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Why the Chicago Bears kept playing Justin Fields during a sack-filled, blowout loss to the Detroit Lions

As the deficit began to grow Sunday at Ford Field and the Detroit Lions defensive line continued to pummel quarterback Justin Fields, Chicago Bears coaches had the conversation after every drive.

Should the Bears leave in Fields? Even as a banged-up offensive line allowed the Lions to sack Fields seven times? Even as a game that was worth only experience for the Bears got out of hand?

The conclusion, coach Matt Eberflus said, was that the “live experience” was necessary to Fields’ development, and that experience meant playing all the way through the Lions’ 41-10 win.

“Every single series we were discussing it, and we said, ‘Let’s get him out there. Let’s do another two-minute drive and get the experience,’” Eberflus said. “There are going to be different people (on offense) out at certain times, and again he’s going to have to operate. Get rid of the ball when it’s not there and do a good job of having poise in the pocket.”

Eberflus said they also discussed it with Fields. It’s no surprise the quarterback said he had a “full desire to play,” despite the frequent pressure and nine quarterback hits as the offensive line lost two right guards — Teven Jenkins (neck) and Michael Schofield (knee) — to injuries during the game.

“Anytime I get to play this game, I don’t take it for granted,” Fields said. “Anytime I get to play, I want to be out there, no matter who it’s with. And the fact that I know that my guys are fighting for me, and they know that I’m fighting for them, that’s all the motivation I need.

“So to be honest with you, I don’t care what the scoreboard is. If I have the chance to go out there and play, I’d do it every time and I’m going to play my hardest.”

That meant Fields kept grinding through one of the offense’s most disappointing performances in a 13-loss season.

The Bears defense is what it is at this point after losing many of its best players to trades or injuries. But Sunday’s game seemed like an opportunity for the offense to build momentum after totaling just 13 points a week earlier against the Buffalo Bills.

The Lions entered the game with the NFL’s worst defense, allowing 409.9 total yards and 264.1 passing yards per game. They gave up 570 yards to the Carolina Panthers a week earlier.

But the Bears netted just 230 yards, failing to get into the end zone again after they opened the game with a 75-yard touchdown drive.

Against a Lions defense that tight end Cole Kmet said “came to stop the run,” Fields completed 7 of 21 passes for 75 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Bears had 30 net passing yards because of the 45 yards lost to sacks. Fields also rushed for 132 of the Bears’ 200 yards.

“Sometimes on first down, I’m getting pressure,” Fields said of what went wrong in the passing game. “I’m trying to make a play out of nothing and I take a sack for 6, 7 yards and we’re now second-and-15, so I can’t do that.

“And then they got back there pretty fast today on some plays, so we’ve just got to be better up front. They know that and it just starts with me, so I’ve just got to get better for my guys and keep working, keep going.”

Five of the Lions’ sacks came in the first half, including two in three plays on a three-and-out drive in the second quarter. John Paschal got around rookie Braxton Jones and Aidan Hutchinson pushed back Riley Reiff on the first one, with Paschal taking down Fields for a 12-yard loss. Two plays later, James Houston pushed Jones into Fields for another sack and a loss of 8.

After the game, Jones sat quietly at his locker, thinking about where he went wrong.

“I have to lower my pad level. I have to keep my feet moving too,” he said. “I got beat with my feet on the ground quite a bit. And just keep my composure, keep going. I have to keep Justin up, just plain and simple. There’s nothing more to it. I’ve just got to be better.”

It was a frustrating day all around for the Bears, whose biggest plays were Fields runs of 60 and 31 yards. Fields said he went to talk with wide receiver Chase Claypool after Claypool showed his frustration on the sideline. Claypool was limited in the game because of a knee injury, Eberflus said, and was targeted just once.

“He was just showing his emotions, which is good to have emotion in a game, but you just have to know how to control it,” Fields said. “You can’t let it come out like that because at the end of the day, that’s not helping anybody. That’s not helping the team.

“Everybody’s frustrated. We’re getting blown out. Like, just call it what it is. We got punched in the mouth. Everybody feels that way, but I talked to him like, ‘That’s not going to do anything. That’s not helping anybody. That’s just spreading everybody apart. We need to be here for each other, stick with each other and fight because not many teams in this league are going to fight the way we did.’”

The Bears offense has one more game to put it together before heading into an offseason that will require a lot of work by general manager Ryan Poles to add pieces to help Fields in 2023.

As the Bears prepare for the season finale against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field, Eberflus said he would talk with Poles but he made it sound like Fields would play.

“If he’s healthy, good to go, he’s going,” Eberflus said. “We’ve got to get the experience and he’s got to play and learn and get better every single week.”

Fields is accepting of those experiences — good and bad.

“They’re not going to kill me in the inside,” he said. “It’s simple. You learn from the mistakes and you get better from it. I’m not the type of person to just (say), ‘Aw, this and that.’ I’m just not that type of person mentally, spiritually.

“I’ve been through tough times before, so my only response is just to keep working, keep getting better, keep learning, keep growing, and everything that I go through, it’s for a reason.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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