Fields leads by taking ownership of his mistakes
Many of today's elite athletes have a difficult time taking criticism.
Coddled their entire lives, most bristle when faced with somewhat uncomfortable questions by the media.
Not so with rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who played the entire second half of the Bears' 20-17 victory over Cincinnati Sunday at Soldier Field. And what a refreshing change of pace that is.
After an uneven performance that included a ghastly interception late in the fourth quarter, Fields was asked if he was happy with how he played.
His answer: Nope. Not in the least.
"I don't think I'm pleased with how I played at all," Fields said. "There's lot more in me that I have to show, and I know that's going to come with time. ...
"I'm here for a reason and I definitely think I can play better. ... This is the beginning. I'm excited for the future and excited to get back to practice."
Fields understands he's not going to turn into Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson overnight. But make no mistake -- he expects to be one of the league's elite quarterbacks sooner rather than later.
Fields' numbers in a little more than 30 minutes were pedestrian at best as he completed 6 of 13 attempts for 60 yards and added 31 rushing yards on 10 carries.
The passing numbers could have been better, however, if Darnell Mooney hangs onto a pass on a deep crossing route, and Allen Robinson comes up with a long TD reception in the fourth quarter.
Fields' arm strength is undeniable and his accuracy equally impressive.
And obviously he can run. Wow, can he run.
But there will be plenty of bumps in the road as we saw on numerous occasions against the Bengals.
Fields is learning in a hurry there's not much time to decide where to go with the ball when an opponent brings pressure. A perfect example was when Fields fumbled after being sacked on the first possession of the second half. Only an incredible athletic play enabled him to strip the ball from Logan Wilson, preventing a Bengals touchdown.
Fields was also hurried into a couple of incompletions. Then came that late interception. With the Bears leading 20-10 and facing third-and-7 from their 23, Fields dropped back and tried to hit Marquise Goodwin. One problem: He didn't see Wilson sneaking back into coverage.
One play later Joe Burrow threw a 7-yard TD pass and suddenly Cincinnati was within 20-17.
Fields could have brushed off the mistake in the postgame news conference, or even gotten a bit snotty by saying, "Hey -- we won. Why do you guys have to bring up one bad play?"
Instead, he credited the defense for showing one coverage and surprising him with the linebacker getting into the passing lane.
Fields also took responsibility for two false starts he was whistled for on a third-quarter drive that led to a field goal.
"That's my fault. Those are mistakes, rookie mistakes," he said. "The refs said I was flinching a little bit, so I guess I can't flinch. Know that now. Hopefully it won't happen again." As for the ball that slipped through Robinson's hands in the end zone? Fields has a message for his teammates about that as well.
"Just got to forget about it and he just needs to know that I'm going to keep throwing the ball," Fields said. "He's one of the best receivers in the league and that goes for everybody. Every one of my tight ends, running backs, receivers -- if they drop a ball I'm still going to go to them."
Spoken like a true leader.