Bernstein: How worried should we be about Justin Fields?


(670 The Score) Who needs the ear-splitting wail of the Bear Raid siren when the Justin Fields alarm bells are this loud?

Yikes, man.

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The Bears' 23-20 home win over the Houston Texans on Sunday and a temporary hold on first place in the NFC North is certainly better than losing, but another shaky quarterbacking performance against a lower-tier opponent is creating all kinds of appropriate concern for Fields' development, ostensibly within this new offensive system designed to bring out his best.

Eight completions in 17 attempts for just 106 yards with two interceptions is the latest bottoming-out point, even as his legs continued to keep drives alive. While it would be nice to be able to better celebrate the Bears' most productive rushing day since 1984 -- 281 yards that included 157 from Khalil Herbert after David Montgomery exited with a first-quarter injury -- we instead wonder if that's what it's going to take from now on if Fields can't figure this out.

It's a little bit of everything still looking shaky. Fields is holding onto the ball too long, seemingly waiting for someone to come open even when the protection holds adequately. That can be a function of receivers not getting separation early enough, and it can also be an ongoing adjustment to the timing and speed at this level, with passing windows closing before he can pull the trigger. Both interceptions Sunday were genuinely bad throws too, the latter featuring both sloppy footwork and a bizarre decision to throw into a group of Texans. There's just no rhythm at all to the Bears' passing game right now, with none of it helped by a handful of pre-snap penalties. Opponents are now looking to take the edges away from Fields too, rushing at wider angles to keep him in the pocket and force him to make reads.

Thanks to Herbert and an aggressive and opportunistic defensive performance, the Bears (2-1) have the luxury of working through their quarterbacking issues as a winning team for another week. Roquan Smith showed himself to be much closer to his top form, shaking off a hip injury to record 16 tackles that included two for loss, one of which stalled a Houston drive in the red zone. Then he stole the game with a late interception of a Davis Mills pass that was tipped at the line by Angelo Blackson. It's as if Smith realized that if he wants Shaq Leonard money, he can make the big plays on the ball that teams value so significantly.

It's not a sustainable recipe for success, though.

This doesn't get anywhere without trust in the quarterback's ability to throw the ball downfield for chunks of yards, and it's hard to blame Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy if he still lacks in that regard. We're all seeing the same things.

We knew going in that this would be a season of parallel tracks each week: one the overall performance of the team and outcome of each game, the other a new set of data points in the ongoing effort to determine if Fields is on track for stardom, success, mere competency or something less than that. The high end of the range suggested by his measurables and talent may still be in play, but it just gets harder to envision with each week in which his passing doesn't improve.

Fields really succeeding would be a bigger win than anything else right now, and the numbers on that scoreboard are more daunting.

Dan Bernstein is the co-host of the Bernstein & Holmes Show on middays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.

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