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As the same old story unfolds for the Chicago Bears, Justin Fields is left to raise the franchise’s hopes for a turnaround – Boston Herald


Maybe one day.

Maybe one day soon these tables will turn.

Maybe one day the Chicago Bears will again be the dominant team in their storied rivalry with the Green Bay Packers.

Maybe the Bears will become the group making game-winning plays on the regular rather than stumbling into so many game-losing mistakes.

Maybe Justin Fields will soon become in this league what Aaron Rodgers has long been.

Maybe an extended run of success is riiiight there on the horizon.

Maybe. Perhaps.

For now, though, we’re left to process and interpret all that happened Sunday at Soldier Field as the Bears lost for the sixth consecutive week and for the eighth straight time to the Packers.

We’re left with the Packers’ 18-0 fourth-quarter surge in their 28-19 victory.

We’re left with a bad Bears team squandering a 13-point lead and losing to a struggling division foe that’s barely any better than they are.

We’re left with another day of dazzling, adrenalizing plays from Fields and a season-high output of 409 yards from the Bears offense. That all felt encouraging and invigorating.

But we’re also left to dissect two more Fields interceptions in crunch time, raising his season total to five fourth-quarter picks.

We’re left with a spirited effort from a short-handed Bears defense but also with no takeaways or sacks or quarterback hits on Rodgers.

We’re left with Cairo Santos’ missed extra point in the first half and his blocked 40-yard field-goal try in the second.

We’re left with the image of Packers rookie Christian Watson turning a basic jet sweep into a back-breaking 46-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes and the Packers tacking on a Rodgers-to-Marcedes Lewis 2-point conversion pass as the dagger.

And ultimately we’re left with the 3-10 Bears — and a worn-out but optimistic fan base — hoping this is all leading to something much more enjoyable and meaningful, to a high draft pick in April and a 2023 roster overhaul and an infusion of talent and depth that will propel Fields to stardom and take the Bears on an extended run of championship contention.

That’s all still feasible in the not-too-distant future, right?

Maybe? Perhaps?

Right now, though, as dreams of the future act as Chicago’s emotional support crutch, the Bears remain a bad team under the umbrella of a long-faltering organization. Which leaves Fields as the chosen superhero, a 23-year-old quarterback basically tasked with rescuing an entire franchise and enlivening the spirits of all those who love it.

Not that Fields isn’t up for that challenge. He is, after all, blessed with an impressive combination of talent, drive, toughness and passion, all of which give him a real shot to become the standout franchise quarterback Chicago has long wanted.

That was obvious again Sunday as Fields, two weeks removed from separating his left shoulder in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons, returned to electrify Soldier Field with his big-play explosion.

A sampling from Fields’ latest fireworks show:

  • In the first quarter, on his fourth run of the afternoon, Fields turned a zone-read keeper into a 56-yard touchdown run with a nasty cut that corkscrewed cornerback Keisean Nixon into the backfield grass, then put Fields in the express lane to Soldier Field’s south end zone.

It’s a breathtaking thing to watch a quarterback plant his right cleat in the ground more than 5 yards short of midfield and already know he’s gone. But this is the gift of Fields and the blessing of acceleration so elite that he now expresses disappointment when his peak speed doesn’t top 21 mph.

“I felt like I was moving kind of slow, to be honest with you,” Fields said.

Next Gen Stats tracked his top speed on that run at 20.15 mph.

“I like to hit 21, 21.5 or something like that,” Fields said. “I’ll have to do some extra sprints or something.”

  • Two drives after that, Fields hit Equanimeous St. Brown for his longest completion, a majestic in-stride 56-yard bomb that set up David Montgomery’s 7-yard touchdown run. That two-play sequence put the Bears ahead 16-3.
  • In the fourth quarter, on a scramble drill, Fields launched a 50-50 ball to N’Keal Harry up the left sideline and collected another 49 passing yards. Boom.

Fields’ 254 yards through the air were a season high and the third-highest total of his career. He continues to show improving pocket poise and patience, and coach Matt Eberflus singled out a 24-yard completion to Cole Kmet to convert on third-and-10 in the third quarter as “the most impressive play” of the day. That was another encouraging display of pocket presence and vision.

Fields’ recap of that pass: “We had a good amount of time; thankful to the O-line. I stepped up, (was) going through my reads and saw him late on the sideline just chilling over there by himself.”

That was the longest gain on a 12-play field-goal drive.

Still, it’s impossible and impractical to ignore those two fourth-quarter interceptions, if only because they contributed to a growing trend of Fields and the Bears offense being unable to meet the moment in game-deciding situations.

After failing to put together either a tying or go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter of close losses to the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions and Falcons, the Bears received their golden sombrero with another whiff against the Packers in the late stages.

With 2 minutes, 57 seconds remaining, the Bears were down by a point and about 10 to 12 yards outside of field-goal range when Fields threw his first interception on a dig route to St. Brown.

“That’s a trust throw,” Eberflus explained.

Fields hit the top of his drop and let it rip. But Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander used his instincts and quickness to break in front of the throw and snatch it.

While crediting Alexander for his playmaking prowess, both Eberflus and Fields also criticized St. Brown for not doing a better job coming back to the ball or at least making a more concerted effort to disrupt Alexander’s catch.

“You’d just like to see the receiver come back to the ball,” Fields said. “We always try to tell the receivers that those DBs want that pick each and every time. So they’re going to attack that ball.”

Fields’ second pick came on the Bears’ final drive. This time, he forced a throw into heavy traffic along the right sideline, and Nixon easily slid over for the takeaway. It was a poor throw and an even worse decision.

Kmet, who had six catches for 72 yards, felt like a skipping record in the locker room after the game, lamenting yet another missed opportunity for the offense to seize a win.

“We have to find a way to finish,” he said. “It’s really as simple as (execution). And I know we’ve been saying that for the past four or five weeks. But that’s really all this is.”

Maybe one day soon Fields and the Bears will find their winning formula.

“I’m confident we’ll be able to break through with one of these at some point,” Kmet said. “And when we do, I think we’ll be able to do some special things with it.”

Added Fields: “We haven’t had that feeling in a minute. Just winning a game would be awesome.”

At some point, with a high level of determination and resolve, with expected player improvements and a major upgrade in talent across the roster, Fields and the Bears should be able to rediscover that feeling and have themselves ready to win more games like Sunday’s.

All of that has to be within reach soon, right?

Maybe one day these tables will turn. Perhaps.



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