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Eberflus impressed with Fields' mental toughness

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

Bears quarterback Justin Fields didn't panic after a sluggish first half in last Sunday's season opener at Soldier Field.

The second-year pro completed just 3 of 9 passes for 19 yards with one interception and a meager 2.8 passer rating in the first two quarters against a talented 49ers defense.

The offense failed to advance beyond its own 35 on its first five possessions, but Fields remained calm, cool and collected. Undaunted in the second half, he helped the Bears turn a 10-0 deficit into a 19-10 victory by throwing two touchdown passes and posting a 145.8 passer rating.

Teammates and coaches alike praised Fields for his composure and mental toughness in overcoming the poor start and a flooded field that was caused by heavy rain. 

"He was able to move all those things aside," coach Matt Eberflus said Wednesday, "figuring it out how he was going to grip the ball better, how he was going to operate and then figure out the game as the game went on and move the ball down the field.

"That's what, to me, is outstanding. What an outstanding thing for a young quarterback to have that mental toughness; all of those things going on and to be able to laser-like focus in and get the job done. To me, that was very impressive." 

It certainly was, but the steely resolve that Fields displayed in the face of adversity is nothing new. It's something the 2021 first-round pick demonstrated at Ohio State. 

There's no better example than the 2019 Big Ten title game against Wisconsin. Trailing 21-7 at halftime, Fields threw three TD passes as the Buckeyes outscored the Badgers 27-0 in the second half, earning a trip to the College Football Playoff with a 34-21 victory.

"I think for the most part, that's how I've always been," Fields said. "[I] just try to keep that composure because at the end of the day, I know my teammates are looking at me and I'm just trying to be that leader for them. Just show that I'm all right and I'm going to push them to keep going, and if we have a bad play, forget that last play and move on." 

Bears coaches urge Fields and all of his teammates to employ a "next play" mentality.

"We talk about that, and that's an important piece for him and for every player on our team," Eberflus said. "You just turn the page. You can only play one play at a time, and you can't play all of them at once. 

"There's going to be six or seven plays that come in the game that make a difference, and we don't know when those are. That's why you have to be focused in every single play. I think that was in his mind, and that's what he did the whole game."

Fields credited the Bears' second-half resurgence to the energy that offensive coordinator Luke Getsy helped infuse into the offense in the locker room at halftime.

"Everybody was so positive," Fields said. "Luke had a smile on his face at halftime. I think just that little body language brought everybody on their feet and kind of encouraged everybody to come out differently in the second half."

After rallying to beat the 49ers, the Bears will look to carry that momentum into Sunday night's NFC North clash against the Packers in Green Bay. 

Fields hopes to benefit from the experience he gained last season as a rookie when he started a Sunday night game at Lambeau Field, passing for 224 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 45-30 loss. 

"The atmosphere, the environment, it was awesome," Fields said. "Of course it's going to be loud there, so just preparing for that this week."

Although he's only in his second NFL season, the Georgia native is well aware of the fierce rivalry between the Bears and Packers. 

"It means a lot," Fields said. "I want to win every game I play. But it's the tradition of this rivalry. Means a lot to us as a team, to the fan base, to the people upstairs. It just means a lot to everyone in this building."

The Bears hit the Halas Hall practice fields Wednesday afternoon as they get ready for Sunday night's matchup with the rival Packers in Green Bay.