Bears' Fields points to coaching for 'robotic' play
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields characterized his play in a 27-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as “robotic” and did not feel that he was “playing like myself.”
A reason for what Fields believes is causing him to overthink in games, according to the 24-year-old quarterback, is what he has been coached to do.
“You know, could be coaching, I think,” Fields said. “At the end of the day, they are doing their job when they are giving me what to look at, but at the end of the day, I can’t be thinking about that when the game comes. I prepare myself throughout the week, and then when the game comes, it’s time to play free at that point. Thinking less and playing more.”
Fields was 16-of-29 for 211 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions and ran four times for 3 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown. Those were the fewest rushing yards Fields has had since his rookie season.
The road loss extended Chicago’s losing streak to 12 games dating to October 2022.
Fields said he hopes to alter his approach against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3 so he can play more like himself.
“My goal this week is just to say F it and go out there and play football how I know to play football,” Fields said. “That includes thinking less and just going out there and playing off of instincts rather than so much, say, info in my head, data in my head. Just literally going out there and playing football. Going back to it’s a game and that’s it.
“That’s when I play my best, when I’m just out there playing free and being myself, so I’m going to, say, kind of bump all the what I should, this and that, pocket stuff. I’m going to go out there and be me.”
The quarterback took six sacks against the Buccaneers, several of which came after remaining in the pocket for too long. Fields said that coaches emphasized him staying in the pocket throughout the offseason and that while situations call for him to do so, he needs to rely on his internal clock to make plays.
“I don’t think it’s too many coaching voices, but I just think when you’re fed a lot of information at a point in time and you’re trying to think about that info when you’re playing, it doesn’t let you play like yourself,” Fields said. “You’re trying to process so much information to where it’s like, if I just simplify it in my mind, I would have did this. I saw a few plays on Sunday, if I was playing like my old self, we would have had a positive play. There would have been more third-down [conversions]. I think that’s just the biggest thing for me is playing the game how I know how to play and how I’ve been playing my whole life. That’s what I got to get back to doing.”
The quarterback said he spoke to the Bears staff about his concerns and felt that coaches were receptive to his diagnosis of what went wrong at Tampa Bay. Coach Matt Eberflus said that he did not feel the Bears were overcoaching Fields and that “having him being free is what we want.”
“He respects that partnership, and so do we,” Eberflus said. “We want him to play free. I think it’s very important that, as we work through this, making sure that he does play free, that we coach him that way.
“A lot of times he wants to be perfect. He wants to do it the right way. And there’s a balance there, though, right? There’s a balance between, ‘Hey, going through my progressions,’ but also having the ability to say, ‘Hey, I feel these things happening. Now I’m going to play instinctual.’ And that could be just sliding up in the pocket in the B-gap and delivering the ball or taking off and running. I think that’s where that is.”
Fields believes voicing his concerns with coaches is a part of the necessary process for the team to improve upon its early season struggles.
“Nobody is going to take anything personal,” Fields said. “The coaches say we need to play better, I need to play better, I’m not taking that personal because I think everybody in here knows that I need to play better, including myself. They’re not going to take it personal if us as players go to them and say, ‘I didn’t like this call.’ They need to be better. We’re all grown men in the building, and we all can take it. It’s about working with each other, getting each other better, holding each other accountable and working towards the same goal. In terms of that fact, yeah, I think everybody can do better around here, including myself.”
Fields addressed reporters later Wednesday at his locker and said his quotes were taken out “of context.”
“… it’s like you all are trying to split us up. I’m not blaming anything on the coaches; I’m never going to blame anything on the coaches; I’m never going to blame anything on my teammates. Whatever happens in a game, I will take all the blame. I don’t care. If it’s a dropped pass, it should have been a pass, put it on me.
“Whenever you hear anything come out of my mouth to where I would blame it on somebody else in this organization, my teammates, never will you hear that. I just want to clear that up. Just know I need to play better. That’s it. Point-blank. That’s what it should have been in the first place.”
Meanwhile, Fields’ protection took a hit Wednesday with the news that starting left tackle Braxton Jones went on injured reserve with a neck injury.
Asked whether Jones could miss this season, Eberflus said: “We’ll see where it is. We don’t have timetables on it right now. That’s where it is right now.”