5 Takeaways: Encouraging day for Justin Fields, Bears offense
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The Bears were on the brink of disaster and came all the way back, on the verge of victory and handed defeat, suffering a 29-22 loss to the Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Down 21-3 in the second quarter, the Bears responded with 19 unanswered points and took a 22-21 lead in the fourth quarter before allowing a go-ahead touchdown for the Vikings. A nearly monumental win for Chicago became a disappointing loss.
Here are the five takeaways from beautiful U.S. Bank Stadium:
1. Fields figures it out
When the Bears faced their great deficit to the Vikings, they looked to second-year quarterback Justin Fields and saw a presence to him.
“There was a confident way about himself,” Bears receiver Darnell Mooney observed of Fields.
Despite what the scoreboard said, Fields and the Bears believed they could still come back in this game. They just needed that spark. It came with 1:54 remaining in the first half as Fields threw a deep ball down the left sidelines to Mooney, who made a spectacular one-handed catch. Bears running back David Montgomery rushed for a 9-yard touchdown three plays later and Chicago began its comeback.
Fields had one of his best games in the NFL on Sunday, finishing 15-of-21 for 208 yards and a touchdown while adding 8 carries for 47 yards. Fields’ 118.8 passer rating marked the best of his 15 starts. He said it’s the most comfortable he has felt this season.
For Fields, the most important difference was that calmness. He allowed his receivers’ routes to develop and attempted to throw them open into space. He saw the game differently on Sunday.
“When I first got here, you see big guys flying around, D-linemen going fast, you just think you have to speed everything up,” Fields said. “I’m just starting to figure out that you got to play within your own rhythm.”
Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy called an excellent game for Fields, offering him simple chances at success – such as the 30-yard drop-off to Montgomery on the first play from scrimmage – while also taking chances.
Getsy dialed up a balanced attack that allowed Fields opportunities downfield or with a checkdown. He kept the Vikings honest defensively. When the Bears fell behind, they trusted Fields to bring them back.
Entering Sunday’s game, Fields had ranked statistically at the bottom of the league in most key passing categories. The No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Fields was feeling the doubt being cast upon him. It was worth wondering where his confidence was amid these challenging times in his young career.
Though the Bears left Minneapolis without a win, Fields’ performance inspired hope that he can change the narrative of his second season. Sunday brought a different quarterback out in Fields as the game slowed down for him.
“He’s playing smooth,” Mooney said. “He’s playing confident. He’s playing calm.”
2. Key adjustments
On the Vikings’ first three possessions, they scored 21 points and racked up 245 total yards. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had completed his first 17 passes and star receiver Justin Jefferson had eight catches for 122 yards – and 23-yard completion of his own.
The Bears could’ve been run out of the Twin Cities by the Vikings’ dynamic offense. But to their credit, the defense settled in and made the changes needed to keep the game in check.
“We got the momentum back,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. “We wanted to keep that, stay on top of that and come out and execute. Stop the guys who were hurting us all game, which was (Jefferson) and (running back Dalvin Cook). So, try to put a hold on those guys.
“The mood was like, ‘We got this thing.’ We just came up short.”
The key for the Bears was getting pressure on Cousins and taking away his comfort in the Vikings’ route tree. The Vikings went from dominating the Bears’ defense to suddenly being challenged. After scoring on its first three drives, Minnesota was held in check offensively.
But the Vikings embarked on a 17-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter that included five conversions on third down – and a 12-for-15 mark on third down the entire game. The Bears couldn’t get the key stop they needed to earn the victory.
The Bears allowed their first touchdown in the second half as Cousins sneaked in from one yard out with 2:26 remaining.
“We have to make the plays to finish the game and seal the deal,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said.
3. First-touch touchdown
During his NFL debut last Sunday, Bears rookie wide receiver Velus Jones did not take a snap on offense. He was still working his way back to form following a three-week absence for a hamstring injury.
Jones was part of the Bears’ game plan this week as they built a design for a play in the red zone. Getsy called it up early in the third quarter as Jones motioned across and took a dump pass from Fields, catching and running nine yards to the pylon for a touchdown on his first career touch.
“We were talking about that all week,” Fields said. “I was like, ‘Bro, go crazy.’ He did that. Of course, great physical run by him. That’s one thing he’s good at – get the ball in his hands and make guys try to tackle him. I’m definitely proud of him.”
Back in April, Bears general manager Ryan Poles brought Fields into the film room to scout potential wide receivers they could select in the NFL Draft. Jones was a player who earned the endorsement from Fields. They took notice of the game-changing speed and agility Jones could bring for the offense.
The Bears selected Jones in the third round and are gearing him up for greater opportunities his rookie season. They believe it’s his first touchdown of many to come.
“It was a great feeling,” Jones said.
4. Breaking the boot
Last Sunday, the Bears lamented their lack of eye discipline on defense in their 20-12 loss to the Giants at MetLife Stadium. In particular, New York quarterback Daniel Jones continuously caught Chicago’s defense breaking the wrong way on bootleg plays.
The Bears took advantage of a correction on the bootleg during the fourth quarter Sunday as cornerback Kindle Vildor recognized Cousins’ bootleg and jumped a route on wide receiver Adam Thielen. It resulted in Vildor earning his first career interception.
“I knew in my head, when I see it, I’m just going to react and make a play,” Vildor said. “When I saw (Thielen) in the corner of my eye, I was just like, ‘Here it comes again.’ He threw it right to me.”
5. Get out of bounds
After falling behind once more with 2:26 remaining, Fields led the Bears back onto the field down seven points and with one timeout in their pocket.
The Bears’ hopes for a scoring drive led by Fields ended when wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette cut back inside on a catch rather than running out of bounds. Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler ripped the football out of his hands and Minnesota ran out the clock in victory formation.
“Obviously, need to get out of bounds there,” Eberflus said. “We tell the players when they’re on the numbers or wider, get out of bounds. If you’re inside the numbers, get going. That’s just a simple function of two-minute mechanics. So, we got to do that better.”
Eberflus said the Bears will spend Monday focusing on cleaning up their mistakes from this loss. But there’s little time at their disposal.
The Bears are back in action Thursday night when they host the Commanders in primetime at Soldier Field.