I dedicate this week’s column entirely to Justin Fields and my experience watching his first career victory at Soldier Field in person on Sunday.
1 – You can plan a nice picnic but you can’t forecast the weather
For many fans, a trip to Solider Field requires a lot of planning and commitment. As a Bears fan traveling to Windy City for a game, I booked a hotel and bought tickets weeks ago. Driving through thunderstorms that caused at least a handful of crashes on my way to Chicago, the forecast for the game didn’t look much better. All weather apps reported a 95-100% chance of rain and thunderstorms during the game.
I wore gore-tex shoes despite rubbing my raw Achilles and wrapping a raincoat, ready to stand in a downpour for three hours to watch this team. But the rain never came. I was told that Justin Fields had nothing to do with the sun shining on a day with guaranteed precipitation.
I am not convinced.
2 – The gift shop is crazy, the gift kiosks are quiet
Not everything can be found in the Pro Shop at kiosk vendors spread throughout the stadium, but for hats and shirts there is a great choice. The lines are not that long. I marked two new hats for the collection; an orange hat with the 40s logo with the bear on top of a giant soccer ball (or maybe a little bear on a soccer ball) and one with the 50s logo they used on the jackets. Horizontal stripes on the beak complete the look.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my hands on it.
3 – Sorry, excuse me, last time, I promise
I know they need to reduce the spacing to sell as many seats as possible, but I had more comfortable middle seats on a cross country flight. If the Bears ever move into a new facility, it will be interesting to see if they can make it more comfortable. I don’t hold my breath.
It always fascinates me to see the time people spend in their seats rather than running for concessions or shopping or maybe meeting others. The couple to our left arrived late and almost immediately got up to look for food, then disappeared for another piece of the 3rd trimester. The intricacies of the Midwest of profusely apologizing for asking a handful of people to stand up to let you return to your seat is one of the most picturesque experiences of seeing a game.
4 – listen
One of the best things about seeing a game live is the organic crowd reaction to a big game. A crescendo of cheers that can only really be understood if you are there. A section of the stadium might get a better view of the game and get a head start on their reaction. A fumble just can’t be seen at the same time by all participants, for example, and this increase in cheering from the rest of the crowd indicates the play is unfolding. It may only be a second, but it is a true sensory experience impossible to reproduce at home.
One part I won’t miss was the banging of the metal roof above the tunnel. I can’t say the sound has improved my gaming experience.
5 – Bears fans have opinions, rightly or wrongly
We sat in a large section full of passionate fans. They clapped when they were supposed to, were reasonably quiet when the video panel showed Justin Fields the shhhs, and I heard a lot of football takes. The group around us had a lot to say about everything from Nagy, playing on call and Justin Fields to Italian beef, orange jerseys and Arlington Heights. When the gentleman behind me shouted out his incorrect assessment of clock management, rule interpretations and why the Lions didn’t challenge Damien Williams TD, I figured I would try to help educate another fan.
I don’t think it worked.
6 – He will not come down!
It’s easy to see why David Montgomery is a fan favorite. He’s always run hard, but with the speed of his off-season work increasing it’s an explosive race waiting to happen. I will always remember seeing the first victory of the Justin Fields era, but I’m incredibly happy to have been able to watch a 100-yard Montgomery game.
Sound 7e game of 100 rushing yards or more moves Monty to single possession of 10e place on the all-time list for the Bears. Hope the injury he suffered late against the Lions didn’t cost him too much time as he was on track for his first Pro Bowl until the first quarter of the season.
7 – The defense made plays
As the great deacon Jones said, firing the quarterback is like destroy a multitude of people, as if to ransack a city. It can be devastating for an offense and many times a sack ends a workout. The Bears’ defense came after Goff and came home four times in this one, including a Robert Quinn backpack that Mack picked up and ran before illegally throwing it forward at Eddie Jackson.
These are primary, exciting games that bring the crowd into the game. Bears fans love defense and defense leads the league in sacks in the first four games with fifteen. If this team has a chance to do something worthwhile in 2021, it will be thanks to this front seven and the development of Justin Fields.
8 – Fields the teammate
One thing I noticed that I’m not sure comes out on TV is that Fields rushes to pick up his running back or offensive lineman after the game is over. I don’t know a lot of QBs who do this and while I don’t know if this is something he will continue to do in his career, it is definitely something that I understood early on.
I can’t imagine that one of his teammates on either side of the ball is not completely convinced by him as a player and as a person.
9 – The Justin Fields effect
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player so quickly and completely embraced by this fan base. He received a standing ovation as he left the pitch after warming up. Warm-ups.
I haven’t heard a single negative word about him or his play all weekend. To be sure, there are a lot of things the rookie needs to work on. His trigger is a bit slow in the fast passing game, but people gave zero, um, didn’t really care about any of that. Right now he’s made of Teflon in the eyes of this fan base and I can’t say I blame any of them.
The number of Fields jerseys in the stands is already starting to rival the 34 and 52.
10 – Justin Freaking Fields
The deep stuff is pretty. I cannot stress enough the quality of the ball that comes out of his hand. How, from the sight of the end zone I had, I felt like the flight of the ball was real, and he was fitting the pigskin into a box one foot by one foot. As Gus Johnson said on the TV call, he put the cookie in the basket. I’ve counted at least four big throws that should make his flagship year-end movie. He’s got a killer instinct to play the big game. In an increasingly explosive play-driven league, he’s the way of the future for the Bears.
If Matt Nagy thinks he can get back to Andy Dalton, he’s crazy. The toothpaste is out of the tube, the cat is out of the bag, the Justin Fields era is here, and it’s beautiful.
What do you think of the NFL this week? Sound off below in the comments and be sure to find me on Twitter @gridironborn.