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Fields 'just the same old me' after historic performance

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

When quarterback Justin Fields ripped off a 61-yard touchdown run last Sunday, a newfound hype for the second-year pro and the Bears offense emerged. National media outlets, fans, Dolphins players and even some of Fields' teammates were taken aback by the level of productivity he could generate with his legs and the speed he possessed while scrambling downfield.

But if there's one person who wasn't astonished by Fields' 178 yards on the ground, which broke the NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a regular-season game, it was receiver Darnell Mooney.

"It's pretty normal to me," Mooney said. "I mean, he's always been running around. He runs around a little too much at practice. Even when we're just having a chill practice, he's running around. I'm like, 'bro, you got the most energy in the world. Like you need to chill. Just relax.' He's just always running around. So it's kind of, like I said, normal to me, so nothing too crazy."

From working with Fields since the day he was drafted to spending an offseason with the QB, Mooney "knew he was going to blossom" and expects continued growth that "only time will show."

Fields has those same expectations for himself. While he said national recognition like being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week is an honor, it's not going to affect the way he goes about his day.

"I'm not the type to get too high on one award," Fields said, "just the same old me. I'm going come back to work today, practice hard with my guys and we're just going to get better."

Fields' ability to always keep a level head is just one part of his personality that tight end Cole Kmet values. As a 2020 draft pick, Kmet has experienced every step of Fields' rise as the Bears' leader.

While Kmet notices in-game changes from Fields this year, like being more decisive and trusting what he sees, his habits and routine are no different. But Kmet believes that consistency is what separates Fields from any other player.

"Everyone looks at it, like, 'Oh, he's playing so much better, what's changed?' He's been sticking to his process the whole time and that's the same for a lot of us here," Kmet said. "So he's been the same guy and that's respectable as a person. He's not changing who he is, if has a good game, he's sticking to the same habits. So being consistent with how you approach things is how you achieve success in this league. I've seen that from older guys. That's important and he's really stuck to that."

The big runs and elusive scrambles were the center of attention against the Dolphins, but three of Fields' four touchdowns were pass plays, leading to a 106.7 quarterback rating.

Over the last three weeks, Fields is averaging a 65.6 percent completion rate. In the first six games, his completion percentage was 55.2. Against Miami, Fields threw for 123 yards while completing 17 of 28 pass attempts.

"The experience has really led him to take the next step," coach Matt Eberflus said. "But also, as I think we're learning him and he's learning the offense, it's kind of both. So we're tailoring it to him more, but he's also learning the scheme at the same time, if that makes sense. You can just feel him get more and more comfortable with it."

While Fields' incremental improvements throughout the season weren't always visible on tape, they're beginning to culminate into an explosive and dynamic offensive attack.

Even in those moments the team struggled, Kmet saw a certain calmness in Fields that provided the entire unit with confidence throughout games. But that even-keeled persona doesn't come easy. It's Fields' precise and elaborate preparation that keeps him ready for each moment.

"He's in his book like crazy," Kmet said. "You see that in the film and all those things and making sure he's right on all his checks and cans and all those things. So yeah, I mean, his approach as a quarterback, coming in on Monday, going into the next week is the film, the playbook study, the installs, being a master at all that, that's his job. He's been doing a really good job of that and then obviously, being a vocal guy when he needs to be."

Although Fields is only midway through his second NFL season, coaches and teammates constantly praise his natural leadership skills.

Even after a historic performance last Sunday, all Fields wants to do is "put my head down and keep working." That attitude and approach to the game is what the team gravitates toward.

"His willingness to win, he just wants to win, no matter how it is," Mooney said. "If he throws for 10 touchdowns, runs for 10 touchdowns, he wants to win and that's how everybody else is in the locker room. Everybody's adapting to that mindset and understanding that's really how everyone is thinking."