Greenberg: Bears might not be learning to win, but they’re developing in losses


CHICAGO — As seventh consecutive losses go, this one could’ve been a lot worse for the Bears.

And for their fans, the most painful thing about watching this game was probably if they took the Eagles -9.
The pileup of injuries — four players left the game, including guard Teven Jenkins, who was carted off the field and went to a local hospital with a neck injury — prevent me from calling the Bears’ 25-20 defeat at the hands of the 13-1 Eagles a “good” loss. But other than that, the Bears did enough right to make their 11th defeat of the season downright palatable even without factoring in draft position.

The Bears were big home underdogs to the best team in the NFC and not only did they cover the point spread, but more importantly, they covered the talent gap. That’s a positive sign for a team focused on development above all else. The Eagles were the better team, but this game never got out of hand.

A beaten-up, beleaguered Bears defense gave up 421 net yards, but they also had three takeaways, including two interceptions off the normally careful Jalen Hurts. Sure, A.J. Brown had 181 receiving yards, the most by an opponent since 2013, and DeVonta Smith had 126, but the Bears defense, with limited talent, acquitted itself pretty well otherwise, given the context. The Eagles scoring “only” three touchdowns, all on Hurts runs, is firmly in the moral victory zone.

After the game, Bears coach Matt Eberflus bemoaned some of the mistakes, from Velus Jones Jr.’s latest fumble to third-down inefficiencies on both sides of the ball to the offense’s failure to score on two of their three takeaways. But while he can comb through mistakes rewatching the game, he’ll have to like how his defense competed.



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When he plays, the spotlight is always on Justin Fields, and he performed like the lead character he is with 247 total yards, two passing touchdowns and no interceptions. He ran 15 times for 95 yards, putting him over 1,000 yards for the season and breaking Bobby Douglass’ franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback.

It’s hard to judge if Fields was holding the ball too long, resulting in six sacks, or if the Bears are so talent-deficient on the offensive line and at receiver that it would be nearly impossible not to get knocked around by a deep, physical and fast Eagles defensive line.

He certainly did enough to win and he had his requisite Fields moment. This time it was a 39-yard rush in the second quarter that came one play after losing 17 yards on a strip-sack fumble recovered by Alex Leatherwood.

On second-and-27, Fields, well, did his thing, ducking under a Haason Reddick sack attempt and sprinting his way out of trouble to break off a big gain down the left sideline. At the 9-yard line, his left foot touched the chalk, 2 yards before he spun like a dreidel and ran into the end zone. David Montgomery scored on the next play.

“I was celebrating, spiking the ball, so I had no idea” he stepped out of bounds, Fields said.

Fields’ 95-yard day put him at exactly 1,000 yards for the season, making him only the third quarterback to reach that mark, joining Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson. Vick ran for 1,039 yards in 2006 and Jackson broke his record with 1,206 yards in 2019, before rushing for 1,005 in 2020. Can Fields do this on an annual basis?

“No sir, I don’t plan on rushing for 1,000 yards every year,” he said. “But yeah, it’s an honor and it’s a blessing from God.”

Just your everyday blessing for God. No biggie.

Fields heard the stadium announcement when he reached 1,000 yards with 7:53 left in the game and he’s not going to humble his way out of recognizing how cool this is. He wants to break Jackson’s record.

“I’m already deep into this year, so I might as well try to go get that record,” he said. “I think I only need 206. Three games left, that’s about 70 yards (a game). We’ll see what happens.”

If he gets the record, he will deserve it based on the amount of work he puts in every week.

Fields limped off the field early in the fourth quarter with a hamstring cramp but returned to the game on the next series. He said he didn’t take a pregame IV because it was so cold, but he’s not going to make that mistake again the rest of the season. It’s tough to stay hydrated when you’re doing so much to keep this team respectable.

With three games left and nothing really to accomplish, besides setting up the best possible draft pick, is there a reason to keep playing Fields? I think so, as long he’s healthy, if only because the Bears need him to be the leader of the attitude revolution at Halas Hall. That’s the job of a franchise quarterback. His teammates appreciate his toughness.

“Obviously a tough dude,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “Just always doing whatever he can to win, whether it’s through the air (or) with his legs. He’s always just fighting till the end. Tough dude for sure.”

Bears linebacker Joe Thomas puts a lick on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. (Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

When asked what there is to play for down the stretch, Eberflus, as most coaches would do, led with attitude. And in my interpretation, it’s not just rah-rah filler. This is a job, a very difficult job, and the Bears should be treating it as such. Football is also a profession that requires more sacrifice, mentally and physically, than your normal 9-to-5. As the Bears showed Sunday, they’re not just going through the motions. With three games left, Eberflus knows what he wants to see: consistency of effort.

“It doesn’t matter, win, lose or draw, we want to see championship habits from the individual,” he said. “That means the minute you come into the building you have a laser-like focus on the job at hand until the minute you leave. And afterward, you’re studying to make sure you’re going to perform at a high level. We challenge them to perform at an A-plus level every week and it’s all based on practice and how you play in the game.”



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If the Bears were playing at an A-plus level, they wouldn’t be 3-11. During this losing streak, it feels like they’re around a C, depending on the grading curve. The effort is usually there, but the answers are often wrong.

It’s fair to say a lot of guys on this roster won’t be on the team when (or if) the Bears are a playoff team under this regime, so the “learning how to win” refrain is really just something for us to talk about during a lost season during which wins are missing. But Fields, especially, needs to build winning habits. So do the guys who will stick around. And so do the coaches, particularly the coordinators and Eberflus.

With three games left, there is something to play for.

“No matter what our record is, the coaches come in the same every day, the players come in the same every day and we work,” Fields said. “That’s kind of all we know. No matter what our record is, what’s in the past, we come in every day and show up. We’ll show up every day to get better and as long as we do that, those wins are going to have to start coming for sure.”

(Photo of Justin Fields: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)


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