Justin Fields shines late in Bears' loss: 'It was his time'

In a game marked by defense, marred by penalties, ultimately won by the Steelers and having left the Bears downtrodden upon their fourth loss in a row, there was silver lining found in the golden arm of Justin Fields.

Much as it’s been for the season, the Bears’ offense was stagnant through the first three quarters before Fields flashed the skills that have breathed excitement into the franchise since he was drafted. He also showed that he’s learning and maturing and growing into the franchise quarterback Chicago hopes he will become.

A snapshot of the brilliance Bears fans long for was seen in particular when Fields rallied his squad for a go-ahead touchdown march that concluded with a touchdown strike to Darnell Mooney. A win wasn’t had for Chicago on Monday night, but the star in Fields began to shine.

“My mindset was just like, ‘It’s time. We’re here,'” said Fields of his thought process when the Bears took over on the eventual go-ahead drive. “You can either be the guy who always gets put in that position and doesn’t show up or you can be that guy who shows up in the big moments. So, I mean that’s what my mindset was and I was just calm and just focused on showing up.”

Chicago took over with 2:47 to play from its 25-yard line needing a touchdown to tie it as the Bears trailed the Steelers, 26-20.

Fields found Allen Robinson for a nine-yard gain to begin the drive and found Robinson once more later in the drive on a 39-yard gem of a completion. On the ensuing play, Fields dropped a 16-yard score into Mooney’s hands, setting up a Cairo Santos go-ahead extra point.

It was a seven-play, 75-yard drive that wouldn’t hold as a game-winner but was a showcase of the gift that is Fields’ arm, rife with accuracy and strength. It also put on display the No. 11 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft’s demeanor under pressure, made all the more impressive when considering he was facing a formidable Steelers defense.

Fields was 17 of 29 for 291 yards, the touchdown and an interception on the night. But in the fourth quarter, he was 7 of 12 for 120 yards and the score. He came alive and so too did the hopes for a comeback victory. It wasn’t to be had, but it was a sign of progress.

“I think that just gives, not only me but the offense confidence, you know? After the game, Cole [Kmet] came up to me and said, ‘We’re almost there, we just got to keep working,'” Fields said. “So, just seeing that, seeing the explosive plays, seeing our drives get put together, it gives our offense more confidence and just pushes us to work harder because we know we’re on the brink of being a great offense. We’re just gonna keep working.”

Silver lining’s a hard sell for a 3-6 team, but even in the cold reality of the final score, it was there. Head coach Matt Nagy saw it in Fields before the go-ahead drive commenced.

“The big picture, for him, is great,” Nagy said. “When they kicked that field goal and went up six, there was a really, pretty neat moment on the sideline. You can feel it from the players, like, ‘OK, we fought back to get to this point where a touchdown wins it.’ Then I looked over at Justin and he had this smile on his face where it was like, it was his time. To see that, the confidence that gives you as a coach when you see that, I mean, it was like he was almost hoping that this was going to be the situation. Then for him to follow through with that and make those plays that he made, it was a really, really good feeling on that sideline. So, when you talk about the growth for him and for the offense and just our team in general, that’s a moment. That’s a moment. But, in the end, we lost and when you’re in that locker room in there, it’s a team game. That’s what our guys care about, that’s what we care about. We gotta figure it out.”

The hope for the best of times ahead was truly glimpsed in the snapshot of a drive on Monday night.

Fields has shown electricity in his legs and arm for bits and pieces of this topsy-turvy 2021 season. It was on this night, even in the shadow of defeat, that he showed for the first time something special with the game on the line and supported the belief that it will not be for the last time.

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