Lincicome: Justin Fields showed a lot on Sunday. Just don't call it quarterbacking yet.

  • Bears quarterback Justin Fields throws against the Raiders during the first half of Sunday's Bears win in Las Vegas.

    Bears quarterback Justin Fields throws against the Raiders during the first half of Sunday's Bears win in Las Vegas. Associated Press

 
Updated 10/11/2021 6:25 PM

Guts, folly, youth, call what Justin Fields did against the Raiders what you will, but do not call it quarterbacking.

Oh, there was Fields' first NFL touchdown pass; there was a critical third-down game-saver, and he did make some flawless handoffs, but any other resemblance to the position he plays was incidental. And, incidentally, enough to win a game the Bears were supposed to lose.

 

Appreciating your quarterback for being tougher than a linebacker is less a compliment than an indulgence. Plus, you must always remember that there are more linebackers than quarterbacks.

"He's a dog," said running back Khalil Herbert. "He takes a hit and gets back up. He's a dog."

Huh? Let's get a translation on that.

"He (Fields) held his own," said running back Damien Williams. "He shook it off."

Rib pain, knee pain, and going back for more aches and agony defined Fields' day, making his mediocre 12-for-20 and 111 yards seem insignificant, if also redundant. Even had the Bears lost, his courage would have to be admired.

And yet, if this is how the Bears are going to win, Fields will need to be more durable than a leather piñata, which is how he was treated by the Raiders, a team that has always hit late if seldom first.

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"We knew it was going to be a fist fight in a back alley," said coach Matt Nagy.

In the clenched fist world of NFL football, toughness is always prized over skill, and however and whenever Fields morphs into a real NFL quarterback, there can be no doubt about his toughness, just as in other times Jim McMahon was admired for much the same.

Very little Fields has done so far would indicate he is ready for the responsibilities thrust upon him, the pressures that await him. To stand among the quarterback leaders in the NFL, or even within the Bears' division, seems a burden far afield for Fields, one he may not be ready for. Like the little girl with the curl, when Fields is good, he is very good and when he is bad he is just another Bears quarterback.

Now that Nagy has made the correct decision, it is his job to bring Fields to a place where he can be thought of as a real asset rather than just a weekly curiosity. Fields has yet to be the better quarterback in any game he has played.

Fields will be the story when the Bears meet Green Bay and Aaron Rogers on Sunday and when the Bears go to Tampa Bay for Tom Brady. Outplaying either one of those two quarterbacks -- or at least staying with them -- will help identify him as the quarterback savior Bears fans cling to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Growing into more success may reinforce Fields' natural confidence or it may simply establish a standard that will require greater explanations when not met. Failure will have more eyes to identify it.

So, now where are the Bears, when just a short time ago they were hopeless and unsure? They are in the worst possible place now, possible contenders.

The simple solution to all football problems is to change the quarterback. Check. Failing that, fire the coach. Still pending.

At least for now, neither of those apply to the Bears, since Fields is the future and Nagy is a genius for no longer waffling about it.

The Bears still do not have a reliable offense, even with the tandem of Williams and Herbert doing together what David Montgomery used to do all by himself. This little flaw is not fatal because any crisis caused by the offense has been handled by the defense.

The Bears' defense rolls the rock up the hill, the offense pushes it back down, the defense stops it and rolls it back up, smiling and saying we can keep this up as long as you can.

The beauty of low expectations is that when expectations are reached they appear much higher, so what happened in Las Vegas can't stay in Las Vegas. The Bears are expected to do this again, and again, and again.

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