by Jay Cohen
CHICAGO — Moments after the game, Justin Fields wanted to get right back to work.
“I’m going to go see the film tonight. I played terrible,” Fields said. “See what I could have done better and get better.”
Fields’ growth in his second season with the Chicago Bears is one of the biggest priorities for the team at the moment, and it’s clear there is a long way to go for the young quarterback. But Chicago is leaning on its run game and defense in the meantime, and it’s working.
Fields passed for just 106 yards and tossed two ugly interceptions Sunday against Houston, but the Bears rushed for 281 yards in a 23-20 victory over the Texans. Roquan Smith set up Cairo Santos’ winning 30-yard field goal with a late interception in the fourth quarter.
The shaky performance by Fields comes after he went 7 for 11 for 70 yards with an interception during last weekend’s 27-10 loss at Green Bay. The former Ohio State star, who was selected by Chicago with the No. 11 pick in the 2021 draft, has completed just 51.1% of his passes for 297 yards through three weeks, but the Bears improved to 2-1 with the win against Houston.
“On any unit, it’s always everybody. It’s always all 11,” first-year Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “You can never just point to one guy. … It’s the protection and it’s the route combinations being in sync and it’s everything. You know, so all of them — we’ll include him, but I think it’s everybody.”
The issues with Fields, to go along with an inconsistent offensive line and a less-than-reliable group of potential passing targets, are affecting Chicago’s approach.
On third-and-10 from the Houston 35 on Chicago’s first drive, David Montgomery carried the ball for 5 yards and Santos kicked a 47-yard field goal. Tristan Ebner had a 2-yard run on a third-and-6 play from the Chicago 14 in the second quarter. The Bears got the ball back with 1:04 left in the first half and didn’t use any of their three timeouts.
The conservative play-calling led to some boos from the Soldier Field crowd of 60,592.
Asked about supporting Fields, Eberflus once again went back to the QB’s supporting cast.
“While he’s going through this, and there’s going to be good and there’s going to be things that he has to improve on, but that’s on the whole football team,” he said. “The whole football team is like that.”
While Fields is struggling with his arm, his legs are another story. He scrambled for a career-best 29 yards on a third-and-9 play on Chicago’s first drive, setting up Santos’ first field goal. He finished with 47 yards on eight carries.
Each of his two interceptions went to Texans safety Jalen Pitre in the middle of the field. He badly missed while trying to find tight end Cole Kmet on the first one in the first quarter. The second was intended for Darnell Mooney on the first play of the fourth.
“I played like trash. Really just got to be better,” Fields said.
But Houston failed to score after each turnover, and Chicago made enough plays in the second half to get the win — even with Fields’ trouble.
“Proud of the defense, the way we played, and proud of everybody,” Fields said. “Of course want to play better, but everybody in the locker room (is) fighting for each other.”