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Fields continuing to adapt, find ways to lead offense

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

Bears quarterback Justin Fields adds a new highlight-reel play to his second-year tape just about every week. Against the Eagles, it was a 39-yard scramble that electrified the crowd at Soldier Field as he broke out of a near sack, turned upfield and outran a group of defenders, once again.

Of the 13 games Fields has played this season, he's recorded at least one 20-yard rush in seven of them – including touchdown runs of 55, 61 and a career-high 67 yards. Fields is the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for three TDs over 50 yards in a season and has scored a rushing TD in six straight games, the longest streak by a QB since at least 1950.

While Fields – who reached 1,000 rushing yards in Sunday's game – isn't used to this intense of a rushing workload, he's felt himself evolve as a threat on the ground.

"I think I've definitely improved as a runner and I think myself, as a player, it's just adaptation," Fields said. "Of course I've had to run a little bit more this year so I think my body has adapted to that and of course as I've gotten better at running. Yeah, I'm just trying to adapt to the game and adapt to what I need to do to help my team win."

For the most part, those explosive plays aren't scripted. When Fields scrambles out of the pocket, his first priority is making a smart decision and protecting himself, but once he sees open grass or a little crease, he instinctually makes a move and, in many cases, ends up with a first down or a score.

Safety as a runner is something Fields has focused in on this season as his designed runs and scrambles have increased. While he feels he's made improvements on taking protective measures like sliding, there are multiple instances where Fields has been hit late with no penalty called. The latest example came against Philadelphia when defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh hit Fields in the head after he slid.

"I said it's been like too many times this year where I felt like I've gotten hit late or something like that and there's been no flag," Fields said. "So I mean I'm going to be on the refs looking for a call, but when I think it's a flag I'm going to ask the ref and on Sunday he said he didn't think it was a foul. Yeah, I'm going to be begging for those calls and just hope I get one, one in the near future."

While Fields' impact as a runner this season is undeniable, it's his growth in the passing game each week that impresses coach Matt Eberflus. Fields earned the second-highest passer rating of his career Sunday (119.5) after throwing for 152 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.

The strong outing came two weeks after Fields recorded one his best passing games of the season as he threw for 254 yards with an 80 percent completion rate against Green Bay.

Fields has repeatedly said he'll do whatever it takes to help the Bears win whether that's throwing or running, but he doesn't want to rush for 1,000 yards every season, something Eberflus agrees with.

"That means he's excited about passing the ball and staying in the pocket, which makes him even more dangerous when he does run," Eberflus said. "So I think we pick and choose our moments when we have to do that. Like we said a couple weeks ago, in critical moments, third down, red zone, two minute when you've got to create something. And again, we want him to operate from the pocket in those downs and when we design runs, he'll do those as well. That's where he's at."

Fields has made vast improvements over the course of the season, drawing national recognition in recent weeks, but there was early skepticism about his ability to produce in the NFL.

While Fields has never taken outside criticism too seriously – confident in his talents at every level – it did take him some time to not take those opinions into account at all.

"I always taught myself I'm not gonna take somebody's opinions to heart when I wouldn't take advice from you," Fields said. "No offense to people out there, everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but if I'm not looking to take advice from you, I'm not gonna care about your opinion or what you have to say. I saw a video. I don't know where I saw it, it was on Instagram to where it was like, if somebody's talking bad about you, this and that, if they were speaking in a different language and you didn't know what they were saying, you wouldn't take it any kind of way.

"Just kind of look at it from that perspective to where they can say what they want, but it's really just depends on how you take what they say. I don't know Spanish. So if they're cussing me out in Spanish saying I'm this, saying I'm that in Spanish, I'm gonna look at them and smile because I have no idea what they're saying."

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