliver the goods.

Fields took over having converted just one of 17 attempted game-winning drives since the start of 2022. That lone one came in Week 3 of last season when linebacker Roquan Smith picked off Texans quarterback Davis Mills in Houston territory. Fields and the offense took a knee to set up a game-winning field goal.

“The Drive” it was not.

Despite his track record, faith in Fields never wavered on the Bears’ sideline. His teammates have remained steadfast in their trust in him. In who he is as a quarterback, who he can become, and what he’s made of.

“I’ve always believed in him,” left guard Teven Jenkins said. “You see him day in and day out being a hard worker.

“I trusted him on that drive to win the game for us.”

Fields opened the drive with a 16-yard completion to Moore and then used his legs to get the Bears into Vikings territory.

Then, after two incompletions, including one that could have been called intentional grounding, Fields faced a critical third-and-10 with 1:06 left.

One throw, one drive, one moment likely won’t be the wind that decides what direction Fields’ future in Chicago heads. But it’s not hyperbole to say that what happened next could be the catalyst for a franchise-changing, and perhaps career-altering, final five weeks.

Fields dropped back and saw the Vikings defenders drop out and get depth. The play call was one he and Moore have been repping since the receiver arrived in Chicago.

As the Vikings defenders bailed out, Moore saw wide-open turf in the middle of the field with no one around.

“Everybody bailed out there and left me wide open,” Moore said after the win. “I didn’t think that was very smart.

“Maybe like 10 yards into the route, I was like, 'something ain't right about this.'" Moore said. "Then I was like, 'shoot, there's nobody in the middle. This deep in is going to be in the middle.' We connected on it, and the rest is history."

It might end up being a pivotal moment in said history.

Fields stepped up in the pocket and threw a strike to Moore for 36 yards down to the Vikings’ 13-yard line.

After three kneels, Cairo Santos trotted onto the field and calmly drilled a game-winning 30-yard field goal.

Game-winning throw. Game-winning drive. Redemption. Check, check, check.

“He’s relentless, honestly,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson, one of the most vocal supporters of Fields, said after the win. “I feel like it feels a little better considering what he did after the two turnovers. That’s disheartening, especially for him being at the level he can play at. Coming back, honestly, and making that big throw, I think it was bigger than just the game-winning drive. His resilience. Being able to stick to it and deliver the ball where he needed to.”

“He’s a super determined person,” cornerback Kyler Gordon added. “He’s a hard-worker, good leader, and he keeps his head down. He’s grinding. Good for him.”

Since his return, Fields has been adamant he’s not trying to make anything more out of these final games. He’s not looking at them as the potential performances on which his Chicago future hinges.

But it was clear that being able to wipe away those two fumbles, to atone for those football sins, and play hero in a way he hasn’t so far in his career carried extra importance for the 24-year-old quarterback, especially after he failed to do so last week in the meltdown loss to the Lions.

“I really just wanted to prove to my teammates that I had their back,” Fields said of the game-winning drive. “The way the defense was playing all game, I had to come back and at least give us a chance at the end. Those two fumbles, adversity is hitting. I was sick to my stomach; I’m not going to lie to you. … At the end of the day, when you do have that opportunity at the end of the game, everything before that is out the window. That’s all you have. All I know is that we needed a field goal, and those two fumbles that I had, it was over with.

“I got better from last week. Learned from last week and was able to finish it.”

It might end up meaning nothing in the long term. It might end up meaning everything. The answer probably lies somewhere in the gray.

The Bears have the bye week and five more games to determine if Fields’ throw to Moore in Minnesota will cause a ripple effect that alters their rebuild plans or is a meaningless blip in general manager Ryan Poles’ big-picture assessment of the team’s quarterback future.

But when Fields unleashed a 36-yard dot to a wide-open Moore on Monday in Minnesota, he finally offered concrete proof that he could do what his teammates have long trumpeted.

He delivered when all the chips were on the line and might have started to change the course of the Bears’ rebuild plans in the process.

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