Schrock: Fields shows Bears true growth in best game as passer


CHICAGO -- At first glance, you wouldn't think Sunday's 28-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers is a game Bears quarterback Justin Fields would feel was a big step forward. After all, Fields finished the game 20-for-25 for 254 yards and two interceptions.

But Fields felt Sunday's game at Soldier Field was one of his best as an NFL quarterback.

"I think this was one of my best games passing-wise," Fields said after the loss. "Of course, the stats aren't going to show that," Fields said. "I felt really comfortable out there in the passing game and just have to keep improving and keep getting better."

Fields had several impressive moments Sunday against the Packers.

There was the 24-yard strike to tight end Cole Kmet in which Fields felt pressure, stepped up in the pocket, and delivered a strike to his tight end down the left sideline to convert on third-and-10.

Earlier in the season, Fields would have probably tucked it and tried to pick up the first with his legs. To show that amount of poise and pocket presence illustrates the growth the 23-year-old is experiencing in Year 2.

There was also the 49-yard strike to N'Keal Harry on a scramble drill in the second half.

Fields looked to hit Harry on a simple hitch, but cornerback back Jaire Alexander was sitting on the route. Fields pumped and then felt pressure, so he spun out of the pocket to his left. Once Fields left the pocket, Harry took off deep, and Fields tossed up a 50-50 ball for the 6-foot-4 receiver.

Fields also made a tight-window throw to Kmet on the Bears' attempted game-winning drive that showed impressive accuracy under pressure.

On the day, Fields recorded his most passing yards of the season (254), highest completion percentage (80.0), and highest yards per attempt (10.2). The Bears' offensive line also deserves a lot of credit. Per ESPN, Fields was only pressured on a career-low 22 percent of his dropbacks. He didn't take a sack as a starter for the first time in his career.

RELATED: Why Fields isn't to blame for late-game INT in loss vs. Packers

Fields wasn't perfect Sunday. He threw two interceptions, although the first one belongs on wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown's ledger for a poor route and lack of fight to get back to the ball. The Packers also held Fields in check on the ground outside of a 55-yard touchdown early in the game.

The second-year quarterback remains a work in progress. One with no ceiling should he continue to meet the benchmarks needed to go from generational prospect to NFL star.

Sunday marked the eighth straight game the Bears have lost to the Packers. The Bears are now 3-10 and eliminated from playoff contention.

But Sunday's loss should also come with a bright silver lining.

Fields has dazzled for the past six weeks. But much of his brilliance has come on the ground, with good moments in the passing game sprinkled in at times.

Fields has always been a quarterback who can run and not a running quarterback. Turn on his tape from Ohio State and you'll see a pin-point accurate passer who can make all the throws needed to thrive at the next level.

Talent has never been the issue with Fields. He needed to fine-tune his footwork and mechanics and get comfortable with new receivers in a new offense. Sunday was only his 22nd career start in the NFL. He still is extremely early in his quarterback education.

The decision-making, accuracy, and pocket poise Fields showed Sunday was everything the Bears want to see from the 23-year-old down the stretch heading into Year 3.

This is a quarterback who can beat you with both his arms and his legs. One who can be deadly with a line capable of building a pocket and receivers who he trusts to make plays.

In the end, Sunday's loss to the Packers will go down as a game in which Fields threw for 254 yards and didn't find the end zone. A game in which he once again failed to complete a game-winning drive.

But we might look back on it as the game in which Justin Fields started putting everything together.

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