5 Takeaways: More history for Justin Fields as Bears search for ‘winning habits’
CHICAGO, Ill. — The Bears are a team in need of a win, struggling while the losses stack up. They suffered another tough defeat Sunday in falling 31-30 to the Lions at Soldier Field, squandering a lead in the fourth quarter and coming up one point short.
Despite more progress from second-year quarterback Justin Fields — and more spectacular flashes and records to his name — the Bears crumbled in a game they had no business losing and fell to 3-7 on the season.
Here are the five takeaways from the Bears’ loss to the Lions.
1. Winning priorities
Here are the latest historic feats that Justin Fields accomplished on Sunday:
— Fields has the most rushing yards ever by a quarterback in a five-game span during the Super Bowl era (1966), now with 555 yards over his last five contests. That shatters the previous record of 473 rushing yards set by Lamar Jackson (Ravens) during his MVP season in 2019.
— Fields is the only quarterback in NFL history with multiple rushing touchdowns of more than 60 yards in the same season, this after topping his spectacular 61-yard touchdown run last Sunday with an equally impressive 67-yard rushing score this week against the Lions. It also set a new record for the longest rushing play by a Bears quarterback in franchise history, breaking his previous mark last week.
— Fields became the third quarterback since the merger in 1970 to post four straight games of at least 50 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown, joining Jackson and Kyler Murray (Cardinals). He also set a new mark for the most rushing yards in a two-game span by a quarterback (325 rushing yards, surpassing Jackson in 2019) and became the third quarterback since the merger to go five straight games with more than 60 yards of rushing (joining Jackson and Michael Vick).
— The Bears are the first team in NFL history with five straight games of 225 rushing yards or more, with Fields leading the way.
But despite all of these stellar accomplishments, the Bears have lost six of their last seven games and are growing frustrated with the familiar outcome. Fields is sick of making history in losses.
“It’s just where your priorities are as a player,” Fields said. “Is it to break records or is it to win? Personally, mine is to win. I don’t care about breaking records. I just want to win games.”
Perhaps this is just the way it’s going to go for the Bears in their final seven games of this regular season, with the 23-year-old Fields continuing to prove his ascension each Sunday and his team scuffling along the way.
Fields finished Sunday’s game 12-of-20 for 167 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, adding 13 carries for 147 yards on the ground and two rushing scores. The Bears continued to build their promising identity on offense around Fields, marking 408 total yards and 30 points on the scoreboard yet still coming up short to the Lions.
While Fields once again had a memorable performance, he also had the game’s greatest error. In the fourth quarter, he made an ill-advised throw that turned into a pick-six for Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah. Detroit tied the game at 24 with that score.
“I can assure that will never happen again for the rest of my career,” Fields said of that poor decision.
“I just got to dirt it and play the next play.”
The Lions took a 31-30 lead with 2:24 remaining in regulation and the game was in Fields’ hands. The Bears went backwards on six plays, with Fields sacked twice — including a hit on fourth down that left him bleeding from the back of his right ear.
Fields received stitches for the wound and had plenty of bruises following this game, the latest in which he was hit early and often while coming away empty handed. He’s frustrated with coming up short and making history without victories.
“It feels good,” Fields said. “I just wish we would’ve come out with a dub.”
2. ‘Winning habits’
After being hired as general manager in late January, Ryan Poles was afforded the chance to make his own pick for the Bears’ next head coach. He valued a leader who could build a winning culture. That man was Matt .
But Poles also recognized the Bears would struggle during this foundational season, one in which he has been forced to make difficult decisions with the future in mind. It challenges as he guides this locker room forward.
The Bears simply aren’t good enough to win this season. But nobody on this roster or coaching staff is content with the prospect of draft positioning as the trade-off for losing. Poles and both know the importance of earning victories as part of a rebuilding process.
“We got to find ways to finish and win these ballgames,” Poles told the WBBM 780 Bears pregame show on Sunday. “When we do that, and you think about all the close games, we could be looking at a team that’s going to ascend quickly.”
Instead, the Bears keep coming up short. Of their seven losses thus far, five have been by a one-score margin. Chicago has led in all but one of its losses this season.
The Bears are getting buried in these losses this season, struggling to find their way forward through this adversity. These players are tired of hearing that they’re this close to success and know they’re missing out on a key aspect of building for the future.
“Winning,” Bears center Sam said. “This is the National Football League. All that matters really at the end of the day is wins and losses and we got too many in the L column. no moral victories.
“It’s never about blame or fault. It’s about how can we find solutions to get in the win column.”
New Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool sees it similarly to .
“Keep the morale high,” Claypool said. “Bad energy in the locker room will translate to the field. We’ve done a good job of that so far, keeping good morale and staying close with each other.”
It’s a tremendous test for in these final seven games of the regular season, and arguably the most important task at his hands.
“I’ll tell you what they are getting, is perseverance. Determination,” said. “That’s what they will get. Everybody is going to look at this and say, ‘Hey, you’ve lost six out of seven,’ and all the things the outside noise will be. Well, let’s have winning habits. Make sure we have winning habits every single day.
“Which, they do. They’ve practiced hard, doing the right thing. It’s about determination, perseverance and staying the course. That’s what they’re going to learn. That’s what they are learning.
“It will eventually crack. If we keep having winning habits, doing things the right way and executing in the critical moments, it will crack.”
3. Official frustration
The Bears likely would’ve been celebrating a victory if not for a key call in the fourth quarter that went against them.
With 11:51 remaining, Bears rookie linebacker Jack Sanborn picked off Lions quarterback Jared Goff on a key stop in the red zone. But the play was negated on an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty against cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who appeared to hit Lions wide receiver Trinity Benson towards the chest instead.
The Lions cashed in one play later on a nine-yard touchdown run by running back Jamaal Williams, a play that sat poorly with the Bears inside the locker room.
“We already know how the calls go,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. “We can’t do nothing about that. We got to stay disciplined and do our job. I feel like some of the calls were kind of BS. But in the end, we got to leave no doubt. We got to come in, do what we have to do, put ourselves in those types of situations, especially with a 14-point lead.
“I heard it was a bad call,” Jackson added of that penalty on Johnson. “Another week of it.”
The Bears suffered from some questionable officiating during last week’s loss to the Dolphins, with Jackson flagged for a pass interference call late in the game and Chase Claypool not receiving a pass interference flag on the final drive of regulation. Both plays were turned into the NFL and the Bears received notice of the mistakes by the league.
While Jackson was miffed by the officiating, he also pointed to the Bears’ inability to bounce back from these calls.
“We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” Jackson said. “I’m tired of getting up here and saying the same thing every week. It’s becoming repetitive.
“I’m just tired of sounding like a broken record, week in and week out. We got to do our jobs.”
4. Local product
This would’ve been a day to remember for Jack Sanborn if his interception was allowed to stand in the box score. But he still produced a strong performance in his second NFL start.
Sanborn finished Sunday with a game-leading 12 tackles and 2 sacks, asserting himself well with this Bears defense.
“I think with the more experience you get, the more reps, the more confident you become,” Sanborn said. “I mean, experience is the best teacher.”
The 22-year-old Sanborn is a native of north suburban Lake Zurich who arrived to the Bears in early May as an undrafted free agent and has capitalized on his opportunities.
Sanborn stepped in as a starter after the Bears traded star linebacker Roquan Smith to the Ravens ahead of the Nov. 1 trade deadline. He has served as the middle linebacker in Chicago’s base 4-3 defensive identity.
5. Catching on?
Bears rookie wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. was a healthy scratch on Sunday for a second straight game. Harry, whom Chicago acquired in a trade from New England last July, was also a healthy inactive.
The Bears suited up five active wide receivers on Sunday — Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis and Byron Pringle — while leaving out two potential playmakers. It’s part of a continued numbers game as the Chicago coaches balance roles on offense and special teams.
Jones struggled his way out of a role as the Bears’ punt returner and hasn’t earned a role on offense or special teams. He knows the key is to bring consistency in practice and admitted being benched is cause for motivation.
“Control what you can control at this moment and grind,” Jones said last week. “Push yourself, extra work, whatever it takes. But I know my time is coming.
“You got to take everything one day at a time. What can I do now to get better? How can I help my team by creating value? That’s my main focus right now.”