A few weeks ago, giving up on Justin Fields as a viable starter would have been warranted. He was abysmal and with a draft stocked with talent at the QB position over the horizon, who could have blamed the Chicago Bears for developing a wandering eye? In the first six games of the season, the Bears forward passing attack had 1920 Decatur Staleys vibes to it as Fields was barely reaching double-digit attempts or completions per game. However, since Chicago’s offense entered REM sleep and put the nation to bed in a Thursday Night Football snoozer against Washington in Week 6, the Bears have been reborn.
In Sunday’s 35-32 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Fields continued his reawakening. Early in the third quarter, Fields announced himself by teleporting 61 yards to the endzone on an electrifying run in which a sonic boom was probably emitted as he accelerated past the outer shell of the Miami Dolphins defense. Overall, Fields gashed the Dolphins defense for 178 yards, shattering Vick’s two-decade-old record.
It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since Michael Vick’s 173-yard ground assault on the Minnesota Vikings. Fields, 23, could barely support his own head on Dec. 1, 2002, when Vick shot like a cannonball through the Vikings’ defense, as would-be tacklers crashed into one another en route to setting a new quarterback rushing record.
Against a Dolphins’ defense that stifled Josh Allen, Fields accelerated a trend that began in Week 6, when offensive coordinator Luke Getsy began designing runs for Fields at a growing rate. Since then, the results have been promising. In the past three weeks, the Bears have torched scoreboards for 94 points, after tallying only 93 points in the first six games of the season. and the passing game has developed a rhythm.
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Thanks in part to Fields’ 178 yards on the ground, his modest 123 yards on 17-of-28 passing, and a rating over 100 for the second week in a row is a revelation for a franchise that has been devoid of quarterback stability since the 1940s. Fields will frustrate with an off-target throw every now and then, but the Bears are a must-see since their midseason offensive adjustments.
Given the paucity of receivers at Fields’ disposal, Fields’ legs contributing to a potent ground game should have been a no-brainer early on. Fields’ 61-yard was the result of improvisation, but his eight rushes for 68 yards on designated runs, zone and power runs
Fields’ first passing touchdown came after he rolled out and utilized his foot speed to remain out of Jaelan Phillips’ grasp long enough for Cole Kmet to create separation and waltz into the endzone. Fields’ second touchdown throw was to Kmet off of play-action and his third was a result of him uncorking a back-shoulder dime to Darnell Mooney in the endzone.
Yet, for all those positive signs, their receiving corps still let them down when they needed it most. On a fourth-and-10 to keep their final drive alive, Fields’ escaped pressure and flung a precision pass on the run to Equanimeous St. Brown. The pass slipped between the receiver’s hands. Watching Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle continue their revision of NFL record books further illustrated the disadvantage Fields is at.
The Vick-era Falcons had a similar defect that went unaddressed for Vick’s entire tenure, which forced them to lean even further on the NFL’s top rushing team. Vick’s Falcons receivers Peerless Price, Brian Finneran, Alge Crumpler, and Michael Jenkins probably sound like an upgrade over the Bears wideouts. Likewise, Chicago’s ground game leads the NFL in yardage, first-down rushes and second in yards per carry.
The acquisition of Chase Claypool is Chicago’s attempt to address their quagmire at receiver. In Week 9, he only recorded two receptions while getting in sync with a new team and scheme, but nearly made a game-changing play on a jump ball, were it not for a missed defensive pass interference on Dolphins cornerback Keion Crossen. Fields is a long way from piloting a high-octane, must-see passing attack, but the Bears finally appear to have the gears moving.
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