Any doubt here? Justin Fields is the only thing the Chicago Bears have going right now, other than another loss adding to their 2023 draft status.
The two-year quarterback out of Ohio State is a bit of a load to bring down, at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. Entering Week 15, he’s the ninth-leading rusher in the NFL with 905 yards rushing on 128 carries. The first eight are running backs. He’s third in the league in rushing first downs with 57, behind Las Vegas’ running back Josh Jacobs (77) and Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts (59). And he rushes for first downs 44.5-percent of the time, so it’s an easy equation: Stop Fields and you stop the Bears, who are a dangerous team only in the sense that they are a desperate team with nothing more to lose having lost six-straight games and owners of the worst record in the NFC.
The Eagles have shut down Tennessee Titans’ monster back Derrick Henry. They did a great job last week against the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, who had a history of gashing them.
The Bears lead the NFL in rushing, with 2,459 yards and a league-high average of 189.2 yards a game. But that’s all Chicago can do. The Bears are last in the NFL in passing, averaging a scant 140.6 yards a game. It’s a downtrodden, one-dimensional team playing out the string with a bunch of players looking for good film so they can go elsewhere.
Stuck in the middle is Fields, who’s been exciting to watch.
Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon knows what he is in for against Fields. He frequently sees and has faced a far better version of Fields—Jalen Hurts.
“You want to learn defensive football, talk to offensive coaches, and I truly believe that,” Gannon said. “They see the game from the offensive perspective where we’re looking at it from a defensive perspective, and the ideas, the teaching of it, the reason why behind a lot of things, what we do on defense is because of our offensive coaches’ brains.
“So that’s been huge for me, for our staff, for our players. Even listening to Stout [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland] talk to our D-line about hey, this is what this combo block is trying to achieve, and this is what kind of ruins that combo block if you can do this.
“I use those guys weekly, daily, and the off-seasons are big when we do Eagles versus Eagles, that’s a great week for us because you just learn a lot about offensive football, and then you apply it to what you’re doing on defense. This staff is tremendous with what Nick [Sirianni] has set up for the communication between offensive and defensive guys, and there’s no silos. I’m in each one of those guys’ office all the time as the position coaches are, and it’s a good back and forth, and then we talk to offensive players. We’ve talked about what’s hard on — do you want to play a zero or a shade, talk to [C Jason] Kelce, he’ll tell you, and we do. The learning that has gone on since we’ve been here from the offensive side of the ball has been invaluable.”
The Eagles currently have the second-best defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 297.0 yards a game, behind only San Francisco (286.1). Against the run, they could be better, allowing opposing teams to rush for an average of 118.3 yards a game. Though, much of that is from earlier in the season. Over their last four games, the Eagles are allowing opponents an average of 103.75 yards rushing per game, just under 15 yards from their season average. And a chunk of the Giants’ 123 yards rushing came in an Eagles’ blowout with the game well decided.
The Eagles lead the NFL in sacks (49) and in sack yards lost (329).
Fields is Randall Cunningham without the arm right now—he’s really that thrilling to watch. In time, he could evolve into what Hurts has become. If he stays healthy for the remainder of 2022, Fields will likely join former Eagle quarterback Michael Vick and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson as the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He only needs 95 more. He could do it against the Eagles—after the game is well decided against the Eagles’ twos.
Playing assignment football, not freelancing, and using backside pressure will keep Fields contained.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.