CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields wore Michael Vick’s brand of cleats during his formative years as a football player. For a kid growing up in Atlanta and rooting for the hometown Falcons, some of Fields’ earliest memories of the NFL were watching Vick carve up defenses with his arm and his legs while changing the perception of the quarterback position.
Sixteen years removed from Vick becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, Fields ran his way into elite company. With 95 rushing yards in the Bears’ 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Fields joined Vick (2006) and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (2019, 2020) as the only NFL quarterbacks to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a single season.
Fields entered Week 15 needing 95 yards to join Vick and Jackson, a feat he achieved in 12 games. While he’s been reminded by friends for weeks how close he was to being etched into history, the milestone became a reality when he notched a 1-yard run up the middle with 7 minutes, 53 seconds to play in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field.
“It means a lot,” Fields said. “Of course, I told you guys this earlier in the week, I couldn't be here without God, I couldn't be here without my teammates and coaches, them pushing me every day, my teammates pushing me every day at practice, us pushing each other, them blocking for me on the field, blocking downfield.”
Fields’ most recent achievement came weeks after he recorded six straight games with a rushing touchdown, the longest streak by a QB since 1950, and became the first quarterback to notch three rushing touchdowns of 50-plus yards in a season.
Despite the Bears' losing streak stretching to seven, Fields continues to be nothing but electric. He’s given teammates, coaches and fans something to invest in weekly.
With each jaw-dropping run and his ability to keep plays alive, Fields has injected hope into a team with its eyes on the future.
“Justin impresses the world,” Bears wide receiver Byron Pringle said. “That’s no question about Justin. You never know what you’re going to get. I grew up watching Michael Vick, and he can move just like him. You never know. Justin can throw it, he can run it, he can beat you. He’s strong. He’s a strong individual when he’s running the ball.”
Every week it feels as though Fields one-ups himself. While the play didn’t result in a touchdown because he stepped out of bounds at the Eagles’ 9-yard line, the Bears quarterback recorded a 39-yard run on a second-and-27 scramble that was so mystifying with the way he wrangled his way out of linebacker Haason Reddick’s grasp.
“That's pretty impressive when you can rush like that, and a lot of those coming from ad-lib and whatnot,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “The way he's able to run through arm tackles and all those things down the field is pretty cool. When you've got a guy like that, he's always fighting, and you know you've got a chance.”
What Fields has accomplished 25 games into his career is remarkable, but setting a rushing record was never the main goal for the Bears quarterback.
“I really wasn't even this good of a rusher in college,” Fields said. “I didn't run this much in college. This rushing thing just kind of picked up this year.”
Between his three seasons at Georgia and Ohio State, Fields ran for a total of 1,133 yards and 19 touchdowns. Entering the 2021 NFL draft, Fields was lauded for his dual-threat capabilities but was considered more of a pocket passer who could extend plays or use his legs to win when needed.
At times this season, the Bears have felt like a one-man offense with Fields leading the way, particularly from Week 7 to Week 11, when Fields was averaging nearly 14 rushing attempts per game. After an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in Atlanta, the Bears aimed to dial back the number of designed runs they drew up for Fields.
While he processed the achievement postgame Sunday, Fields said he doesn’t plan to rush for 1,000 yards every season. With the priority placed on quarterbacks being able to win from the pocket, Fields is trying to improve that aspect of his game.
The necessity of scrambling has resulted in 553 of Fields’ 1,000 rushing yards, with the other 447 being the byproduct of designed runs. That’s due in large part to the pressure Fields faces. Entering Week 15, Fields had been pressured on a league-high 42% of his dropbacks.
“I'm going to improvise, try to do whatever I can to put as much points on the board as possible,” Fields said.
Fields is the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in a season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
While Chicago’s ultimate goal will be to find more balance offensively, there’s no denying the energy Fields injects into this team.
“He can get from zero to 60 really fast, so I think that's what makes him a little bit different,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “Some guys are shifty. I think he's more of a power cutter when you look at him, and he can really put the gas on pretty fast.”
And while he’s not set on doing this again next year, the fact is, he’s on pace to break the single-season quarterback rushing record set by Jackson in 2019 (1,206).
“I’m already deep in it this year, so might as well try to go get that record,” Fields said. “I think I need, what, 206 [yards]? So, three games left? That’s about 70 yards a game? We’ll see what happens.”