Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields electrified the Soldier Field crowd with dazzling runs and pinpoint passes Sunday afternoon.
Teammates were also impressed with the first-round pick, who rushed for 103 yards on 10 carries—including a highlight-reel 22-yard touchdown—and passed for 175 yards and one TD in a 33-22 loss to the 49ers.
"He's elite," said defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. "It's fun to watch. I remember a play where he made like a little spin move and then he took off for another 10 yards. Although it wasn't a crazy gain, it tells the defense, 'Man, you've got to really work on tackling this guy.' He made some elite throws. I saw him come across his body and hit somebody in the left corner. I enjoy watching him play, and I look forward to his growth."
"He's different," added rookie running back Khalil Herbert. "[He's a] playmaker as you can see, but his will to win is very strong and it's going to pay off soon."
Fields' 103 yards rushing were the most by a Bears quarterback since Dec. 17, 1972 when Bobby Douglass ran for 127 yards on 14 carries in a 28-21 loss to the Raiders in Oakland.
Trailing 23-16 early in the fourth quarter, the Bears faced fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 22. Dropping back to pass, Fields broke a tackle in the pocket while sliding to his right. He then reversed field, eluding four more defenders en route to the end zone, thanks in part to blocks by receiver Darnell Mooney and left tackle Jason Peters.
Fields conceded that it was a signature moment of his young NFL career.
"I'm not going to lie; that was awesome," Fields said. "I was excited, as y'all could see. Glad to celebrate with my teammates, and we're just going to continue to get better. We didn't get the outcome that we wanted today, but we're just going to get back and keep going."
No answers: The Bears defense struggled mightily Sunday. The unit failed to force a punt or turnover and did not record a sack or even a quarterback hit. After missing a field goal on the game's opening possession, the 49ers scored on seven straight drives before running out the clock late.
While the Bears offense did not produce a play of more than 22 yards, San Francisco generated seven, including Jimmy Garoppolo passes of 83 and 50 yards to Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell runs of 39, 27 and 27 yards.
Garoppolo completed 17 of 28 passes for 322 yards and a 100.6 passer rating. Samuel caught six passes for 171 yards. And Mitchell rushed for 137 yards on 18 carries.
Smooth operation: Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he felt comfortable serving as Bears acting head coach in place of Matt Nagy, who remains in COVID-19 protocol.
"I was extremely comfortable," Tabor said. "At the end of the day, we're football coaches and leading men to do something and get something accomplished, and in the special teams world I have a team meeting each and every day, so leading players, that's what a special teams coordinator is supposed to do. This just happened that you picked up the offense and the defense with it."
Still streaking: Cairo Santos made all three field goals he attempted Sunday from 39, 40 and 25 yards, extending his Bears record to 38 straight field goals, the longest active streak in the NFL. But he missed his first extra point of the season. It came after Fields' TD run and would have tied the score 23-23.
First start: Rookie Larry Borom made his first NFL start at right tackle. The fifth-round pick returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since injuring his ankle in the season opener against the Rams.
"He had a great week of practice," Tabor said. "He got out there and practiced on Wednesday. We wanted to see where he was and he just kept getting better each and every day, so we felt comfortable with him playing.
"I'm sure he had some good plays out there and I'm sure there are going to be some plays that he wants back. We'll have to look at the tape on that and evaluate that and then go from there."
On the shelf: Outside linebacker Khalil Mack (foot) sat out Sunday's game with an injury. Other inactives were quarterback Nick Foles, receiver Breshad Perriman, cornerback Artie Burns and linebacker Caleb Johnson.
Herbert left the game late in the third quarter when he was kneed in the helmet while recovering an errant pitchout. But he returned on the Bears' next drive and finished the game rushing for 72 yards on 23 carries.
Third-down success: The Bears entered Week 8 ranked last in the NFL in third-down efficiency at 31.3 percent (25 of 80). On Sunday, they converted 8 of 15 (53.3 percent), including 6 of their first 7.
"We just had great pass pro on third down," Fields said. "And guys were making great catches, contested catches. I think that was the key to converting our third downs."
On the run: The Bears entered Week 8 ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 131.0 yards per game, and they produced their highest output of the season Sunday with 176 yards on 36 carries.
The ground game has been particularly effective of late, generating its top five performances of the year in the last five games with 188, 143, 140, 143 and 176 yards.
In the end zone: Tight end Jesse James' 8-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter was the 12th TD of his career and the first since last Dec. 6 when he scored against the Bears as a member of the Lions at Soldier Field.
Fields rolled to his left on the play and fired a strike to James, who made a diving catch in the corner of the end zone.
"Jesse ran a good route and made a great catch on that," Fields said. "Jesse is really an old reliable tight end. He doesn't complain at all, even though he doesn't really get as many reps. But every time he comes into the game, he's always a weapon. That was a great route and a great catch on that and just a great call by [offensive coordinator] Bill [Lazor]."
Watch the Bears' Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers unfold through the lenses of our sideline photographers at Soldier Field.