LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears were facing third-and-10 at the 50-yard line with 10:07 left in the third quarter Sunday when the ball was snapped a tick early to quarterback Justin Fields. With the timing off, Denver Broncos pass-rushers got the jump on offensive linemen and were coming in unblocked.
Unfazed, Fields hit wide receiver DJ Moore for an 11-yard completion, extending a 15-play, 66-yard drive that took 9:26 off the clock and culminated in a touchdown and 28-7 lead.
“We just call those no-flinch throws,” Fields said. “Just staying in the pocket and delivering the strike to DJ. Of course, he made a great catch, and we converted on third down.”
Ultimately, the Bears did flinch. They squandered the lead and lost 31-28, partly because of two Fields turnovers in the fourth quarter, but there were plenty of positives for the offense.
Fields topped 300 passing yards for the first time (335), and he tossed a career-best four touchdown passes. His stat line was nearly perfect through three quarters: 23-of-24 passing with his lone incompletion coming on a Hail Mary attempt going into halftime.
Moore said it was the most comfortable he’s seen Fields. Tight end Robert Tonyan felt like Fields’ career day came at the perfect time to serve as positive reinforcement for the 24-year-old passer.
“That's who Justin is,” Tonyan said. “He's poised. He's confident. Getting him in a scheme and a game plan to do so like we did last Sunday was good for him, and obviously it showed.”
Fields, who usually downplays his own achievements, said he took some pride in his stat line (28-of-35, 335 yards, 4 TDs, 1 interception), but it was overshadowed by the Bears’ 14th consecutive loss.
“To be honest, I’d rather throw for 50 yards with three picks and we still win the game than what happened this past Sunday,” Fields said. “At this point, winning is just the No. 1 thing on my mind, so I’d rather do that than accomplish any individual goal or individual statistic that there is. I’m just trying to get a dub.”
Their next chance is against the Washington Commanders on Thursday (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video). Washington is favored by 5.5 points.
In order to pull the upset, the Bears need to reduce their mistakes. Fields committed his first of two turnovers in the fourth quarter when he was strip-sacked while turning his back on a bootleg play. Denver recovered and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game.
The Bears could have regained the lead on their ensuing possession, but they couldn’t convert on a fourth-and-inches from the Denver 18.
Fields then thought he read zone coverage instead of man, and threw a game-sealing interception at the Broncos 36 with 32 seconds left.
These fourth-quarter blunders left a bad taste after the offense showed signs of progress.
The Bears used two-tight end sets a season-high 14 times against the Broncos. According to Next Gen Stats, the offense featured their highest shift-motion rate in a game (67.1%), which led to their highest success rate on those plays (55.3%). The run game looked strong with Khalil Herbert gaining 103 yards on 18 carries.
Conceptually, the uptick in play-action, designed rollouts and better protection up front allowed Fields to move the ball down field by hitting his first and second reads more seamlessly than at any other point during the season.
Fields went 11-of-12 for 133 yards and two touchdowns off play-action against Denver, his most completions, attempts and yards on those plays in his career. The Bears took a step closer to establishing who they are offensively despite their 471 total yards coming against the last-placed defense, which had yielded 70 points to Miami the previous week.
“I felt like there was more of an identity to the offense,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “And you could feel that out there. Especially for those first three quarters.”
A year after the Bears didn’t have a receiver go over 100 yards in a single game, Moore put together his second in four weeks against the Broncos. Both he and Kmet were targeted nine times each and totaled three touchdown receptions.
“I got to see the real us, that was a plus side of the game,” Moore said.