Fields struggled in his season-opening performance against the Packers, committing a pair of costly turnovers — including a pick-six — and looking a little slow and indecisive at times while working through his passing progressions. While his pass protectors did not give him much help, it was a disappointing first game for a former first-round pick who had big expectations on his shoulders coming into his third season in the NFL.
“It sucks,” Fields said in the postgame. “Nobody is in good spirits. This one hurts, I’m not going to lie to you. It definitely sucks, but in the grand scheme of things, you have to look at the big picture. It’s Week 1, we have 16 games to go in the regular season, so we have a lot of room to improve, a lot of room to grow, and I think that’s what we’re going to do as long as we keep that positive attitude and keep our mentality, just keep going and keep pushing for greatness each and every day. We’ll be fine, but it definitely hurts. Not only because it is the first game of the season and it’s a loss, but it’s a loss to them.
Fields then proceeded to take direct ownership of the loss and apologize for his play, even though he offered some reassurance about the Bears heading into Week 2.
“Just want to say sorry to my teammates, all the fans that were rooting for us,” Fields said, “but we’ll bounce back. We’ll be good.”
Matt Eberflus: Justin Fields ‘Knows He Can Play Better’
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus declined to comment much on Fields’ performance in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s loss, saying he wanted to have the opportunity to watch the tape before making an evaluation. The following day, though, he was more willing to say the obvious: His quarterback needs to play better in their next outing.
“He knows he can play better,” Eberflus said. “He’s well aware of that and he’s gonna work diligently to do that. And again, it’s important that everybody looks [at it] that way: the offensive line, the receivers, the coaches, the defensive coaches, the defensive line — everybody. It’s all hands on deck to improve because we want to improve this season as we go. We want to be a stronger football team every single week. We have room for improvement, as you can see, and we’re excited about getting that done.”
On the bright side, the Bears will have a full week to go back to the drawing board and figure out what they can fix before Week 2’s road game in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers emerged with a victory in their first game, but they were the seventh-worst offense and sixth-worst defense in the league during the opening week. That’s not to say the Bears can take them lightly, but it is better than running headfirst into a full-blown contender.
Fields Was Pressured on 53% of Dropbacks vs. Packers
Fields completed 64% of his passes (24 of 37) for 216 yards and a touchdown and added another 59 rushing yards on nine carries against the Packers, but his performance did not exactly support the case that he has improved as a pocket passer ahead of Year 3.
According to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, Fields averaged a career-low in air yards (4.1) per attempt against the Packers and finished just 2-of-5 passing with a touchdown and a pick-six on his passes of 10 or more air yards. Even when opportunities to throw the ball downfield presented themselves, he seemed hesitant to take them — or otherwise gave up the deep-ball shots too quickly in favor of checkdown passes.
Part of the problem, though, was the poor quality of his pass protection.
According to Pro Football Focus, Fields was pressured 26 times on 49 total dropbacks (53%) in the game — the second-most pressures for any quarterback behind only Daniel Jones in Week 1 — and either scrambled or took a sack (four) in 11 of those instances. The offensive line also committed a handful of penalties that put the Bears offense behind the sticks in their own territory, including three on Braxton Jones alone.
Fields could certainly play better, but protection like that doesn’t do him any favors.