All it took was 55 seconds for Justin Fields to grab everyone’s attention.
Fields and the Bears offense couldn’t do anything through most of the first half Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. The offense had run only 14 plays on its first three possessions, putting zero points on the scoreboard.
But when Fields took over with 1:47 remaining in the first half, he made everyone forget about the earlier struggles. Fields led the Bears 78 yards in 55 seconds, aided by two sizable penalties, and capped the first half with his best throw of the preseason – a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jesper Horsted in traffic.
It wound up being Fields’ final play of the preseason. But it left a lasting memory in what became a 27-24 Bears victory against the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.
“He was in a scramble mode,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “He got up and outside of the pocket. Sometimes when you get down in the red zone, that’s what happens. He made a great throw and Jesper made a great catch. The one thing about Justin that I think he does a great job with is he keeps his eyes down field.”
With that, the preseason of Justin Fields is over.
Hope, for Bears fans, is brimming. The 11th overall draft pick is looking every bit like the athlete the Bears have been lacking at the quarterback position for years.
Fields ended Saturday’s game 7-for-10 passing for 54 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 13 yards on two carries. It was far from an impressive stat line, but even with a small sample size it’s easy to see the potential.
The touchdown pass was a glimpse into the future. Fields scrambled to his right out of the pocket and threw on the run, placing the ball where only his man could catch it, despite a clog of bodies in the vicinity.
It was not an easy throw, but Fields made it look easy.
“Knowing the situation, two-minute drill, we want points on the board,” Fields said. “In that particular play, the defender’s back is turned. So in that situation, you want to put the ball where your receiver can get it or it’s going to be an incomplete pass. So those are the things you have to look at when deciphering whether to tuck it and run or just throw the ball away.”
Earlier on the same possession, a beautiful toss resulted in a defensive pass interference, which moved the Bears up 20 yards. One play later, an unnecessary roughness penalty against Tennessee tacked on another 15 yards. It was the second time in three preseason games that Fields led a scoring drive in the final minutes of the first half.
Now the Bears have a lot to figure out. They must trim the roster from 80 to 53 by Tuesday. The offensive line – which played all five of the presumed starters – looked like a mess.
But quarterback is one place where they don’t have decisions to make, at least according to them.
Andy Dalton will start on Sept. 12 against the Los Angeles Rams. Dalton didn’t play at all Saturday. There’s something to be said about experience, for sure. But it’s hard to imagine Dalton making that same throw Fields did just before halftime.
Nagy acknowledged, too, that he would feel comfortable playing Fields in a regular season game.
“I would say with our situation, with where Andy’s at and where [Fields is] at, that he’s done everything he can to make us feel good that if we were to put him in the game or had to put him in the game, that he would do fine,” Nagy said.
So the question becomes: What is he waiting for?