(670 The Score) For a second, I thought he had it. For a few thrilling moments in an otherwise miserable game Sunday, it looked like Bears quarterback Justin Fields did it to the Detroit Lions again. Ripping down the middle of the field, gears shifting as he hit the second level, it looked – from the TV angle, at least – like Fields was set to waltz into the end zone for his second tiebreaking, 60-plus-yard touchdown run in as many games against the Lions this season. (Both runs came on third down too!) Then something strange happened – someone tackled him. And you know what’s even weirder? The Lions brought him down from behind. Up until this point, I didn’t know catching up to Fields in a dead sprint was even physically possible. To be honest, I still don’t. But in the Bears’ ninth straight loss, the worst losing streak in franchise history, the unfortunate reality of Fields’ historic season seemed more evident than ever: He’s exhausted.
Given how beat up Fields has spent most of this season, it’s a small miracle that he has only missed one game. This season alone, he has suffered a foot injury, dealt with cramping issues in his calves and hamstrings that required in-game IVs and played with partially torn shoulder ligaments that, according to what team doctors told him, were going to be an issue for the rest of the year. All of that came while he set single-game and season quarterback rushing records. Sort of makes you wonder what he can do when he’s healthy.
“Any time I get to play this game, I don’t take it for granted,” Fields told reporters after the Bears' 41-10 loss to the Lions on Sunday, a game in which he hurt his hip and was evaluated for a concussion. “Any time I get to play, I want to be out there. No matter who it’s with. 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. To be honest with you, I don’t care what the score is, if I have the chance to go out there and play, I’m going to do it every time and I’m going to play my hardest.”
That's both the answer you want to hear and also part of the problem. There probably isn’t one person on this planet more extremely aware of the Bears’ offensive limitations than Fields, and while his coaches spent a good portion of this week explaining their views on the fine line between valuable reps and needlessly putting the franchise quarterback in harm’s way, it’s difficult to see much value in Fields suiting up against the Vikings for the season finale next Sunday. Resting a healthy starter certainly isn’t in the Matt Eberflus School of Motivational T-Shirts and Acronyms, but maybe, just maybe, a Chicago Bears head coach can make an adjustment. What lesson is so valuable that it makes scrambling around the backfield on a bad foot, calf and hamstring worth it? Is there some golden nugget of information waiting for Fields on the other side of another seven sacks? At the risk of being intellectually lazy, my opinion on the Bears’ receivers probably isn’t going to change in a week. If there’s a lesson to be learned besides how to avoid catastrophic injury for 60 more minutes, I’m having trouble seeing it.
“That’s why, late in the game, we left him in there,” Eberflus said. “We wanted to get him game experience. You can’t really get that anywhere else.”
It’s not that Eberflus is wrong to say that – by the time the regular season really gets going, the intensity of practices is fairly dialed down. So yeah, there isn’t really an in-season substitute for game speed, but it feels like that’s missing the point in this case. The Bears have gotten almost everything they wanted from Fields this season, but this season stopped mattering like, two months ago. It’s time to start looking ahead to 2023, and hopefully Fields is doing that from the sideline next week in a very cozy team-issued sweatsuit.
Let’s all (gulp) hope the Bears come to their senses and start (second, larger gulp) Nathan Peterman. Because why lose nine in a row when you can make it an even 10?
Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.
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