CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- NFL players and coaches often remind that they work in a results-based business that's based simply on winning or losing, but first-year Bears coach Matt Eberflus has carried a more nuanced perspective in leading his team through a rebuilding season.
On Sunday at Soldier Field, the Bears lost their seventh straight game as they fell 25-20 to the Eagles, who improved to 13-1 and own the best record in the league. The loss dropped Chicago to 3-11 and kept it on track for a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Afterward, Eberflus pointed to the bigger picture.
Eberflus knows the Bears are building for their future and believes their results aren’t indicative of the team's direction.
“You have to have perspective,” Eberflus said. “When you’re in the game, I think it’s obviously 100% getting after it by any means necessary. And then after the game, you have to evaluate the performance. The game is the game now – if we win by five or you lose by fie, then you have to have that perspective. How do you get better next week? Each individual and each unit.
“You can look at different teams in the past. Everybody has to go through this. We’re in the process of doing that right now. It’s more about the work habits of each guy and the work habits of the units and having those championship work habits. That to me is the most important thing, because that’s what you can stand on.
“Along with our HITS principle, you can stand on that foundation that will last time.”
The story of Sunday was so similar to many of the Bears' losses this season, with second-year quarterback Justin Fields shining and showcasing his own rise while the Bears fell just short. It was the seventh game Chicago had lost by one score this season. Teams need to build winning habits, but the reality is that Fields is one of only a few players who suited up for the Bears on Sunday who will be significant players on the 2023 roster.
Fields was 14-of-21 for 152 yards and two touchdowns through the air while adding 15 carries for 95 yards on the ground. He became the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, and he’s 206 yards shy of Lamar Jackson’s all-time rushing record for their position (1,206 yards), which was set in 2019.
The 23-year-old Fields arguably played better than Eagles star quarterback Jalen Hurts, who's considered the MVP favorite. Fields would certainly love to have the Eagles' star playmaking talent, as receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith combined for 14 receptions and 307 receiving yards against the Bears.
Fields is making the most of his opportunity this season despite the Bears’ poor supporting cast, and that will force the hand of first-year general manager Ryan Poles to invest around him. It’s what the Eagles have successfully done with Hurts as they look toward the postseason with championship hopes.
“We’re going to keep getting better,” Fields said as he looked ahead to the future. “For me, I've been in the league two years. I’ve learned two offenses in two years. I think the more I get comfortable with this offense, I think we’re going to keep getting better as an offense, keep getting better as a team.
“No matter what our record is, the coaches come in the same every day, the players come in the same every day, and we work. That’s kind of all we know. No matter what our record is, what’s in the past, we come in every day and we show up – and we show up every day to get better. As long as we do that, we’ll get better. Those wins are going to start coming, for sure.”
As the losses began to pile up on the Bears earlier in the season, Eberflus reminded his players that they were close to turning defeat into victory and adversity into success. That message has been difficult to sustain amid a seven-game losing streak. The mindset of players and coaches remains on the game at hand, and they certainly don’t care to hear about draft positioning and salary cap space at this time.
Eberflus’ current message for his Bears is that their work now will pay off later. He wants them to believe that by staying the course amid these challenges, there’s a reward waiting in their future.
What Eberflus wants the Bears to know is that despite their struggles, they're laying the foundation for a future of success.
“It's always going to be there, and it’s never going anywhere,” Eberflus said. “As you get going, as you start executing better, finishing games better, wins will start to stack. You always have to have that. If you don’t have that, it’s not going to work. But we do have that. We have it, and our guys are working their tails off. We have that foundation that we’re building right now.
“We’re heading in the right direction.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.
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