LANDOVER, Md. – Justin Fields followed one excellent passing performance with another in Thursday night's 40-20 win over the Washington Commanders.
After establishing career highs with 335 yards, four touchdowns and a 132.7 passer rating last Sunday against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field, Fields threw for 282 yards and four TDs with a 125.3 passer rating four days later at FedExField.
In the process, Fields became just the second Bears quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in back-to-back games. He joins Jay Cutler, who accomplished the feat in the final two contests of the 2009 season against the Vikings and Lions.
"I saw poise the entire time," said coach Matt Eberflus. "You can see him being comfortable in the pocket, going through his reads, deliver the ball on time. But that takes everybody. It takes the receivers being in the right spot, it takes the protection, and that's what I saw."
Fields passed for 145 yards in the first quarter, the most by a Bears quarterback in the opening period since Cutler threw for 147 yards in the 2011 season opener against the Falcons at Soldier Field.
Rising to the occasion: Eberflus lauded how well the Bears offensive line performed against an elite Commanders defensive line that's comprised of four first-round picks.
When center Lucas Patrick was forced to exit to be evaluated for a concussion, veteran Cody Whitehair slid from left guard to center and Teven Jenkins stepped in at left guard, making his season debut after missing the first four games with an injury. Jenkins played sparingly in his return, with Ja'Tyre Carter replacing him.
"I want to commend our offensive line, really today because all the lineup changes going against that defensive line," Eberflus said. "That was one of our keys to victory was being able to do a decent job against that line … They did a really good job of sticking together and giving Justin the time he needed to throw the ball during the game."
Under pressure: After mustering only two sacks in their first four games, the Bears produced five in Thursday night's win, one apiece by ends Yannick Ngakoue, DeMarcus Walker and Rasheem Green; linebacker T.J. Edwards and nickel back Greg Stroman Jr.
The five sacks were the most by the Bears since Nov. 21, 2021, when they compiled six sacks against the Ravens at Soldier Field.
"It feels great," Ngakoue said. "I'm just happy for my defensive line, happy for my defense in general, especially [defensive line] coach Travis Smith. He's a guy that works countless hours trying to prepare us for our rush and he did a great job like he always does, and we finally were able to capitalize."
Stroman and rookie cornerback Terell Smith stepped up, both generating key takeaways. Stroman made a diving interception of a Sam Howell pass over the middle, giving the offense the ball at the Washington 36 with 2:19 left in the second quarter. The Bears converted the turnover into Fields' 4-yard TD pass to Cole Kmet, increasing their lead to 27-3 with :24 to play in the half.
In the third quarter, Smith ripped the ball away from tight end Logan Thomas after an 8-yard reception and recovered the fumble at the Commanders' 46.
"Those guys are young," Eberflus said. "We put them in there, and we have no problem putting them in there because they're talented players and they did a nice job. We talked about everybody taking a swing at it and they did a good job of taking the ball away.
"Stroman's interception was outstanding. We were in a coverage that dictates him to follow that guy inside there like that, and he did a nice job stepping in front of it. So that was really good, and really 'Smitty' just willed it to happen, and the guy stayed up, and did a great job of raking the ball out and then recovering, so it was a really, really good play."
Spoils of victory: Eberflus enjoyed walking into the locker room after the Bears' first win of the season.
"That's why you get into coaching," he said. "Been coaching 32 years … It's fun because you get to see the smiles and the joy for the hard work. All the staff members, the coaches, it's a lot of work that you put into this. We've gone through some adversity, but we learned lessons from that adversity. Those things harden you a little bit. So it's going to be fun going forward."
Fullback Khari Blasingame filled in, rushing for a career-high 26 yards on eight carries. Blasingame did not touch the ball while playing 174 snaps on offense in his first season with the Bears last year.
"That was big," Eberflus said. "We had a couple of guys down. [Blasingame] stepped in there and I thought he did a nice job in the four-minute drill, did a nice job of moving the line and making a couple of nice cuts and protecting the football."
Sad news: During his postgame press conference, Eberflus offered condolences to the family of Bears Hall of Fame middle linebacker Dick Butkus, who passed away at the age of 80 at his home in Malibu, Calif.
"My deepest sympathies to them," Eberflus said. "I had several chances to visit with Dick during the time I've been here and it's always great talking to him. He was one of my idols growing up, being a linebacker. We had some good talks about reading keys and a lot of different things. Again, my condolences to the family."
To honor Dick Butkus, take a look at 51 photos of the Hall of Fame linebacker through the years. (Photos by Chicago Bears and AP)
News and notes: The Bears' 24-point halftime lead was their largest halftime lead since Sept. 30, 2018, when they led the Buccaneers 34-3 at halftime en route to a 48-10 win at Soldier Field … The Bears scored at least 40 points for the first time since a 41-17 win over the Jaguars Dec. 27, 2020, in Jacksonville … The 40 points are also the most the Bears have scored in the 53 games they've played on Thursdays (16 on Thursday Night Football and 37 on Thanksgiving) … The Bears run defense held the Commanders to 29 yards on 10 rushes … Cairo Santos made all four of his field-goal attempts from 22, 36, 43 and 37 yards and is now 8-for-8 this season. He also recorded touchbacks on all nine of his kickoffs.