3rd and 12.
7:26 remaining in the game.
Bears holding a 5-point lead, thanks to Khalil Mack’s brilliant sack of Derek Carr on the earlier two-point conversion attempt.
The Raiders were giving the rookie quarterback anything he wanted short of the sticks. (Though a look at the video below will show, outside of a dump-off option in the flat, the Bears did a nice job of running all their routes beyond the line to gain.)
Fields. Mooney. Complete. First down.
Was the game over when this improbable pass was completed? No.
Did it feel over? It sure did.
Justin Fields fires in a throw to convert on 3rd & 12.
Watch how he uses his eyes to try and help open up a hole in the Raiders Sticks coverage just a bit. pic.twitter.com/27v60rcUwv
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 10, 2021
Think about this throw. Arm strength. Intelligence. Savvy. Confidence.
- It is a twenty-yard bullet between two defenders, each with no more than a few yards between themselves and Mooney. Arm strength.
- The throw is made low to the ground to ensure it’s going to be caught by Mooney and nobody else. (How many times do we see a high throw in this scenario go off the hands of the receiver and into the hands of a floating safety?) Intelligence.
- Nate Tice (above) credits Fields’ eyes with opening up the lane for the pass. (I’ll have to take his word for it. It’s hard to decipher anything from this game due to the horrible camera options.) Savvy.
- The quarterback made the throw. Confidence.
And this last point is the pertinent one. The pass is thrown. Folks, Andy Dalton is slinging the ball into the flat, the Bears are gaining eight yards, and then punting. And you know what? Dalton wouldn’t be wrong in his decision making! He can’t make the throw Fields made! With a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter, this is the kind of throw only ATTEMPTED by the elite arms of the league; by the elite quarterbacks. And while Fields is not in the latter category yet, his arm rests firmly in the former.
This was a moment to remember in the young career of a big-time talent. Against the Lions a week ago, Fields made the kind of splash plays that excite a fan base. Against the Raiders, he made the kinds of plays that win football games. That gap between the two is cavernous.
And now this play must be a guiding factor for Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor moving forward. Too often on Sunday, the Bears were content to simply hand the ball off on third-and-one, or even run a destined-to-fail quarterback sweep in that situation. They must, as Fields continues to grow into the starting role, increase their trust in his ability to make these game-winning plays. Trust that if the throw isn’t there, he’ll use the legs to get a pivotal yard. Trust that he won’t throw the ball to the other team in an effort to “make something happen”.
Today, the Bears are leaning on their running game. Tomorrow, they must lean on their star quarterback. Tomorrows come quickly.