Justin Fields says Bears offense is ‘ready’ for Week 1 after 24-21 preseason loss to Bills

CHICAGO — Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields would have preferred to have at least one more snap against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday at Soldier Field.

His last rep of the preseason was a short screen pass to D’Onta Foreman that the running back turned into an 11-yard gain to the Bills 9-yard line.

Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver barreled into Fields just after he let the pass fly, sending the quarterback onto his back. A couple of moments later, Bears coaches summoned Fields to the sideline, sending in undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent in his place in the Bills’ 24-21 victory.

“I definitely wanted to stay in and finish the drive,” Fields said. “But I can’t because the head man out there, got to listen to him.”

It wasn’t the Oliver hit that prompted the decision, though Bears coach Matt Eberflus “wasn’t excited he took a hit on that one.” Fields had reached his snap count for the day, and his preseason — in which he completed 5 of 9 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns in two games — was over.

Next stop: the Sept. 10 season opener against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. And though Fields’ production was modest Saturday, he said, “I feel like I’m ready.”

“As a whole team, we’re ready,” Fields said. “The biggest thing is mentally preparing for Green Bay and seeing what they’re doing. I’m just glad today that I got a couple of deep shots, although we didn’t connect. … It felt good throwing the ball downfield to DJ (Moore and Darnell Mooney). The only thing now is just game-planning and watching film on those guys.”

The drive in which the Bears pulled Fields was the only successful one for the first-team offense, which played just two of its five line starters because of injuries. The Bears went three-and-out twice and gained 2 total yards in Fields’ first two series. One of those plays was a third-down deep shot to Moore down the right sideline. Moore was well covered by cornerback Christian Benford, and he who knocked the ball away to avoid an interception.

Fields took off for a 13-yard run to open the third drive. He then hit Moore in the middle of the field for what turned into a 40-yard catch. Moore put his hand on the ground and spun around to avoid three would-be tacklers, sprinted outside and gained 25 more yards after the catch on the play. It was another glimpse at the playmaking ability of the Bears’ new No. 1 wide receiver.

“Got a little bit of suction from the play-fake by the linebackers,” Fields said. “They were trying to drop back into their zone, and he was open in the middle. That’s a play you’re probably going to see again sometime this year. But of course it was a good catch and run after the catch by him.”

The incompletion to Mooney in the end zone came three plays later and then the pass to Foreman, both of which came after center Doug Kramer exited the game with a right hand injury. Kramer is the Bears’ third center after Cody Whitehair, who moved to left guard while dealing with a hand injury, and Lucas Patrick, who sat out.

Fields completed 2 of 6 passes for 51 yards and ran three times for 16 yards before the Bears put the backup quarterback competition at center stage.

Eberflus said the Bears wanted Bagent to take reps as the No. 2 quarterback so they could make their evaluation about who will back up Fields this season “on equal playing fields.” The Bears have to trim their roster to 53 players by Tuesday afternoon, so they will have to decide whether Bagent, P.J. Walker or Nathan Peterman will be the backup — and/or if they will keep three quarterbacks on the roster.

“No decisions have been made,” Eberflus said. “So we’re going to sit down as a group, watch the tape and then talk about what the best thing for the Bears is.”

Bagent got plenty of time to make his case, and while there were more bumps than his previous preseason appearance against the Indianapolis Colts, he completed 7 of 14 passes for 43 yards and an interception and ran four times for 23 yards and a touchdown.

The Bears settled for a field goal after Bagent replaced Fields, in part because of an ill-timed offensive pass interference call on Tyler Scott. But Scott’s 56-yard kickoff return helped Bagent’s touchdown drive, which Bagent capped with an 8-yard run, an over-his-head toss of the football once he reached the end zone and a leap toward Bears fans in the stands.

“Home or away, just being able to get in the end zone, whether I’m throwing the ball or running the ball is pretty electrifying and kind of that addicting feeling,” Bagent said. “One of the reasons why I’m so addicted to football is little moments like that.”

Bagent had an opportunity for a touchdown pass after a Bears takeaway a few plays later, but tight end Stephen Carlson dropped it as he dived in the end zone. One play later, Bagent threw an interception to Ja’Marcus Ingram. Bagent led a scoring drive that ended in a Cairo Santos field goal in the third quarter.

“I feel as if I’ve proved that I belong and that I belong in the league,” Bagent said of his preseason. “But more than anything just all the hope and motivation I’m providing for my siblings and the people back home is really what I sit back and think about when I think about the whole camp and preseason and how just everything is falling into place.”

Walker, who signed a two-year, $4.15 million contract to be the backup this offseason, had his most productive preseason game playing in the fourth quarter. He completed 6 of 11 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Peterman didn’t play.

“I had my struggles this preseason, but at the end of the day, it’s just me trying to find ways to get back to playing my game and doing what I do,” Walker said. “I felt good. Any opportunity is the best opportunity. I wanted to go out there and take advantage of the tests I had, no matter what quarter it was, first, second, third or fourth.”

Now Bagent and Walker will wait for the Bears brass to make its decision. And Fields and the first-team offense take a very quick breath before the Packers — and the regular season — become the sole focus.