The Bears may have taken an L to the Vikings on Sunday but not all was lost after watching Justin Fields put the offense on his back
By Herb Howard
Herman Edwards won’t like what I’m about to say, but it’s the absolute truth. The former Head Coach of the New York Jets famously declared during a postgame press conference that “You play to win the game!”
Generally speaking, that may be true. But Sunday, in defeat, we saw the perfect scenario for the 2022 Chicago Bears.
The Bears entered Week 5 in Minnesota as the clear underdogs. No one gave them a chance to win the game. Their defense came in allowing 183 rushing yards per game. Vikings star RB Dalvin Cook had to be licking his chops. And the Bears pass defense, which has been picked apart by play-action, was charged with containing dynamic WR Justin Jefferson, without their top CB Jaylon Johnson.
There were just as many questions about the Bears offense. QB Justin Fields had thrown for the fewest yards of any starting QB in the League, and his Passer Rating was the worst. The offensive line had struggled mightily in pass protection and entered Sunday’s game without their most consistent performer in LG Cody Whitehair.
Everything was in place for the Bears to be blown out Sunday at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. And for the first 28 minutes of the game, the Bears stuck to the script. They were down 21-3, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins completed his first 17 pass attempts, and Justin Jefferson already had 100 yards receiving. It appeared that the rout was on, and that the Bears were who we thought they were.
The Bears weren’t good enough to compete. Their talent deficiencies were apparent all over the field. This was a team that was clearly qualified to receive a Top 5 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Depending on your perspective, that could be viewed as a good thing.
But the Bears also weren’t finding any answers to the questions on their roster. And that is definitely a bad thing.
Is Justin Fields truly capable of being a franchise Quarterback? Can the offensive line give him enough time in the pocket for Justin to be accurately evaluated? Can their young talent in the secondary develop into consistent playmakers?
But over a 19 minute and 10 second span of game action, from the 1:54 mark of the 2nd Quarter to the 12:44 mark of the 4th Quarter, the Bears would turn things around and score 19 unanswered points to take a 22-21 lead in the game.
During that 19-0 run, we saw Justin Fields play his best football of the season. He would finish the game with a passer rating of 118.8. We were able to see this version of Fields because the O-Line was giving him time to throw. He had consistently clean pockets to operate from, and he found open targets down the field.
We also saw the Bears young secondary take some steps forward. Kindle Vildor made a very nice play, baiting veteran QB Kirk Cousins into a throw before jumping in front to intercept the pass. Top draft pick Kyler Gordon, who has been picked on by opposing offenses, may have had his best game. He made some really impressive open-field tackles, and was not victimized for huge plays in the passing game.
Not to be overlooked is the ever-present fight in this Bears team. They have taken on the personality of their Head Coach and risen to the standard he has set for them. The H.I.T.S. principle is not just talk. These Bears are gonna compete for four quarters every week. They’re gonna keep punching, even when they seem to be on the ropes. That is a winning mentality, and that culture will serve them well as they accrue more talent.
Ultimately, the Bears would lose the game. For the second week in a row, a critical mistake by one of their young WRs would cost them an opportunity to tie or win the game. This week’s blunder more egregious than the previous.
I know as Bears fans, we want to see them win the game. And I certainly know that the players and coaches want to win. But I also know that wins aren’t the most important thing for this franchise right now. This season is about changing the culture, developing young talent, and being absolutely convinced that Justin Fields is your Quarterback of the future.
The Bears were able to affirmatively answer all those questions yesterday. And they did so without compromising their Draft position for next year. In the locker room, that may not mean much. But in the General Manager’s office, that may have been the perfect scenario.