Fields' rise, injury show size, potential of Bears' rebuild


In a season that has been mostly about what comes next for the Bears, three games have been instructive about where they are, what they need to do, and what they could become.

All games revolve around quarterback Justin Fields, his Year 2 rise, and the impact it has had on a team that lacks talent and the direction of a franchise starting a Square 1 after a full-scale teardown.

The first game came on Oct. 30 in Dallas. The Cowboys entered the game with one of the top scoring defenses in the NFL, but the Fields and the Bears' offense went blow-for-blow with them for two-and-a-half quarters. A costly fumble by David Montgomery and a defense incapable of getting off the field saw the Bears lose 49-29. Those 29 points are the second most the Cowboys have surrendered all season behind the 31 they gave up to the Packers.

One week later, Fields went toe-to-toe with Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins in a 35-32 loss at Soldier Field. Fields sent an NFL single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 178 yards. A Super Bowl contender once again gashed the Bears' defense, but Fields kept the Bears in the game, giving them a chance to win.

The final game came last Sunday when Fields was on the sideline and inactive with a separated left shoulder. Without Fields, the Bears stood no chance against the New York Jets, losing 31-10 at MetLife Stadium. The result says it all.

“It’s different when you don’t have your best player on the field," defensive tackle Justin Jones said after the loss. "We’re missing [Eddie Jackson]. We’re missing [Fields]. Just morale-wise, especially offensively, having a guy like [Fields] back there is a little bit different. It’s tough."

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General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus entered this season hoping to see a Year 2 leap from Fields that would cement him as a franchise quarterback to construct their roster around.

Fields' season got off to a rough start, but some tinkering with the offense during the Bears' mini-bye allowed the 23-year-old quarterback to take off during a blistering five-game stretch that saw them rout the Patriots, hang with the Cowboys and Dolphins before losing close games to the Lions and Falcons.

The losses to the Cowboys, Dolphins, and Jets illustrate two clear things about the Bears' rebuild centered around Fields.

It has a long way to go, but it has the potential to be special.

The Cowboys and Dolphins are two of the five best teams in the NFL. They are franchises that have drafted well and made the proper decisions in free agency and the trade market.

A glance at the Bears' roster next to Dallas and Miami's, and there's no reason Chicago should have been competitive for two-and-a-half quarters against Dallas or taken Miami to the wire.

Fields has elevated a team of veteran place-holders and rookies to a place where they can compete with some of the NFL's best.

The second-year signal-caller still has a lot of growing to do, especially as a pocket passer. But his growth and ability to elevate this roster to close competition with the NFL's best show the potential for Poles' rebuild. If he nails the critical decisions this coming offseason, he can be the architect of a perennial contender with Fields at the helm.

It also shows the size of the task at hand. Fields is starting to blossom and has the potential to become a star. But he needs the right pieces around him to continue that ascent.

The Bears need to completely revamp their defense outside of a few pieces in the backend. The offensive line needs at least three new starters. Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet are reliable pass-catcher, but the Bears need more weapons.

Justin Fields has given the Bears the most essential piece of their rebuild. Box checked. All that's left is everything else.

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