Chicago Bears and quarterback Justin Fields look to better handle Minnesota Vikings pressure in rematch

The play happened 5 1/2 weeks ago, but Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields still can recite the details and his thought process all the way up through D.J. Wonnum crunching him to the Soldier Field grass.

It was, after all, just two starts ago for Fields.

With a free rusher, Wonnum, to his left on the first play of the Bears-Minnesota Vikings game on Oct. 15, Fields needed to drift to his right and get the ball out quickly to fullback Khari Blasingame. But in the second before Wonnum got to him, Fields worried that a Vikings cornerback was sitting on the route — not expecting Blasingame to go deep — and he didn’t want to throw an interception on the first play of the game.

“Learning from that, I’ve just got to sail it over his head and move onto second and 10,” Fields said Wednesday at Halas Hall.

Instead, Fields’ day started with that sack and ended in the third quarter with another sack — and Fields dislocating his right thumb. The Bears quarterback then sat out four games with that thumb injury, returned Sunday against the Detroit Lions and now is back up against the Vikings (6-5) again Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Bears and Fields have much to improve upon from that 19-13 Vikings win, in which Fields threw for 58 yards, no touchdowns and an interception before his injury. The Bears’ 113 net passing yards between Fields and backup Tyson Bagent were a season-low for a Vikings opponent.

“It’s just being on the same page. I felt like we made too many mental mistakes last time we played them,” Fields said. “We’re better than what we put on tape that game. Putting our best foot forward, making sure we’re on our Ps and Qs each and every play. Locked in and getting the ball out fast when we need to when they do bring that pressure, it’s going to be key. When they do bring pressure, the O-line picking it up. Everything starts up front. Once we get the protection and everything together, we’ll be good.”

Fields’ start to the previous Vikings game was a jarring departure from what was beginning to look like his big breakout.

In Weeks 4 and 5 against the Denver Broncos and Washington Commanders, Fields had thrown for 617 yards and eight touchdowns, though his late-game mistakes against the Broncos contributed to a Bears’ collapse.

But the pressure-heavy Vikings defense led by coordinator Brian Flores gave the Bears fits.

Fields was sacked four times in a little more than two quarters of play. The fourth sack, when Danielle Hunter took him down from behind as he tried to scramble and get rid of the ball, was the play that knocked him out for four games with the thumb injury. Hunter, on pace for a career-best season, now has 12 sacks.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus said he believes his players have a good understanding of how the Vikings will play them this time around.

“It’s their pressure looks on first and second down that are unusual,” Eberflus said. “Having seven guys, six guys up on the line of scrimmage. (Safety Harrison Smith) is up on the line. And the variation of coverage. (Flores) does a good job of mixing up the coverages for the spots that are open on the field, and that creates a lot of pressure for every offense.

“You could certainly feel that when watching the games and watching the cut-ups. But our guys have played them before, so I think our guys will have a good understanding of where we’re going to attack and how we’re going to operate to win this game.”

The Vikings, who rank 13th in the league with 320.6 yards allowed per game and 15th with 20.9 points allowed, will be a good follow-up test for Fields as he tries to build his case for a future with the Bears over the final six games.

Fields played well against the Lions in his return, throwing for 169 yards and rushing for 104 yards. He said his thumb was “a little bit sore” after the game. “But it got me through,” Fields said, noting he should be good to go Monday with his hand taped.

He was pleased with his ability to get the ball to wide receiver DJ Moore, who had seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, spread it around to other targets and protect himself when he did take off on the run.

But he noted the quick game Monday will be key when the Vikings blitz.

“You’re outnumbered in protection, so that’s when you get the ball out quick, so that’s how you combat that,” Fields said. “Unless you completely out-athlete the D-end, set him up one way or the other. But Cover 0 that’s not really the answer to beat that, to try and scramble and stuff around. You just want to get the ball out quick and just let the playmakers make plays and work for you.”

It also would help the Bears if they got a little more from their running backs than they did against the Lions.

Coming off a five-game absence because of an ankle injury, Khalil Herbert averaged 2.2 yards per carry (16 carries for 35 yards). D’Onta Foreman, who also was playing through an ankle issue and sat out the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to the media, had 2.3 yards per carry (six carries for 14 yards and a touchdown). Roschon Johnson had six carries for 30 yards.

“(Herbert) is going to be in there, and he’s going to get the looks he needs and he’s going to come back with great strength this week,” Eberflus said. “Certainly, Khalil wanted to play better there. He’s going to be great.”

The buzzword around Halas Hall this week is again “finish” after the Bears let a 12-point lead get away from them in a 31-26 Lions win.

Fields is excited to show how he and his teammates can finish against the Vikings. He didn’t get the chance last time around.

“I think for the most part we showed who we were (against the Lions) except until the end of the game,” Fields said. “Focus on finishing better and finishing out the game when it counts, and when a drive comes up, making that big play when it matters. The Vikings, they have been playing great these past few weeks. We’re definitely excited for the opportunity we have on Monday night to get to go out there and ball out.”


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