Down six with less than three minutes go to on Monday Night Football at the Steelers, Bears coach Matt Nagy approached his rookie quarterback Justin Fields to offer encouragement. And all he saw was Fields with a big smile on his face.
Later, the first-rounder described his look as saying, "It's time, we're here." In a tight moment, it was exactly what Nagy wanted to see. But going out and showing it was another story.
While Chicago eventually lost thanks to a late Pittsburgh field goal, the Bears organization saw the biggest signs yet during that game that Fields, who faces the Ravens on Sunday, will be exactly what they want him to be: their QB of the future.
As one person in the know explained, acting like you're ready and being ready are two different things. For Fields in Week 9, it was both.
He engineered a seven-play, 75-yard drive to give his team the lead, highlighted by a 39-yard strike to Allen Robinson and a 16-yard touchdown to Darnell Mooney. In a perfect world, the Bears would have won. But those who watch and study Fields every day believe that this was his most impressive growth moment.
According to those who are there every day, teammates fed off Fields' confidence, both in the game and in practice. His confidence was infectious and that carried over into the next two weeks. Plus, they view his performance in crunch time as evidence the game is slowing down for him, allowing him to diagnose what the defense is doing and still play fast. No longer is it going 100 MPH for him.
Fields has had other moments. The 25-yard run against the 49ers on fourth-and-1 was another big one. That big-time throw to Jimmy Graham. But what they saw on Monday night late also has a cascading effect, as his work in situational football – red zone, two-minute – has improved greatly, as well.
With any franchise quarterback, you want him to be able to be comfortable enough to play like himself and be himself. Which is why, when the coaches look over during practice and see a loose, calm Fields having fun and dancing around between plays, they love it. Just like they love when sometimes after a team meeting, Fields will call the receivers together, grab the clicker and run an impromptu film session.
He has found that comfort zone to relax during practice, just like he did before he took over the starting job and all the stresses that come with it. He's relaxing and settling in.
It hasn't been an easy rookie season for Fields, who is near the bottom in passer rating. But the Bears didn't trade up for him for this year. This was always about the future. And based on the last few weeks, Chicago believes Fields will be a huge part of that future.
"When he's in the game in that moment, guys just feel something good is about to happen," one source said. "Then when he has those moments in back-to-back weeks, it's like, 'Holy (cow). This is awesome.' And the whole team feels it, too."