LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Since entering Halas Hall, Matt Eberflus and the Bears' offensive staff have talked about quarterback Justin Fields reaching checkpoints in his growth. The Bears' belief has always been that if Fields kept chipping away at the rock, daily progress would culminate in tangible evidence of quarterback evolution on Sunday.
Eberflus, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko have worked with Fields to blend his elite athleticism and big arm with the necessary, high-level skills needed to play quarterback in the NFL.
There's one thing both Eberflus and Getsy have pointed to that would be a clear sign that all Fields' hard work is paying off. The Bears have wanted to see the slithery Fields navigate a messy pocket and escape it while keeping his eyes downfield. Last year, Fields would put his head down and run. The Bears don't want to take that tool out of Fields' arsenal, but they want him to evade pressure with a passer's mentality, exhausting all downfield options before bolting.
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In the Bears' 28-13 win over the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on Sunday, one play early on showed Eberflus and his staff that things are starting to click as they hoped.
Facing a third-and-8 from their own 11, Fields dropped back and was pressured from the right and up the middle. Fields dodged both rushers while keeping his eyes downfield as the blocks held. Once it became clear he was out of time, the Bears quarterback took off and punctuated his Houdini act with a 19-yard gain.
"The finish part of that helps him to be able to do that, to avoid the sack," Eberflus said of the play Monday at Halas Hall. "He’s done a really good job of late of looking down the field to be able to deliver some passes down the field, which is cool. The next dimension is what you’re talking about — the ability to escape. He’s so strong, and he’s got strong lowers, and he’s got great balance, as I say a lot of time with DJ [Moore]. He has that as well. He has the ability to put it on guys for 19 yards or, as you saw last year, even more than that. We’re excited about where he is with that, in terms of the first phase of that, looking downfield to complete the passes, and the second phase — when it’s not there in situational ball, to make it happen."
Since returning from a dislocated right thumb in Week 11, Fields has been playing arguably his best all-around football as the Bears' quarterback.
On Sunday, Fields went 19-for-33 for 223 yards and one touchdown while adding 58 yards and a score on the ground. Fields' day was highlighted by a free-play touchdown pass to DJ Moore, on which Fields used his cadence to draw the defense offsides before throwing a 38-yard strike to Moore to give the Bears a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Fields' future in Chicago remains up in the air, with four games left in the season.
But the growth the Bears believed would come is starting to show itself. If it continues to do so over the final month of the season, the Bears will have already answered their quarterback question.