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5 Takeaways: Weather, Bills provide tough test for Fields, Bears

2 years agoChris Emma

CHICAGO – On a day with excruciating cold at Soldier Field, the Bears were frozen by a better team. They lost their eighth straight game, falling 35-13 to the Bills. 

Here are the five takeaways from Soldier Field. 

1. Bills shut down Fields, Bears 

There were no highlight-reel runs for Bears quarterback Justin Fields, and hardly just a few moments in this game. The Bills took away the best player that Chicago boasts and that was more than enough. 

Fields finished 15-of-23 for 119 yards and a touchdown pass but was held in check as a runner, carrying seven times for just 11 yards against the Bills’ stifling defense. It was part of a game plan from Buffalo and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who looked to box in the 23-year-old Fields in the pocket while daring him to throw in daunting weather conditions. 

Fields was not a dangerous dual threat in this game. 

“The reality is I’m not going to be running for 100 yards a game,” Fields said. “When the defense does a good job of taking my legs away, my job is to take a defender with me, maybe take two with me, and allow the running backs to work. 

“They did a good job defensively. Of course, they’re a good team. Got to give credit to those guys.” 

The Bills (and the weather conditions) truly tested Fields in a way he hasn’t been challenged this second season, creating pressure on a patchwork offensive line that was down two starters on Saturday and forcing him to trust targets who simply aren’t good enough to change a game. 

The Bears have relied on their running identity throughout the course of this season – with Fields and running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. They weren’t able to get moving against the Bills, rushing for 80 yards and compiling a season-low 209 total yards. 

“We got to be creative in how we do things, how we run the ball,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said. 

With two games remaining in this season, there’s now a clear blueprint to containing Fields. It will challenge the Bears to be better around him and find way to combat how their quarterback is contained. 

When the Bears lose their best player, their lack of depth is truly revealed.

2. Johnson’s season is over 

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson was looking forward to a matchup with Bills star wide receiver Stefon Diggs. That never came to fruition. 

The Bears shut down Johnson on season-ending injured reserve Friday afternoon following a fracture to his finger. Johnson, who also dealt with a ribs injury suffered last week, suffered the injury in practice and the decision was made to place him on injured reserve. 

“It was an interesting week with that,” Eberflus said. “We wanted him to go. He wanted to go. And we worked him through the early part of the week, then working with the doctors with (general manager Ryan Poles) and I and also (Johnson), at the end of the day, he didn’t feel comfortable, we didn’t feel comfortable to put him out there in a situation to be able to execute the right way to play his position with his ring finger. 

“We thought it was the best interest for our organization to put him on IR.” 

The 23-year-old Johnson is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023. Johnson told Marquee Sports Network that he hopes to land a long-term contract in Chicago. Those negotiations with the team could take place this offseason. 

“Oh, 100%,” Johnson said. “I hope they feel the same way about me. We’ll see. It will be a crazy situation to be in different colors than orange and blue. I’m just looking forward to hopefully having that extension and carrying something on and continuing to be a Bear throughout my career.”

3. Up and down for Brisker 

Early in the third quarter, Bills running back Devin Singletary took a handoff and raced through the Bears’ open secondary for a 33-yard touchdown run. It was an opening created on a misplay by Bears rookie safety Jaquan Brisker. 

Brisker broke hard towards the line of scrimmage and left himself vulnerable for the move made by Singletary, who shook to the side and had the end zone ahead. It was one of several breakdowns by the Bears’ defense against the running game.  

The Bills carried for 254 yards of rushing offense, which allowed their offense to cruise while star quarterback Josh Allen didn’t have his best game. 

“Just being out of our gaps, not doing our jobs, not being physical,” Brisker said. “Especially being more physical in the cold because everybody is cold, offense and defense. They were more physical, made a lot of great plays.” 

But Brisker produced his team-leading fourth sack of the season as one of the few highlights for the Bears on defense. Though a safety shouldn’t have a team-best sack total, Brisker takes pride in his ability to make plays all over the field. 

“There are certain players who can’t do what I do,” Brisker said. “I truly believe that I’m very unique.”

4. Flashes from Velus 

At times this season, it seems the Bears have cast aside rookie wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. But given the injuries at his position, Jones is simply the next man up. It has provided him another chance. 

Jones finished Saturday’s game with two receptions for 52 yards, including a 44-yard catch coming late in the third quarter. Jones also averaged 28.3 yards per kickoff return, including a 40-yard return in the first quarter. 

This effort from Jones followed a costly fumble in last Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, his third lost fumble on the season.

“It was good for him to bounce back from last week,” Eberflus said. “He did a really nice job with that.”

5. Chicago Brrrs 

As a polar vortex blasted much of the country with arctic temperatures, Saturday marked the fifth-coldest game in Soldier Field history. 

The official temperature at kickoff was 9 degrees, with winds steady at 26 miles per hour and gusting to 37 miles per hour. The real-feel temperature with the wind chill was minus-12 degrees. 

Given the extreme cold conditions – and certainly the holidays, too – Soldier Field was at approximately 50% capacity for this game. The announced attendance was 59,929, though no actual attendance was reported. Tickets were being sold on the secondary market for significantly discounted prices. 

The coldest game in Soldier Field history by actual temperature was 2 degrees for a 2008 game against the Packers. The coldest wind chill came in a 1983 game against the Packers. 

The Bears (3-12) return to action next Sunday against the Lions (7-8), a game that will be played indoors at Ford Field. 

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