Just before the final play of the Chicago Bears’ 19-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Justin Fields heard a teammate make the suggestion.
He’s not sure who said it, maybe an offensive lineman. But the Bears quarterback immediately agreed.
“Oh yeah, everybody’s got to do it,” Fields told his teammates.
So after Fields took the snap from center Sam Mustipher and kneeled down to run out the clock, he popped back up, tossed the ball behind him and raced 20 yards to the Soldier Field end zone. With left tackle Braxton Jones and tight end Cole Kmet on his tail, Fields dived headfirst across the rain-soaked grass, spreading his arms wide in a Superman pose, a giant smile under his helmet, a spray of water shooting out from underneath him.
The Slip ‘N Slide celebration was the perfect topper to a wildly wet, come-from-behind victory in which the Bears scored 19 second-half points to upset the 49ers, who last season made it to the NFC championship game.
“That was a snapshot moment,” Fields said.
It was one of a few highlights for Fields, who helped spark the rally after a first half in which the offense had 68 net offensive yards and Fields had a 2.8 passer rating.
“Rough sledding in the first half,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “We were trying to find our way. And then we found our way going into the two-minute drive (at the end of the first half). They really picked up the pace from there.”
Fields led three straight second-half touchdown drives and finished with 121 passing yards, two touchdowns, an interception, an 85.7 rating and 28 rushing yards.
The turning point came late in the third quarter on a third-and-10 play and the 49ers holding a 10-0 lead.
Fields escaped a sack attempt from diving defensive tackle Arik Armstead and raced left away from defensive end Charles Omenihu. As Fields looked up, wide receiver Dante Pettis was wide open on the right side of the field. Fields lofted a pass to make it easy to catch.
“Just ran a deep route over the middle,” Pettis said. “I was supposed to sit there in the zone, and I broke back out because there was nobody there, and I turned around and saw Justin running the other way. I looked around and there was nobody by me. … All of the sudden I see him set up the throw to me, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go.’
“The ball felt like it was in the air forever. I was just waiting there, caught it basically like a punt and just took off.”
Pettis had 16.2 yards of separation from the nearest defender when he caught it, according to NFL NextGen stats, the third most on a touchdown pass over the last three NFL seasons.
Pettis raced 30 yards to the end zone, getting help from wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown’s block for a 51-yard touchdown.
“That was the play that changed the momentum of the whole game,” Fields said. “Once that play happened, that started everything else.”
With some help from two 49ers penalties, the Bears offense found a rhythm on the next drive to set up Fields’ 18-yard touchdown pass to St. Brown.
St. Brown said the play was designed to go to fullback Khari Blasingame, but Fields found St. Brown streaking into the end zone between two defenders.
Fields stayed patient with a pass rusher barreling toward him and threw the pass in stride to St. Brown, who whipped the football at the wall behind the end zone to celebrate the Bears taking a 13-10 lead.
“I felt the defenders coming down soft and then saw EQ,” Fields said. “He took a good angle with that safety right there, and I just hit him for the touchdown. And of course the O-line did a great job protecting on that play. So proud of those guys.”
The Bears capitalized on Eddie Jackson’s interception with a 21-yard touchdown drive on their next series, capped by running back Khalil Herbert’s 3-yard score for the 19-10 result.
The wet field conditions were fun for the postgame celebration, but they did make life difficult for Fields, who commended Mustipher for how he handled the snaps.
Knowing Sunday was going to be rainy, Fields practiced wet ball drills with gloves earlier in the week and then wore them on game day. He tried a series without gloves but said it was safest to play with them. But still the rain had an impact.
“It’s just inconsistent,” Fields said. “So some throws you have full control and then some throws the ground is so wet that you don’t have as much grip. So it just differs every play.”
There were some rough moments in the first half, including when 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga jumped in front of Fields’ pass intended for Darnell Mooney in the first quarter. But Fields said he was pleased that “the team as a whole just fought through adversity the whole game.”
In particular, the comeback was a boost for the offense, which has been scrutinized outside Halas Hall for months for whether there is enough talent surrounding Fields.
St. Brown said the Bears haven’t bought into that talk.
“We’ve been training our whole lives for this,” St. Brown said. “This is our profession. It’s our job to make plays and catch the ball. Wherever the doubt comes from, it doesn’t bother us. We know what we can do.
“I knew we were resilient as a team. In the media there were a lot of doubters going in. But we knew what we had to do. We knew we were going to win the game. It’s not a surprise to us at all.”