Fields' biggest area of Year 2 growth bodes well for future rise


LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Justin Fields entered the bye fresh off his best game as a passer after showing pinpoint accuracy, mature pocket presence, and quick decision-making in a 28-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

It was another sign of the growth Fields has shown in his second season as Bears' quarterback. Since Week 7, Fields has thrown for 1,027 yards, nine touchdowns, and five interceptions while completing 67.4 percent of his passes. Per Pro Football Focus, Fields ranks fifth in Big Time Throw percentage over that period (5.9), trailing only Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Geno Smith, and Russell Wilson.

Implementing the QB-designed runs starting in Week 7 helped Fields show off his playmaking ability and got him into a better rhythm as a passer.

Fields has shown tremendous growth in all areas this season, but his most significant leap might have come in an area few can identify.

 “Communication," center Sam Mustipher said Monday when asked where he has seen growth from Fields. "He’s made a huge jump there, just his ability to clearly communicate what he wants, getting guys lined up on the same page, making audibles at the line of scrimmage. I think that’s huge for a quarterback. I’ve played with a few while I was here. There’s plays and times in the games when he’ll see a late rotation or something and get us to our proper check, our proper read, of if we’re in a run play, this is a look we’ve scouted all week. He gets everybody on the same page, gets the audible in, gives me time to change up the point, and then we’re rolling.

"When you’re able to do that as an offense, it gives you advantageous looks to run to versus running to an eight-man box and the safety is rotating down late, hey, maybe we should get out of this—I don’t have to worry about that. I know he’s gonna get us in the right thing.”

The Bears are 3-10. Any hope of a surprise playoff run disintegrated during the current six-game losing streak. But head coach Matt Eberflus still sees ample opportunity for Fields and the young Bears during the season's final month.

The Bears exit the bye to face the 12-1 Philadelphia Eagles before a bout with the 10-3 Buffalo Bills on Christmas Eve.

After Fields' crisp passing display against the Packers in Week 13, Eberflus hopes to see his young signal-caller build off that performance against two legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

"Just the rhythm and timing of it, like he did last week," Eberflus said Monday of Fields' goals over the final month. "Just the consistency of that now. He's really getting a good grasp of the offense and we're excited where he is. Obviously he can make dynamic plays but we want to see also the ordinary plays, the checkdowns, the easy passes, take what the defense gives you, all those types of things that he thinks he needs to improve on and we do, too. He's gonna work at that."

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It's crucial for Fields and the Bears'  offense to use the final four weeks of the season to make further strides in the passing game. Despite what the Twitter majority says, it would also be beneficial for Fields to succeed in engineering a game-winning drive.

So far this season, the Bears' offense has had the ball 10 times with under six minutes left and a chance to tie the game or go ahead. They have only scored on one possession, a four-play, 0-yard drive to beat the Houston Texans in Week 3. A Roquan Smith interception in Texans territory set up that drive.

In a season all about building for the future, learning how to win should be the top goal for Fields and the Bears' young offense down the stretch.

"Just the feeling of winning. There's nothing like it," Fields said after the loss to the Packers. "The wins are going to start coming. I thought as an offense, we got better today.

"I just can't wait until they start coming. They are going to start rolling in here soon."

That's the next step for Fields and an offense that has gone from ineffective and punchless to dynamic and dangerous in 13 weeks.

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