First & Long: Fields Focused On Win, Defense Needs to Stop Samuel, Eberflus Not Worried About Critics

The Bears have been pleased with the progress of Justin Fields, and on Sunday, everyone will know first-hand just how much he has matured since last season. The second-year QB has demonstrated leadership and improved his awareness in the pocket. He commands the huddle and has a firm grasp of the system according to his coaches. In the preseason finale in Cleveland, he displayed excellent decision-making in completing 14 of 16 passes for 156 yards with three touchdowns on five possessions.

None of that matters this weekend, except the confidence boost that comes with being at the top of your game. Fields did not turn the ball over once in preseason play. He’s ready for prime time.

“I just think he’s ready to go,” coach Matt Eberflus said Friday. “The coaches have done a great job of preparing him to be ready, and he’s excited. ‘Excited’ means that you’re ready, you’re focused, you’re prepared and you’re ready to do it. That’s where I think he is and that’s where I know he is. He’s done that on the practice field and we’re all excited to watch our whole football team go out there.”

Chicago’s top playmakers will lead an offense that was near the bottom of the NFL in 2021. Darnell Mooney is Chicago’s top wide receiver. Cole Kmet will have a breakout year in Luke Getsy’s offense. David Montgomery won’t be wasting away on the sidelines or working as strictly a decoy.

Fields had the best game of his career against the 49ers last season. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 175 yards with one touchdown, one interception, and an 84.7 passer rating in a 33-22 loss. He also rushed for a career-high and team-leading 103 yards on 10 carries, including a highlight-reel 22-yard TD.

Fields is much closer to being a franchise quarterback than he was a year ago. He also doesn’t have to watch over his shoulder anymore to see if he’s about to be replaced.

“Now I’m the guy, so of course, we’re gonna build the offense around me [and] around the stuff that we do well as an offense,” Fields said. “It’s just a different mindset. Just not worrying about, ‘If I make a mistake, will I get taken out?’ It just feels way better, for sure.”

It’s easier for the young quarterback to feel that way after an offseason in which Chicago’s front office sought to deploy an offense designed to make Fields a dominant weapon. Getsy was hired specifically to architect that scheme. That commitment means Ryan Poles, Eberflus, and Getsy are treating Fields as an elite quarterback.

The Bears still have issues on the offensive line and are thin at the skill positions. But the addition of Getsy and the implementation of his Shanahan-style offense has the players excited for the start of the season. Fields is being counted on to lead that offense.

“There are things that he’s shown. I’ve seen exactly what he can do,” Mooney said of Fields. “He’s gonna shine for sure, [and] blossom. He’s gonna prove everything that everybody doubted him on – especially in Week 1. That team passed on him. So they’re gonna have to pay a little bit for that.”

Bears News & Notes

There’s a Flag…On the Play

This is way off base.

Scout Team

Film Room

Lance looked good on this touchdown pass, though he was not working against Green Bay’s first-string defense.

Northern Exposure

Green Bay: Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson will make his Packers debut on Sunday. The rookie did not play in any of Green Bay’s exhibition games.

Minnesota: Former Vikings head coach Bud Grant entertained a visit from Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. Grant was head coach of the reigning Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the time.

Detroit: Rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson said he’s ready to “unleash the beast” in Sunday’s tilt with the Eagles.

NFL News & Notes

The Raiders and tight end Darren Waller have agreed to a three-year contract extension. Waller will earn $51 million over three years and is now the NFL’s highest-paid tight end.

Trevis Gipson was named one of the NFL’s 32 x-factors.

The Saints could be Super Bowl sleepers, and analysts might be overrating the Broncos just a bit.

Rams edge rusher Aaron Donald reportedly submitted a letter informing the team of his decision to retire.

High-priced NFL announcers will prove they’re a colossal waste of money.

The Bills beat the Rams 31-10 on Thursday night, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey had a particularly awful game.

Buffalo’s rookie running back James Cook fumbled on his first NFL carry. Consequently, he did not see the field again for the rest of the game.

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust

  1. This season marks the 100-year anniversary of the Bears as “the Bears.” They were known as the Staleys in 1920-21.
  2. The Bears have won eight NFL championships and one Super Bowl. The 49ers have won five Super Bowls.
  3. Former Bear Beattie Feathers became the first back in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He gained 1,004 yards in 1934.

From the Podium

  • “In today’s age, everybody looks at everything. It’s part of our life now. You understand, you put that in a bucket, it’s an opinion of somebody’s or it isn’t fact. We write our own story. I told the guys that all the time — we’re writing our own book. And then we do it one game at a time. And then you can micro it down to each play. Every game, individual players write their own book. They go, play 1, alignment, assignment, key, technique, execution, production — did you get it done? Turn the page, play No. 2, and that’s the cycle of the snap. That’s what we’ve gotta do as a football team and as individuals.” – Eberflus
  • “Mostly, it comes down to [being] yourself. I can’t be another coach. I have to be myself. If you do that, it’s genuine. If you’re honest and you’re honest in your relationships you have in the course of the team and you listen to your instincts, then good things are going to happen.” – Eberflus
  • “You’ve gotta know [Deebo] is, and you’ve gotta know what plays to expect when he’s in the backfield, plays when he’s in the slot, and plays when he’s out wide. So that’s one. Then you’ve gotta understand that off of that they can use him as a decoy for some other things. So you can’t focus too much on one thing, because obviously another thing opens up. It’s a lot to gameplan for, so that’s why they do it.”Nicholas Morrow
  • “With our defense, we’re getting seven-plus to the football. We’re swarming to the ball, we’re making sure that we’re gap sound. Additionally, we have to tackle. Football is a physical game. It’s not flag football, so with that in mind, we have to hit.” – Williams

Running Out the Clock

When you’ve got a fever for Bears football.

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