Darnell Mooney, Justin Fields building connection for Bears

Bears quarterback Justin Fields saw receiver Darnell Mooney out of the corner of his eye Wednesday and stopped doing his weekly press conference. The rookie dropped to the ground and pounded out two pushups.

He told Mooney he had 33 more to go.

“You lose a bet, man,” Mooney said. “It was bowling …It was a pretty close game. But a win is a win.”

Mooney plays “Madden” and “Call of Duty” with his quarterback, though he said Fields “is not that good” at video games. The competition comes out of both men when they bowl, though. Mooney — who beat running back David Montgomery earlier this year, prompting more pushups — tries to mess with Fields at the lanes.

“I’m like, ‘Yo, you gonna throw your arm playing against me — We need you tomorrow for practice,’” Mooney said. “He’s like, ‘Man, I’m straight. It’s a different type of throwing mechanism.’”

Mooney’s connection with his rookie quarterback starts on the practice field, but continues off of it.

“I mean it could be video games, just chatting on the phone or making jokes in the locker room,” Mooney said. “Just anything can build chemistry if you do things together.”

That showed up in the most pivotal moment of Sunday’s game against the Raiders. Down by five on third-and-12 with about 7:30 to play, the Raiders dropped eight defenders into coverage. Four — two at the numbers, two at the hashes — stood at the 39, which was the Bears’ line to gain.

The Bears sent four receivers out for passes —including Mooney, lined up in the right slot. He sprinted up the field and stopped at the precise midpoint between the two hashes. By then, the ball was already in the air. He turned around and caught it, falling down a half-yard ahead of the first down marker.

“He ran to his spot, turned around and caught the ball … ” Fields said. “That was a good play by him.”

There was more to it than that. The Bears had prepped the play all week, although not against a defense that dropped eight defenders. Fields knew to watch for a certain defensive movement before zipping the ball in. Mooney had to use his body language to convince the Raiders he was going to sprint past the marker — then hit the brakes.

“It’s just, make sure you’re going rep to rep during practice,” Mooney said. “We repped that a few times in practice and it wasn’t nothing I had to do extreme. I just ran a straight line and he had a great ball.”

It was the kind of play Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams make on third down. That’s where the comparisons stop, of course — the Packers’ quarterback and receiver might be the best in the world at what they do entering Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. But Fields and Mooney have a chemistry that portends more dynamic plays in the future.

In Fields’ three starts, he’s thrown to Mooney more often — and with more success — than any other receiver. Mooney has caught nine passes on 16 targets for 169 yards and five first downs. Allen Robinson, the Bears’ lead receiver, is just behind him — he has nine catches on 14 targets for 122 yards and five first downs. Mooney’s best career game — five catches for 125 yards — came two weeks ago against the Lions.

“You’ve got to be available regardless of what read you are in the progression — you can be the last read and get the ball,” Mooney said. “Even if it’s 60 yards down the field, you have to be available and ready regardless of what’s going on. [Fields] is able to get it there as fast as he wanted to — and as far as he wanted to as well.”


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