KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As if Bears quarterback Justin Fields didn’t have enough concerns, especially heading into a game against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, he turned the temperature up on himself last week by critiquing his coaches and saying he was ready to clear his head and play his way.
When he was asked what that would look like, he responded sharply, ‘‘You’ll see soon.’’
That statement proved to be wildly overconfident. The Chiefs had an untouchable lead on the Bears in the second quarter Sunday and pummeled them 41-10.
The Bears dropped to 0-3 while getting blown out by the quarterback they could’ve drafted in 2017 and the coach they fired after the 2021 season. Patrick Mahomes lit them up with three touchdown passes before mercifully calling it a day with a 41-0 lead in the third quarter, and Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy grinned on the sideline.
Fields made everything worse when the Bears must’ve thought that was impossible. Their week of strife, including the curious resignation of defensive coordinator Alan Williams, ended with ineptitude and embarrassment at Arrowhead Stadium.
Lots of teams lose to the Chiefs, but it’s usually more respectable than this.
Fields completed only 11 of 22 passes for 99 yards with a touchdown and interception for a 58.7 passer rating. He was sacked three times and ran for 47 yards on 11 carries. With Fields sporting a 12.5 passer rating and 40 yards passing at halftime, coach Matt Eberflus would’ve been justified to bench him.
There’s a lot wrong with the Bears, but Fields is at the top of the list. Quarterback is always the most influential factor. Just look at the Chiefs.
Fields is in his third season, the Bears have added talent around him and he has continuity with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, so why isn’t this going better?
‘‘I don’t know,’’ Fields said. ‘‘I’m not about to answer that question.’’
The Bears haven’t had many answers lately.
When receiver Chase Claypool was asked why this is so off-track, he replied, ‘‘We don’t really know what’s happening.’’
Receiver DJ Moore, arguably the Bears’ best player, said of their struggles in the passing game Sunday: ‘‘Shoot, I couldn’t tell you. . . . We had a few shots that we missed.’’
Eberflus sounded an awful lot like Nagy when he was pressed about what problems he saw in Fields’ performance.
‘‘Problems?’’ he said. ‘‘I [saw] a couple of good-execution plays, a few good-execution plays where he made some good throws. It’s not always on him.’’
From there, he went into the Nagy-like, circular refrain of it being everybody’s fault but no one’s specifically. It’s a trademark Bears move to use ambiguity as a shield.
For an honest evaluation of how Fields played, Eberflus turned to another classic: He’ll have to watch the tape first.
He gave a non-answer about why Fields isn’t further along, pointing out how hard he works and adding, ‘‘We have to find how to let him do his thing and explode.’’ The Bears shouldn’t still be trying to get rolling when the season is well underway.
This is the level of questioning you face when it’s a real season rather than one with a wink-wink understanding that it’s a burn year on the path to the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The brutal reality for the Bears is that Fields has played more games that looked like this than whatever he imagined when he said Wednesday he wanted to turn it loose and ‘‘say, ‘F it,’ and go out there and play football how I know to play football.’’
In 28 career starts, Fields has thrown for fewer than 200 yards and posted a sub-90 passer rating 18 times. His rating against the Chiefs wasn’t the lowest of his career. He was below that in five other starts and barely topped it last week against the Bucs.
‘‘The only stat that matters is the scoreboard,’’ said Fields, who is 5-23 as a starter. ‘‘Of course, that wasn’t on our side today. I’m not about to look at, ‘What was my completion percentage today?’ because some games could be higher than normal and some games are gonna be lower than what I expect.
‘‘I’m not gonna . . . watch the box score. I’m not one of those dudes.’’
Box scores aren’t everything, but they usually paint a picture. Mahomes makes masterpieces out of them.
No team has a quarterback as good, but several are good enough to beat him on the right day. The teams with a quarterback such as Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert know they at least have a chance, and that’s what the Bears need if they’re serious about chasing a championship.
Coming from Kansas City, general manager Ryan Poles knows that well.
Poles surely had higher hopes for his return to Arrowhead. When the Bears brimmed with optimism going into the season, he probably envisioned at least giving his old team a run.
The supposedly new-and-improved Bears have been outscored by 59 points in three games, and nothing looks right. They feel as far away from contending as they did when they were in teardown mode last season.
What a waste that seems to be in hindsight. Five months of misery for what? That was a lot to endure and was made tolerable only by the promise it was a one-time price before the rebuilding project really got going.
This is starting to look like another lost season, waiting endlessly and pointlessly for Fields and the Bears to get it together.