Bears QB Justin FieldsJess Rapfogel/Getty Images
The Chicago Bears faced another furious second-half comeback attempt on Thursday, but this time they halted their opponent’s momentum—and then pulled away.
For the second straight week, quarterback Justin Fields had a tremendous first half. Unlike last week against the Denver Broncos, though, Fields didn’t have a second-half turnover, and the Bears defense did enough to stay on top.
If fans feel good about the progress Fields showed as a passer in last week’s loss—and he was mostly good, finishing 28-of-35 for 335 yards, four touchdowns and an interception—they have to feel really good about how he played in the win.
It wasn’t easy. Injuries mounted in the second half, and after Khalil Herbert’s injury, Fields found himself in the backfield with fullback Khari Blasingame.
When Chicago needed to put the game away, though, Fields found DJ Moore with a dart. Moore shook a defender and raced in for a 56-yard game-sealing touchdown.
Final score: Chicago 40, Washington 20.
It was a statement for the Bears, not just because it finally put them in the win column, but also because it showed how general manager Ryan Poles’ long-term vision could pay off.
It starts with Fields, who played the most complete game of his career. He finished with 282 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also topped 50 yards on the ground, bought time in the pocket and kept Washington’s defense off-balance, all while playing within offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s script.
Fields spoke a couple of weeks ago about how he wanted to think less and play faster in games.
“That’s when I play my best, when I’m just out there playing free and being myself,” the quarterback told reporters.
However, Fields wasn’t out there playing backyard ball. As NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein pointed out, Fields is sticking with Getsy’s plan to win from the pocket first.
Lance Zierlein @LanceZierlein
It is worth noting that Justin Fields is playing so much better while still in structure, rather than just playing a free wheeling brand of football. He still has freedom to get outside of the pocket, but is winning from the pocket. Great job by fields and his playcaller.
The 24-year-old shredded Washington’s secondary with smart reads, terrific timing and pinpoint passes. He did it on the road and in a hostile environment.
Fields was aided tremendously by Moore, Chicago’s new No. 1 receiver and a prized piece of Poles’ trade down from the 2023 No. 1 pick. Moore finished with eight catches, 230 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
This was likely the exact sort of performance that Poles envisioned when prying Moore from the Carolina Panthers in the spring.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Justin Fields when targeting D.J. Moore this season 📈
Top _ duo in the NFL ? pic.twitter.com/Fe2IszdRjb
Moore wasn’t the only offseason acquisition who shined in Thursday’s win. Free-agent guard Nate Davis and first-round tackle Darnell Wright helped anchor an offensive line—buoyed by a healthy Teven Jenkins—that had a talented Washington defensive front on its heels all night.
Despite eventually losing Herbert to what appeared to be a lower-leg injury, the Bears racked up 178 yards on the ground.
Chicago’s new-look defensive front—featuring 2023 additions like T.J. Edwards, Tremaine Edmunds, Yannick Ngakoue and Andrew Billings—pressured Howell and stonewalled Washington’s ground game.
The Bears came into Thursday night with just two sacks on the season. They recorded five against the Commanders.
It’s taken time for everything to come together, and questions about Matt Eberflus, his approach to defensive play-calling and his in-game management remain. His decision to eschew a go-ahead field goal with less than three minutes remaining in Week 4 continues to baffle. His insistence to run off-coverage in the second half allowed Washington to climb within 10 points on Thursday.
Not every swing by Poles has been a hit. The trade for Chase Claypool, who was inactive on Thursday, is looking like a big miss.
However, the future in Chicago is starting to look brighter, and if Fields can continue stringing together good games, he’ll continue to silence his doubters.
Poles is not one of those doubters, something he made clear when he traded the No. 1 pick to Carolina. Chicago could be playing with C.J. Stroud or Anthony Richardson, but it decided to give Fields another year to grow and develop.
Thanks to Poles’ trade—which netted Moore, the ninth overall pick, a 2023 second-round pick, a 2024 first-round pick and a 2025 second-rounder—the Bears could afford to gamble on Fields for another year.
The 2024 draft class features elite QB prospects like Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, the second- and fourth-ranked prospects on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department’s latest big board. The Bears could still have a shot at one of them if Fields doesn’t build on what he’s shown over the past two weeks. If he does, Chicago might have a shot at receiving phenom Marvin Harrison Jr.
Carolina remains winless and would send Chicago the No. 1 overall pick if the season ended today.
Over the past two weeks, it’s felt more and more likely that the Bears won’t be in the QB market come April.
Either way, Poles’ plan could pay off in a big way. The Bears are better on both sides of the line, they have a Pro Bowl receiver in Moore, and they might just have “the guy” in Fields.
And Chicago is poised to further improve next season, especially if it doesn’t have to dive back into the well for a quarterback. The Bears are projected to have $94.7 million in cap space, the most in the NFL by a significant margin.
It will likely require several more wins for Eberflus to avoid the hot seat at year’s end—the Bears have never fired a head coach in-season—but Chicago’s foundation is solid and could get much, much better in 2024 free agency and the draft.
Think of the Detroit Lions, who opened the 2022 season with a 1-6 record before exploding offensively and learning how to win consistently. Detroit then added key pieces, especially on defense, in the offseason, and it is now looking like a legitimate contender in the NFC. One win doesn’t mean that the Bears will follow the Lions’ path, but the blueprint is there.
We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the season unfolds, whether Chicago’s offensive surge continues and in what direction the next stage of the rebuild heads. However, Thursday’s dominant win shows that it’s not yet time to punt on the 2023 season and to prepare for starting over.
Rather, Thursday’s win is a sign that Chicago’s plan for building for the long haul is starting to pay off.