LAKE FOREST – Matt Nagy not only is watching Justin Fields improve in every game he plays, but with every play.
The Bears’ coach praised his rookie quarterback’s growth Tuesday, a day after Fields led an impressive final scoring drive in his team’s last-minute 29-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One play particularly caught Nagy’s attention.
The Bears started the fourth quarter with the ball, and Fields threw a 28-yard seam route pass to Jimmy Graham, right past two defenders. The Bears scored on their next play on a Darnell Mooney rush to make it 20-13 Steelers.
“That was probably a top three throw in the NFL this season with who he had in his face, the way he threw it, the accuracy, the timing, etc.,” Nagy said. “That’s a special, rare throw. When you see those throws, you get excited. You feel that.”
Fields later led the Bears on a 75-yard scoring drive in 1:06 of game time late in the fourth quarter to give his team a 27-26 lead. He finished the night with 291 passing yards, the most in his career, with one touchdown and an interception.
Nagy noticed how Fields’ decision-making and timing have improved in the past few weeks. Fields has taken more shots downfield in the past few games, which included his longest pass of the season Monday when he completed a 50-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin in the third quarter.
On Tuesday, Nagy thought back to Fields’ first start on the road at Cleveland. Facing a hostile environment and a strong defense, Fields threw for 68 yards, and the Browns sacked him nine times. The coaching staff had to formulate a game plan, not necessarily knowing what his strengths would be heading into his first start.
Now the coaching staff has grown more confident as Fields has shown them that he can orchestrate possible game-winning drives like he did Monday.
“You get to these critical parts in the game, you’ve seen it in back-to-back weeks, where he’s making plays,” Nagy said. “What you’re feeling and seeing is a guy that’s getting more and more confident, and it’s not in every game but in every play.
“The game is getting a little slower for him on defense. He’s seeing things.”
The bye week might have come at the right time for the Bears as a team, but not Fields personally. The rookie quarterback has built momentum in his past few games heading into his first bye week, and Nagy said he’s sure Fields just wants to get back out there and continue to throw the ball the way he has.
Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo will create a bye week plan for Fields as he scouts himself thus far and starts looking into the Baltimore defense, the Bears’ next opponent.
Growth from their rookie quarterback is the most important thing for Bears fans right now with their team sitting at 3-6. Although Nagy is more focused on making sure his team wins every game it plays the rest of the season as it tries to qualify for the playoffs, he also understands the excitement around the development of the team’s QB.
“When you go up and draft a quarterback as high as we did, I do understand the significance of seeing growth with the future,” Nagy said. “You want to see that. You don’t want to see it the other way. So the excitement of being able to see Justin put together games like he’s doing right now is exciting for all of us.”