How Justin Fields is dealing with 'so-called hype' as expectations rise

How Fields is dealing with 'so-called hype' as expectations rise originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Early in his career, Justin Fields has been adept at keeping his head down and not letting the noise penetrate his bubble. That noise, by and large, has been negative. It focused on his early-career struggles while wondering loudly if the Bears had whiffed on another potential franchise quarterback.

The noise surrounding Fields today is different. Much different.

After putting on a dazzling display in the Bears' 35-32 Week 9 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Fields has been the toast of the NFL. Against the Dolphins, Fields rushed for an NFL record 178 yards, breaking Michael Vick's single-game rushing record for a quarterback. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, has the best QBR in the NFC North, and has all of Chicago ready to party like it's 1985.

The 23-year-old quarterback has strung together three straight stellar performances against good defenses. While the passing numbers still need to improve, it certainly appears that he is ascending. Fields' blistering stretch has everyone talking about what could be for the Bears.

"Just don’t let it affect me," Fields said Wednesday about the increased chatter. "Just go about my day like I would before all this hype came or so-called hype. Just put my head down and keep working. My main goal is to keep improving and keep getting better each and every day."

Fields and the Bears' offense have been rolling ever since the mini-bye week.

Head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy re-evaluated their schemes and made changes to highlight the strengths of Fields and everyone on the offense.

Implementing more QB-designed runs, rolled pockets, bootlegs, and easy-access throws have Fields playing fast, free, and confident.

The new game plan and more reps in the NFL cauldron have helped Fields rise over the past month.

"The experience has really led him to take the next step," Eberflus said. "But also, as I think we’re learning him and he’s learning the offense, it’s kind of both. So we’re tailoring it to him more, but he’s also learning the scheme at the same time, if that makes sense. You can just feel him get more and more comfortable with it."

Fields has authored several eye-opening plays over the last three weeks, with the 61-yard touchdown run against the Dolphins serving as the biggest highlight to date.

What Fields sees in his game is a quarterback that is simply learning the ins and outs of the quarterback position at the NFL level.

"Main thing is not forcing the big plays, just letting them come to me," Fields said. "Of course, I've always thought I've been able to make the big play, but I think the one thing you can't do is force big plays and just kind of let them come to you.

"Just take what the defense gives you. Play every play out. Situationally, what's the down and distance? What do we need to accomplish on this play? Of course, if there is a big play there, then take it. We have certain plays where we want to call a shot, we are taking a shot down field. There's other plays where we just want to get a few yards or just get a completion."

RELATED: Bears overreactions: Is Fields already better than Lamar?

Fields' rise has caught some by surprise. Just six weeks ago, he was labeled by many as one of the worst quarterbacks of the 2021 draft class.

Now? He's the no-doubt top dog.

Things change fast in the NFL.

What Fields has done over the last three weeks has everyone around the Bears, the city of Chicago, and the league buzzing about where he can go.

"You see some of those plays from the field level and watch what he does to pull away from people. I think that’s pretty special," Eberflus said. "He’s certainly a lot faster when you see it in person than I thought, for sure. He’s strong. That’s what I didn’t know. I didn’t know how strong he was in terms of hanging in the pocket, being able to move guys off of him, and be able to stay alive.

“I’ve said everything else about the guy. He’s uber smart and is running the offense well. He’s getting more comfortable, so that’s what we’re most excited about.”

Justin Fields is arriving. There is still work to do, but the arrow is pointing straight up for Fields and the Bears' future. With that comes added expectations, hype, and noise.

Learning to navigate this new reality is a critical step in Fields' evolution. One the Bears quarterback feels equipped to handle.

Staying even-keeled allowed him to survive turbulent early-career waters. That same mindset will help him make sure the past three games aren't a flash in the pan, but instead serve as the moment Justin Fields started to become the Justin Fields the Bears always knew was there.

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