Somehow, the Bears keep doing it.
No, they didn’t beat the heavily-favored and possibly Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. They were defeated, 25-20, as expected.
What wasn’t anticipated, however, was another close battle that came down to a single possession. Seven of the Bears’ 11 losses this season were by one score (and I feel safe going out on a limb saying that the Bears would have beaten or lost to the Jets by one score had Justin Fields played in that game).
What does all this tell us? Well, not much more than we already know: the Bears are not a good football team — by design — but we are learning that Matt Eberflus and his coaching staff are making the best of the hand that they’ve been dealt, and the players appear to be buying in to what they’re being sold.
Now, how many of these players will be on the Bears’ roster next year remains to be seen. But the key players who will be leaders of the team moving forward are presently setting up a culture that will be awaiting the new players when they get here.
The Eagles generally, and quarterback Jalen Hurts specifically, have been cited as a hopeful model for what these Bears can look like in the future. Many have suggested that the steps that Hurts has taken in his career after looking like an unsure prospect early on are improvements that Fields can make as well.
The Eagles have also surrounded Hurts with plenty of talent, and many of those players were there even before he got there. Bears general manager Ryan Poles will not build an Eagles-like roster over one offseason, but there’s no reason to believe this team can’t look dramatically better in 2023.
One cause for optimism is Poles’ right hand man, assistant GM Ian Cunningham, came from this same Eagles organization and has seen the moves that they have made to get where they are today.
Can Poles and Cunningham engineer the same handiwork (assuming Cunningham doesn’t get a GM job elsewhere)? That’ll be the big question waiting to be answered this off-season when the Bears have draft picks and a ton of cap space to work with.
As for the game on Sunday, it seemed like the same story, different chapter. Fields looked electric running the ball and nearly had a big touchdown run had he not stepped out of bounds. He engineered a few touchdown drives and was efficient with limited pass attempts, completing 14 of 21 passes for 152 yards and two scores, finishing with a 119.5 passer rating — quite impressive against a top notch defense.
The Eagles harassed Fields all game, sacking him six times behind a terrible offensive line. Once again, Fields was asked to make something out of nothing and he rose to the occasion.
The schedule makers weren’t kind to the Bears. A week after facing the potential NFC representative in the Super Bowl, the Bears could face the AFC’s top dog in the Buffalo Bills. Josh Allen will be a chore for the depleted Bears defense, and the Bills defense will present another stiff challenge for Fields and a porous offensive line.
Chase Claypool will hopefully return next week and that will be one aspect to watch. The Bears gave up a stiff price to acquire him so hopefully he and Fields can develop some chemistry over the final few weeks of the season.