I’m dedicating this week’s column completely to Justin Fields and my experience watching his first career victory at Soldier Field in person on Sunday.
1 – You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather
For many fans, a trip to Solider Field requires plenty of planning and commitment. As a Bears fan traveling to the Windy City for a game, I booked a hotel and bought tickets weeks ago. Driving through thunderstorms that caused at least a handful of accidents on my path to Chicago, the forecast for the game didn’t look much better. All the weather apps said 95-100% chance of rain and thunderstorms during the game.
I wore gore tex shoes despite the fact that they rub my Achilles raw and packed a raincoat, prepared to stand in a deluge for three hours to watch this team. But the rain never came. I was told that Justin Fields had nothing to do with the sun shining on a day with guaranteed rainfall.
I’m not convinced.
2 – The gift shop is crazy, the gift kiosks are calm
Not everything in the Pro Shop can be found at the kiosk vendors found throughout the stadium but for hats and shirts, there’s an excellent selection. The lines aren’t nearly as long. I scored two new hats for the collection; an orange hat with the 1940s logo with the bear on top of a giant football (or maybe it’s a tiny bear on a football) and one with the 1950s logo they used on jackets. Horizontal stripes on the bill complete the look.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my hands on these.
3 – Sorry, excuse me, last time, I promise
I know that they need to make the spacing tight to sell as many seats as possible, but I’ve had more comfortable middle seats on a cross country flight. If the Bears ever do move into a new facility, it will be interesting to see if they can make it more comfortable. I’m not holding my breath.
It always fascinates me to see the amount of time people spend in their seats versus running around for concessions or shopping or maybe meeting up with others. The couple to our left arrived late and almost immediately got up to get food and then disappeared for another chunk of the 3rd quarter. The Midwestern niceties of apologizing profusely for asking a handful of people to stand up to let you back into your seat is one of the more quaint experiences of seeing a game.
4 – Listen up
One of the best elements about seeing a game live is the organic reaction of the crowd to a big play. A crescendo of cheers that can only truly be understood if you’re there. One section of the stadium might have a better view of the play and have a head start on their reaction. A fumble simply can’t be witnessed in the same moment by all attendees, for example, and that rising cheer clues in the rest of the crowd to the play as it unfolds. It may only be a second, but it’s a real sensory experience impossible to replicate at home.
One part I won’t miss was the banging of the metal roof over the tunnel. I can’t say that sound enhanced my game experience.
5 – Bears fans are opinionated, right or wrong
We sat in a great section full a passionate fans. They cheered when they were supposed to, stayed reasonably quiet when the video board showed Justin Fields shhh-ing them, and I overheard plenty of football takes. The group around us had plenty to say about everything from Nagy, play calling, and Justin Fields to Italian beef, orange jerseys, and Arlington Heights. When the gentleman behind me shouted out his incorrect evaluation of clock management, rule interpretations, and why in the world didn’t the Lions challenge that Damien Williams TD, I thought I would try and help educate a fellow fan.
I don’t think it worked.
6 – He will not go down!
It’s easy to see why David Montgomery is such a fan favorite. He has always run hard, but with increase in speed from his off season work, he’s an explosive run waiting to happen. I’ll always remember that I attended the first win of the Justin Fields era, but I’m incredibly happy I got to witness a 100-yard game from Montgomery.
His 7th game of 100 rushing yards or more moves Monty to sole possession of 10th place on the all-time list for the Bears. I hope the injury he sustained late against the Lions doesn’t cost him too much time because he was on track for his first Pro Bowl through the first quarter of the season.
7 – Defense made plays
As the great Deacon Jones said, sacking the quarterback is like destroying a multitude of people, as in sacking a city. It can be devastating to an offense and many times a sack ends a drive. The Bears defense came after Goff and got home four times in this one, including a Robert Quinn strip sack that Mack picked up and ran back before illegally throwing it forward to Eddie Jackson.
They’re primal, exciting plays that get the crowd into the game. Bears fans love defense and this defense leads the league in sacks through the first four games with fifteen. If this team has a chance of doing anything interesting in 2021, it will be because of this front seven and Justin Fields developing.
8 – Fields the teammate
One thing I noticed that I’m not sure stands out on TV is that Fields rushes over to pick up his running back or offensive lineman after the play is over. I don’t know a lot of QBs doing that and while I don’t know if that’s something that he’ll continue to do in his career, it sure was something I picked up on early.
I can’t imagine that any of his teammates on either side of the ball aren’t 100% bought in on him as a player and as a person.
9 – The Justin Fields effect
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player so quickly and completely embraced by this fan base. He got a standing ovation as he walked off the field after warming up. Warm ups.
I didn’t hear one negative word about him or his play the entire weekend. To be sure, there’s plenty the rookie needs to work on. His trigger is a little slow in the quick passing game, but people gave zero, ahem, didn’t really care about any of that. Right now he’s made of Teflon in the eyes of this fanbase and I can’t say I blame any of them.
The number of Fields jerseys in the stands is already starting to compete with the 34s and 52s.
10 – Justin Freaking Fields
The deep stuff is pretty. I can’t emphasize enough how good the ball looks coming off his hand. How, from the end zone view that I had, it felt like the flight of the ball was true, and he was fitting the pigskin into a one foot by one foot box. As Gus Johnson said on the TV call, he put the biscuit in the basket. I counted at least four big-time throws that should make his end of the year highlight film. He’s got a killer instinct to make the big play. In a league that is driven more and more by explosive plays, he is the path to the future for the Bears.
If Matt Nagy thinks he can go back to Andy Dalton, he’s crazy. The toothpaste is out of the tube, the cat is out of the bag, the Justin Fields era is here, and it is beautiful.
What are your thoughts on the NFL this week? Sound off below in the comments and be sure to find me on Twitter @gridironborn.