Matt Nagy held off as long as he could, but Justin Fields got a chance to operate as the Bears' primary quarterback in the second half of Chicago's Week 2 game agianst the Bengals.
Andy Dalton endured a couple of injuries during the contest. First, he suffered a non-contact injury running out of bounds. He was able to return to the game before injuring his knee , which rendered him questionable and later doubtful after halftime.
Fields served as the Bears' top quarterback after halftime because of Dalton's injury. His first extended action was a roller coaster, containing some solid flashes and some brutal reminders that he's still learning about the NFL game.
The Bears were leading 20-10 with four minutes left when Fields threw a particularly bad interception. He failed to spot the Bengals' linebacker Logan Wilson drop into coverage and delivered the ball right to him.
That set up the Bengals with a first and goal. On the next play, the Bengals scored and made the game 20-17.
However, on the next drive, Fields made a brilliant play that effectively helped to seal a win for the Bears. On a third-and-9, he was able to break a tackle and scramble for a first-down conversion.
1st of many tests for Justin Fields. pic.twitter.com/BzutVOdyYI— Greg Braggs Jr. (@GBraggsJr23) September 19, 2021
That just about sums up Fields' day. There were moments of brilliance and ones featuring painful mistakes. Ultimately, he was inconsistent, and perhaps no play encapsulates that better than a strip-sack he suffered on his first drive of the second half.
Fields let the pressure get to him on the play. He was pulled down for the sack and stripped. It looked like the Bengals were going to have an easy scoop-and-score opportunity on the play. However, Fields managed to worm his way toward the ball. That saved the Bears, then leading 7-3, from falling behind and allowed them to flip the field with a punt.
The strip sack wasn't a pretty play from Fields, but he managed to salvage it via his quick reaction to the fumble.
Overall, Fields ran for 31 yards on 10 carries and went 6 of 13 passing for 60 yards and an interception. That said, Fields had a couple of nice throws on the day that weren't completed. He hit Darnell Mooney in the hands on the first drive of the second half, but Mooney wasn't able to bring it in. Later, Allen Robinson failed to catch a pass that Fields had thrown right to him downfield. It went right through Robinson's hands, hit him in the chest and fell harmlessly to the ground.
Of course, Fields wasn't perfect on every throw. Most notably, he led Mooney slightly too far on a potential TD that would have extended Chicago's lead to at least 20. Instead, they had to settle for a field goal.
Fields also had a problem with penalties. He was whistled for two false starts during the contest, as he was using a bit too much motion when signaling for the snap. That backed up the Bears twice, and made it difficult for him to convert on first downs. It's part of the reason that the Bears had just 83 total yards of offense after halftime.
How did Fields feel about his performance? He wasn't happy about it, but vowed to improve in the future.
"I don't think I'm pleased with how I played at all," Fields said after the game, per ESPN. "I think there's a lot more in me that I have to show. That's going to come with time. I know it's not going to happen overnight, so I'm just going to keep grinding, and no matter what happens, I know I'm meant for this. I'm meant to be here. My path here has been crazy. When I was younger, I never thought I would be here in this position. I'm here for a reason. And I definitely think I can play better. I just think that this is the beginning. I'm definitely excited for the future and excited to get back to practice on Monday, Tuesday."
Fields was certainly rocky in his extended action, but perhaps he'll be better in Week 3 if Dalton can't play and the team prepares Fields to start against the Browns. Cocach Matt Nagy seems to be confident that he can trust Fields if Dalton does have to miss time.
"Like I've said with Justin, he's probably further along than we thought at this point right now," Nagy said. "If that's the case [and Dalton has to miss time], we feel good about it with Justin. He has worked really, really hard to get to this point.
"We'll see where everything goes and where it's at, but Justin has done everything we've asked him to do and we feel good with him.