By STEVE MEGARGEE | AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Justin Fields came back after missing two games and spent the first half Sunday night building on the momentum he had started to establish before his rib injury.
But the final two quarters of a 45-30 loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers revealed how far the Chicago Bears’ rookie quarterback still has to go.
Fields went 9 of 16 for 150 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception in the first half to help the Bears (4-9) grab a 27-21 lead, a strong start after he sat out two games with broken ribs.
“We knew coming in from the first half that we were up, but the game wasn’t over, especially with the quarterback that they have on that side,” Fields said. “Of course, we were satisfied with the first half, but we knew in the back of our head that we had to finish it and come out in the second half strong.”
It didn’t happen.
Fields went 9 of 17 for just 74 yards with an interception and a fumble over the final two periods. The Bears were outscored 24-3 after halftime and didn’t get a first down until less than five minutes remained.
Fields also was dealing with a swollen left hand that caused him to undergo X-rays after the game.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Of course, we all wanted to come into this game and win. I told the guys before the game, ‘There’s no better time to win than now.’ Of course, it didn’t turn out that way. But all we can do is just go back this week and continue to get better. We can’t really do anything about it. Learn from our mistakes and continue to keep working.”
The second-half struggles by Fields and Chicago’s defense spoiled a spectacular performance from Jakeem Grant, who scored on a 97-yard punt return and also caught a flip pass from Fields in the backfield and turned it into a 46-yard touchdown.
Fields will need to become much more consistent as he tries to develop into the quarterback the Bears have been seeking for decades.
The Bears dealt their 2022 first-round draft pick as part of a package to move up nine spots and select the former Ohio State star with the 11th overall selection.
Fields entered Sunday having thrown twice as many interceptions (eight) as touchdown passes (four), but he had been improving before he got hurt.
In an Oct. 31 home loss to San Francisco, Fields threw for 175 yards and ran for 103, becoming the first Bears quarterback to rush for 100 yards in a game since Bobby Douglass in 1973. The following week in a Monday night loss at Pittsburgh, he passed for a personal-best 291 yards.
He did plenty of good things early Sunday night, but also had two costly turnovers as the Bears lost for the eighth time in nine games.
In the second quarter, Green Bay’s Rasul Douglas stepped in front of a pass to Darnell Moody and returned the interception 55 yards to put the Packers ahead 14-10. Fields took a bad angle on his attempt at a tackle and ended up falling to the ground as Douglas reached the end zone.
Fields responded with a big play to put Chicago back ahead. On third-and-4 from the Chicago 46, Fields hit Damiere Byrd in stride. Byrd caught the pass around midfield and outran Green Bay’s defense into the end zone.
“I think that’s something for all of us and for him to take away,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “You could really see the guys coming off to the sideline on the pick-6, everyone rallied around him telling him, ‘Hey, man. We’ve got you. We’ve got your back.’ What did he do? He led the team down for a touchdown. That’s growth for that kid.
“He’s so mentally tough and when you have a guy that in this moment in this stage when you throw a pick-6, that’s not easy. A lot of guys hang onto that. Not Justin. Justin doesn’t. It actually kind of, pride juices him up a little bit and he gets fired up.”
In the third quarter, Fields made another big mistake that helped Green Bay take control for good.
Chicago trailed 28-27 when Preston Smith sacked Fields and forced a fumble that Rashan Gary recovered at the Bears 23-yard line. One play later, Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Aaron Jones.
Smith managed to get past left tackle Teven Jenkins, who was in the game because an ankle injury had sidelined Jason Peters.
This time, Fields couldn’t bounce back.
“There’s always room to improve,” Fields said, “so I’ve just got to keep getting better.”