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If a 12-game losing streak isn’t enough to increase the heat, Justin Fields has managed another way to dial up the pressure just in time for a trip to Arrowhead Stadium.
The third-year Chicago Bears quarterback is this week’s example of be-careful-with-your-megaphone.
No, Fields should not have publicly thrown his coaches – which includes offensive coordinator Luke Getsy – under the bus during his midweek news conference. And it was not a good look when he later executed a classic drop-back – walking back his words and maintaining they were taken out of context.
Here’s what Fields, 24, said when asked about his struggles with overthinking on the field amid an 0-2 start:
“You know, could be coaching, I think. At the end of the day, they are doing their job and giving me what to look at, but at the end of the day, I can’t be thinking about that when the game comes. I prepare myself throughout the week and then when the game comes, it’s time to play free at that point. Thinking less and playing more.”
That’s some serious context.
Then again, maybe somebody needed to say it. As much as Fields is on notice as he heads to a raucous place that is historically a house of horrors for a young quarterback, so is Getsy, in his second year running the Bears offense to dismal results.
Through two games, Fields has hardly lived up to the offseason declarations about enhancing his game while operating with a bolstered supporting cast. Fields is the eighth-worst quarterback in the NFL for passer rating (70.7), ranks 26th for completion rate (60.6%) and, while his blocking hasn’t been stellar, he has contributed, too, to the 10 sacks he has absorbed (tied for third-most in the NFL) by sometimes holding onto the football for too long. And one of his three interceptions this season sealed this past week's loss at Tampa Bay when Shaq Barrett returned it 4 yards for a touchdown.
Then there’s the running. Fields is tied with Khalil Herbert for the team lead with 62 yards, but that’s half-empty. After running for 1,143 yards and 16 TDs in 2022, he’s on pace to gain less than half of that – a clear signal that something has changed to the point that the Bears are not utilizing the gift that makes the Ohio State product special and had him crowing a few weeks ago about being one of the top five running quarterbacks in NFL history.
If Getsy, coach Matt Eberflus and Co. are trying to dictate that Fields operate more from the pocket, it’s not working. And perhaps that’s why he mentioned “coaching” only to later realize that he could have been more politically correct in addressing the issue.
Still, it was rather striking to hear Fields admit issues in processing. It’s professional football. Quarterback is likely the most mentally challenging position in all of sports. Some players undoubtedly need a longer learning curve for development. Yet Fields seemed rather authentic in pointing the finger at himself, which lends credence to his other points.
If grasping the offense is tripping up the franchise quarterback, the Bears' coaching staff, though, needs to recognize and adapt accordingly.
Ryan Poles, the general manager, defended Fields in another effort at damage control, insisting that the coaching staff doesn’t see the quarterback as a “finger-pointer.” Guess that settles it.
What a disaster of a week for the Bears, who haven’t won since beating New England last October. On top of the Fields flap, defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned because of a health issue. And then came the reports that the Bears had more than $100,000 worth of maintenance equipment stolen during a heist at Soldier Field.
All this, and the defending Super Bowl champs are next up on Sunday.
“My goal this week is just to say 'eff it' and go out there and play football how I know how to play football,” Fields declared. “That includes thinking less and just going out there and playing off instincts rather than so much, say, info in my head, data in my head.
“That’s when I play my best, when I’m just out there playing free and being myself.”
Patrick Mahomes, the reigning MVP, Super Bowl MVP and game-changing legend whom the Bears most infamously passed on drafting, was asked what advice he’d offer Fields about how.
“Just trust your talent,” Mahomes said. “Trust your instincts.”
Mahomes didn’t say it but might have added: Good luck trying to come here with that to beat me.
Jerry Jones softens on turf issue?
With NFL players, including Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, virtually unanimous in expressing their preference to play all games on natural grass, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones certainly hasn’t flipped his position supporting the status quo. But he wasn’t as adamant as he was previously when asked recently about the grass vs. turf debate.
In the past, Jones has spouted the NFL company line, alluding to data (disputed by the NFL Players Association) that maintains there is no significant statistical difference in the injury rate between grass and turf.
Last weekend, Jones said: “We will continue to do what we’ve always done, that is to evaluate and we do. Over 30 years, I’ve served on a lot of committees that go over the impact of grass as it relates to injuries. It looks like the obvious answer, that’s not what it is.”
There are 15 NFL teams that play home games on natural grass. If Jones and others want more input on why players prefer to play on grass, consider the view from Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who plays home games at Highmark Stadium on a synthetic surface called A-Turf Titan.
“We’ve been pushing for this for a long time as players,” Allen said during a recent news conference at Bills headquarters. “The way our bodies feel after turf games, after turf practices for that matter, is significantly different than on grass. You can bring up all the statistics for this and that, but as players we feel it and we know it. I know our new stadium is going to have grass. Looking forward to that day. But we’ve got to figure out a way to get everybody grass.”
A star is born
His name is Puka Nacua, and if you had never heard of the Los Angeles Rams rookie receiver until recently, join the crowd. Nacua, a fifth-round pick from BYU, earned the role as fill-in starter while Cooper Kupp idles on injured reserve to nurse a hamstring injury. And in two games, Nacua has done a rather remarkable impersonation of Kupp, who capped his 2021 triple-crown season by winning Super Bowl 56 MVP honors. Nacua, who leads the NFL with 25 receptions, set an NFL rookie record with 15 catches against the 49ers in Week 2.
The book on Nacua (6-2, 205 pounds) before the draft underscored his toughness, and that is showing up on the NFL level with his propensity to break tackles. Of his 266 receiving yards (second to Justin Jefferson after Week 2), 111 have come on yards after the catch.
“I think he plays with really aggressive hands, too,” Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters while preparing for Monday night’s Super Bowl rematch at Cincinnati. “You can just see through the catch point and then on contact. He’s heavy at contact. He’s got great contact balance. I think he made a lot of good plays without the ball in his hands as with the ball in his hands. He embodies that toughness.”
On Tuesday, the 49ers signed eighth-year veteran cornerback Anthony Brown. On Thursday, the 49ers released Brown. On Friday, the 49ers re-signed Brown. What’s interesting about this series of transactions? Brown started 69 games, including 12 in 2022, over seven seasons in Dallas. After the Cowboys lost All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs to a torn ACL suffered in Thursday’s practice, the possibility of a recently released Brown re-joining the Cowboys seemed logical. But in a league where it’s not uncommon for teams to glean intel on opponents from players in transition, it won’t happen now. The 49ers, who eliminated Dallas in the playoffs the past two seasons and have a showdown with the Cowboys looming on Oct. 8, have blocked that possibility … The Broncos’ tall order of trying to avoid going 0-3 by springing an upset at Miami became officially tougher on Friday when star safety Justin Simmons was ruled out with a hip injury. It was going to be hard enough for Denver’s defense to keep up with speedy wideouts Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, and now Simmons is out of action along with key pass-rusher Frank Clark, also out with a hip injury. “We’ll have a plan,” Payton told reporters. “We’ll be ready.”… If the Commodores, uh, Commanders, can upset Buffalo at FedEx Field, it will mark Washington’s first 3-0 start since 2005 when a fellow (and Hall of Famer) named Joe Gibbs was in the midst of his second tour of duty as the best coach the franchise has ever had.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chicago Bears in crisis mode after Justin Fields' surprising admission