Who would have thought it? Well, aside from, like, everyone.
Justin Fields’ second start was pretty, pretty good. Fields went 11-of-17 passing in the Bears’ 24-14 win over the Lions on Sunday, which led to this question: What, exactly, was Chicago coach Matt Nagy waiting for?
SN POWER RANKINGS: Big moves up and down after Week 4 games
Fields looked much better prepared and was on the money with his throws Sunday. Maybe that was a product of play-calling. Maybe that was because he’s really good. He showcased a strong, accurate arm and didn’t look frazzled in the pocket, albeit against a weak and wallowing Lions defense. The rookie also used his mobility to escape the rush and reminded people why he was a top draft prospect.
Fields’ second crack at winning a start was much more fruitful than the drubbing he and the Bears received at the hands of the Cleveland Myles Garretts in Week 3, when Fields was sacked nine times.
Now, Nagy, general manager Ryan Pace and the rest of the Bears’ braintrust has to hope that Fields keeps this up the rest of the 2021 season — or else they’ll be standing on the unemployment line come January.
NFL Week 4 winners and losers
Winner: Justin Fields, Bears
Fields is, arguably, the week’s biggest winner.
He only attempted 17 passes in his second career start, but a few of them stood out and they gave Chicago fans something to look forward to in the coming weeks as Andy Dalton nurses a knee injury.
Fields went from being verbally abused at the start of draft season to being physically abused in his first start on the field. Many unfair narratives surrounded the Ohio State passer. Now, presumably playing ticked off and with the training wheels off, Fields has a good chance to light up the NFL world over the rest of 2021.
Loser: Davis Mills, Texans
Mills was placed in an impossible situation, and the third-round pick played like a rookie who was way in over his head against a very tough Bills defense on Sunday. He threw four picks as he put together one of the worst QB performances that the NFL has seen since the extremely meme-able Nathan Peterman.
Mills has a tall mountain to climb to becoming Houston’s next franchise passer. Affer a decent debut vs. the Panthers in Week 3, he came crashing back down to Earth in Week 4.
His days of being a five-star recruit out of high school are long, long gone. To stick in the NFL, he’ll have to make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what in Houston.
Winner: Trevon Diggs, Cowboys
Diggs had a lockdown Sunday vs. Sam Darnold and the Panthers as he continued to emerge as one of the league’s best cover corners. That’s tremendous news for a Cowboys defense that has seen better days.
The 2020 second-round pick has looked really, really good early in 2021. Diggs had an 87.1 PFF coverage grade entering the Week 4 matchup vs. Carolina, and with two more picks on Sunday he now has a league-leading five interceptions. He has notched at least one pick in each of Dallas’ games this season.
After fielding a porous defense last season, Dallas seems to be turning it around in Year 1 under Dan Quinn, and that’s big for Big D’s Super Bowl hopes in 2021.
Loser: 49ers’ QB room
Jimmy Garoppolo is hurt and Trey Lance was put into action maybe earlier than 49ers brass would have liked. Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the Niners are now in a precarious position.
While Lance showcased the traits that led San Francisco to selecting him No. 3 overall in the 2021 draft — big arm, extremely mobile — he was also inaccurate and had issues with happy feet while in the pocket in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.
Lance relieved Garoppolo, who was sidelined with a calf injury. Garoppolo believes the injury may not be that devastating, but he’s expected to miss a few weeks.
As with Fields from Week 3 to Week 4, a full week of prep and an offensive plan better suited to his abilities will probably benefit Lance greatly next week. For now, though, the Niners are hoping that throwing Lance into the deep end of the pool won’t drown him as they once again navigate early-season QB issues.
Winners: Tom Brady and the Buccaneers
While the game wasn’t the one-way affair some expected, Brady notching a win over his former team is a little bigger than he might let on.
It wasn’t just the victory over the Patriots and Bill Belichick that was sweet; Brady also made history during the game. He now holds the career passing yards record over Drew Brees and he’s now one of four quarterbacks to have beaten all 32 teams in the NFL, joining Brees, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
Brady was showered with cheers as he hit the GIllette Stadium field on Sunday night — which turned to boos as he was prepping to take his first snaps in the game — so returning home after a mysterious but supposedly volatile breakup with the Patriots and getting the win probably is that much sweeter for the GOAT.
Brady has always taken motivation from weird places, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he used Sunday’s victory as a springboard for his eighth Super Bowl ring.
Losers: Mac Jones and the Patriots
After falling to 1-3, the Patriots sit alongside the Jets and Dolphins in the AFC East basement. Who woulda thunk it?
Their record does and does not fall on the quarterback.
It’s true that Jones isn’t doing much in the Pats’ offense right now, but that shouldn’t be a criticism at this point in his career. He’s a rookie quarterback, and rookie quarterbacks have to grow into their roles.
With or without Cam Newton as the starter at QB, the Patriots weren’t going to be Super Bowl contenders this year. They might not have even been AFC East contenders with a fully healthy squad. Building for the future with Jones is a double-edged sword: Jones doesn’t have Newton’s running capabilities, but he’s the future of the team while Newton is out searching for his next job.
There will come a time when Jones will be asked to do more. (For his sake, it should be when the Patriots have better options at wide receiver.) But his performance Sunday night was perfectly serviceable and it kept the team in the game until Nick Folk doinked a kick off the upright.
The Patriots therefore wasted a solid performance from him in their 19-17 loss at the hands of the dastardly Brady and the Bucs. There was probably nothing Belichick would have liked more than to get a win over the returning GOAT in Foxborough.
Jones, the Patriots and Belichick will instead have to settle for the L — and, in Belichick’s case, a weird hug, too.