MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Bears quarterback Justin Fields provided a bright silver lining in Sunday's 29-22 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
After a slow start by Fields and the offense, the second-year pro played his best football of the season, engineering four straight scoring drives to help the Bears storm back from a 21-3 second-quarter deficit to take a 22-21 lead early in the fourth period.
On the Bears' last five possessions of the game—their final drive in the first half and four in the second half—Fields completed 13 of 15 passes for 174 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 36 yards on five carries. The 2021 first-round pick also had a highlight-reel 52-yard TD scramble early in the fourth quarter that was negated by a penalty on receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette for an illegal block.
"He was playing smooth, he was playing confident, he was playing calm," said receiver Darnell Mooney . "Even just calling plays-wise, he was just letting us know what was going on."
Fields agreed that he felt as comfortable Sunday as he's been in five games this season.
"I would say so," he said. "I mean, just trying to stay calm, I think. When I first got here, you see big guys flying around, D-linemen going fast. You just think you have to speed everything up. But I'm just starting to figure out you've got to play within your own rhythm and the way you know how to play and staying calm in the pocket."
Maiden voyage: Rookie Velus Jones Jr. turned his first touch on offense into his first NFL TD. On the opening possession of the second half, the third-round pick took a short flip from Fields and raced around right end for a 9-yard reception that cut the deficit to 21-16.
"It was a great feeling," Jones said. "But I feel kind of down because we didn't pull off the win. We're all in this together. But it's a blessing."
A block by David Montgomery helped spring Jones, who dove just inside the pylon.
"I was getting a speed sweep," he said. "I just had to make sure I cleared the defensive end. I got him out on the corner and 'D-Mo' had my block. Just reading D-Mo's block on Patrick Peterson, when he jumped outside I knew I was going to make my cut inside and either dive in the end zone or drag somebody in."
The TD came one week after Jones muffed a punt late in his first NFL game that helped seal a road loss to the Giants.
"[The TD] helped me out a lot mentally," said Jones, who missed the first three games with a hamstring injury. "I know who I am, I know the player I can be. So that feels good, that part. But we just took a loss and we've got to lock in for next week."
Quick return: Montgomery returned to action after missing just one game with an ankle injury he sustained two weeks ago against the Texans.
"I was super determined," he said. "If you love playing the game, you never want to sit out or be on the side. So I was trying my best to come back in the smartest way possible to be able to help this team."
Montgomery rushed for 20 yards and one TD on 12 carries and caught four passes for a team-high 62 yards, including a 21-yard gain on second-and-21 on the Bears' final drive of the game.
Montgomery's 9-yard TD run came on third-and-8 and drew the Bears to within 21-10 with 1:08 left in the first half.
"It was just a big hole for real," he said. "The O-line opened it up and I just hit it. It wasn't really me. It was our O-line for real."
Impact play: Kindle Vildor's first NFL interception came at an ideal time. The Bears trailed 21-19 early in the fourth quarter when the third-year cornerback read Kirk Cousins' eyes and intercepted a pass intended for receiver Adam Thielen.
Vildor returned the pick 18 yards to the Bears' 48, setting up a Cairo Santos 51-yard field goal that gave the Bears their first lead at 22-21.
"I kind of knew they were running a boot," Vildor said. "Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the other receiver coming. I saw Kirk looking. I ran over there and made the play."
The Bears defense rebounded after getting torched early. The Vikings scored touchdowns on their first three possessions as Cousins completed 17 of 17 passes for 176 yards. Justin Jefferson had eight receptions for 122 yards and completed a 23-yard pass to Dalvin Cook on a trick play.
Vildor said that the Bears adjusted by "switching up our coverages a little bit, giving guys help."
"They were definitely clicking," Vildor said. "I looked up and he was 13-for-13 and I was like, 'wow.' We just needed to settle down, everybody just settle down and play our defense like we know how to."
Welcome back: After missing last weekend's game against the Giants due to personal reasons, Santos picked up right where he left off, connecting on all three of his field-goal attempts from 50, 43 and 51 yards.
"It felt the same as the [previous] couple weeks, just how I prepared and worked with this group of guys, [long-snapper Patrick] Scales, [holder] Trenton [Gill] and coach [Richard] Hightower," Santos said.
"Everyone has confidence in each other and just loves the work we put in during the week. I had a good week of practice, too. I was able to get back in a rhythm just like I did against Houston. It's a good feeling. It would have been better with a win. But just proud of how everyone performed on special teams."
On the shelf: Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson (quad) and safety Dane Cruikshank (hamstring) missed Sunday's game with injuries. Defensive end Kingsley Jonathan and tight end Jake Tonges were also inactive.
This and that: The Bears run defense, which entered Week 5 allowing an NFL-worst 183.3 yards, held the Vikings to 117 yards on 31 carries, a 3.8-yard average … Defensive tackle Justin Jones recorded the Bears' only sack, increasing his season total to 2.0 … After failing to get into the end zone on all three of their red-zone possessions last weekend against the Giants, the Bears went 2-for-2 Sunday … The Bears defense allowed the Vikings to score on all four of their drives inside-the-20 and convert 80 percent of their third-down opportunities (12 of 15) in the game … The Bears punt coverage unit forced a fumble for the second straight week, this time by Jaylon Jones . But the Vikings recovered the loose ball … The Bears offense had just one three-and-out, picking up first downs on seven of eight possessions.