Ellis: Bears' coaches fail Justin Fields in loss to Falcons


(670 The Score) After listening to Bears quarterback Justin Fields talk over the last few weeks, it really isn't all that surprising that a day like Sunday finally happened. Following a 12-7 loss to the Commanders on Oct. 13, Fields acknowledged he was "hurting pretty good" and that he was looking forward to getting some extra treatment and rest over the mini-bye. After a loss to the Lions last week, Fields openly admitted that he was in pain and that at this point in the season, the issues were more about fatigue than any one particular hit.

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Fields has clearly been struggling to stay healthy this season, and while we won’t know the extent of his health for a couple days, it sure seems like that may have come to a head on Sunday afternoon, when the Bears lost 27-24 to the Falcons. If all the tweets showing him getting carted away for additional postgame X-rays didn’t scare Bears fans enough, his admission about being unsure if he’ll play next week probably did the trick.

“The pain right now is pretty bad,” Fields told reporters. “Again, I’ll just take it day-by-day and see how it feels later in the week.”

This was always the scary scenario that everyone wanted to avoid talking about over the last six weeks. Even before coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy figured out an offense that more effectively and spectacularly showed off Fields’ talents as a runner, he was still taking two or three hits a game that made you cringe. It doesn’t help that the officials consistently do a terrible job protecting him, but as Fields has continued to grow into being a franchise quarterback, the physical toll of literally being a team’s entire offense is becoming more and more evident. Losing running back Khalil Herbert for the next month obviously complicates everything, but maybe it’s time for someone other than the quarterback who’s consistently dealing with leg fatigue and a shoulder injury to lead the Bears in carries. The designed runs aren’t going anywhere (and shouldn’t be), but there were some play calls Sunday, especially in the second half, that are hard to justify knowing what type of condition he was in. Having to spend the fourth quarter with the trainers and their Theragun is probably not that conducive to building and communicating a smart plan for a game-winning drive, and now even that’s becoming a thing.

“We’ll see where it goes,” Eberflus told reporters about Fields' injury. “We’ll have an update on Wednesday. We don’t know what it is. Obviously we’re going to take a look at it and see what it is.”

The Bears coaching staff's curious decisions went beyond the way that Fields was utilized. Eberflus also mentioned after the game that starting right guard Teven Jenkins could've played if "absolutely necessary," but that because his hip was still bothering him after pregame warm-ups, the team would've only considered playing him – even just on a rotational basis – in an emergency. And while it’s certainly fair to argue that a backup just playing poorly doesn’t constitute the type of crisis that’d be worth sending Jenkins on, I imagine there was a point during veteran guard Michael Schofield’s day when Eberflus really thought about it. Hindsight being what it is, having a dressed Jenkins, who was supposedly a full participant in practice Friday, stand on the sideline all game while Schofield allowed multiple sacks and picked up two penalties had all the optics of a botched personnel decision. At the risk of sounding dramatic, isn’t Fields getting hit behind the line of scrimmage a dozen times a game sort of an emergency?

All in all, not a banner day for the Bears coaching staff. There are plenty of gripes to be had about conservative approaches and long second-down runs, but how they put Fields in harm’s way Sunday is the much, much larger issue. Eight losses before Thanksgiving means we’re probably on track for a Trevor Siemian start or two – let’s just hope that’s a decision the Bears make because they want to, not because they have to.

Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.

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