LAKE FOREST – In what may arguably be the worst moment of his very young career in the NFL, a rookie quarterback instilled confidence in a teammate.
In the fourth quarter against the Bengals, holding onto a 10-point lead, Justin Fields didn’t see a linebacker and threw his first career interception. It led to a touchdown the next play as Cincinnati cut a once 17-point Bears’ advantage to three.
Yet Cole Kmet noticed something about his demeanor on the next series.
“I think it’s his poise. That’s something that really stands out. Last weekend, even when he throws that pick, it’s next play, which is just really impressive. We’ve seen that,” said Kmet of Fields. “He has an ultimate confidence in himself, which is really cool to see. When the quarterback has confidence in that, it instills confidence in everyone else.”
Indeed Fields did that, eluding defenders on a 3rd-and-9 on the final drive that helped the Bears seal up their first win of the 2021 season. Those moments of response are ones that a lot of players think about now that the rookie is getting ready to start his first NFL game against the Browns on Sunday in Cleveland.
“Like I said last week, he’s always calm and collected, and he’s just wanting to make the play and get a “dub” for the team,” said receiver Darnell Mooney of Field. “It’s been showing on the field, showing off the field as well, in practice, and with him getting a lot of reps this week, it’s showed as well.”
The key now becomes adjusting the offense meant for Andy Dalton to work for Justin Fields, crafting a plan that’s going to bring out the most of the first round pick’s talent. That job falls on Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor over the three practices days this week to get ready to face a Browns’ team that made the playoffs a season ago.
“We were able to get a feel for things we like or don’t like with him in training camp and then in the preseason,” said Nagy. “Now we get together as a staff and we just talk through the things that we think that he does well for us and you’ve got to put everything into play. Everything about a first game into play and be able to give him and our offense the best opportunity.”
Lazor agreed with Nagy that it’s all about taking what they’ve seen from Fields in their time with him to make a plan that going to get the most out of him.
“Some of it is the same. You try from all accumulated reps of spring and training camp and preseason games to take that information in of what you as think fits that player,” said Lazor. “Obviously, as you mentioned, the first regular season start makes it a little bit different. But he’s played in big games before, you all have seen him enough that you can probably bet that he’ll handle it just fine.”
Meanwhile, players will make simple adjustments the prepare for Fields for 60 minutes instead of just a few plays like the last two weeks.
“Outside of extra throws, really just communication. Just like you and I right now, just talking things out, making sure we’re on the same page,” said receiver Marquise Goodwin, knowing they’ll have to be right from the start on Sunday.