Emma's observations: Bears fans are fractured in deciphering meaning in what's left of season


CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The Bears did Sunday what they've so often done this season, squandering a lead and failing to make plays late in a loss. This time, they fell 28-19 to the Packers at Soldier Field to drop to 3-10.

Here are the observations from the Bears’ sixth straight loss.

The great divide
A familiar chant emanated from the upper deck of Soldier Field on Sunday.

“Green Bay sucks,” the Bears faithful chanted like so many times before.

At least they agreed on that, because Bears fans seem divided on what matters in what's left of their team's season. With four games remaining for the Bears, there's a fracture among Chicago’s fans.

It seems half the Bears’ fan base wants the team to lose out and earn the highest possible pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, while the other half believes there's meaning to be found in earning wins.

With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter Sunday, I found it hard to believe that any loyal Bears fan could root for quarterback Justin Fields to get picked off on a pivotal drive, as he was when receiver Equanimeous St. Brown didn't break quickly from his route and Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander intercepted a pass with under three minutes remaining.

But maybe that’s indeed the case. What we do know is there are multiple narratives surrounding Fields' development and differing opinions on whether he can become the franchise quarterback whom Chicago has never seen before.

Former Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy perhaps stoked the flames as much as anybody has as it relates to the conversation centered around Fields.

“What top wide receiver would go play with Justin Fields?” McCoy said on Speak for Yourself on Fox Sports 1 in November. “You’d have to pay him, like, every dollar you have in the whole franchise. Tyreek Hill, Cooper Kupp, let’s name a couple guys, Davante Adams, they don’t want to play with Justin Fields.

“He can’t throw. He can’t throw. I want to go play with a quarterback that can throw the ball.”

Since then, Fields has proved that he can indeed throw, and he had a strong passing performance Sunday before a couple late miscues. Fields called it his best throwing performance of this season, as he went 20-of-25 for 254 yards with two late interceptions.

With the Bears having an undermanned roster, it's difficult to find great meaning in each game. Fields’ individual performance has inspired hope, and he has done that without a strong supporting cast.

On Sunday, the Bears started arguably just seven players who are in line to be Week 1 starters in 2023: Fields, receiver Chase Claypool, left guard Cody Whitehair, right guard Teven Jenkins, tight end Cole Kmet, linebacker Jack Sanborn and cornerback Jaylon Johnson. General manager Ryan Poles is preparing for the next phase of roster transition, which will involve spending in free agency and bringing in more proven starters.

Poles wants to open the Bears’ window for contention in 2023, and he has a projected $125 million-plus in cap space and eight draft selections to work with, including a likely top-five pick. And yes, he's preparing to build Chicago’s future around the 23-year-old Fields, regardless of what the skeptics say.

But there are still four games left for the Bears. That’s four more games of disagreement and frustration over what result is most beneficial.

Why the timeout?
Late in the first half Sunday, the Bears stuffed Packers running back Aaron Jones on a third-and-3 in the red zone and seemed prepared to let the clock tick down from 30 seconds. Surprisingly, Bears coach Matt Eberflus then called for a timeout with 23 seconds left, a curious decision that allowed the Packers to regroup and cash in.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur sent his offense back out to the field for a fourth-and-4 from the Bears’ 14-yard line, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers did what he has so often – he extended the play in the pocket and threw a touchdown to receiver Christian Watson.

So, why did Eberflus call for a timeout in that situation?

“Just trying to force their hand and make them make a decision,” Eberflus said. “It gives us another opportunity for our defense to get set up and what we want to call.”

The problem with Eberflus' line of thinking was that the Packers’ hand was already forced in the situation. LaFleuer would’ve had to either call his last timeout if he wanted to go for it on fourth down or allow the clock to tick down to the final seconds and send kicker Mason Crosby out for a 31-yard field-goal attempt.

LaFleur and Rodgers pounced on the opportunity, getting a pivotal score that cut the Bears’ lead to 16-10 heading into halftime.

The run
It seems normal now when Fields makes a spectacular play. He did it again Sunday on a 55-yard touchdown run.

Fields hit 20.15 miles per hour at his top speed on his latest highlight-reel run, but he didn’t seem to believe it himself.

“I felt like I was moving kind of slow,” Fields said. “I just felt like I was moving slower than my top speed.

“I got to do some extra sprints or something.”

Fields has 905 rushing yards this season, which makes him the NFL’s seventh-leading rusher. He trails six running backs: Josh Jacobs (Raiders), Nick Chubb (Browns), Derrick Henry (Titans), Saquon Barkley (Giants), Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Miles Sanders (Eagles).

Example of growth
As he went through the plays that defined the game, Eberflus pointed to one that stood out as a favorite from Fields.

Early in the third quarter, the Bears faced a third-and-10 from their own 43-yard line. Fields felt pressure as he went through his first and second reads, stepped up in the pocket and then found Kmet for a 24-yard strike down the sideline.

Fields used his running threat to draw a defender off Kmet and create an opening. It was a play that resonated with Eberflus.

“Went out for his first, second read, kept his eyes down field and threw it down there,” Eberflus said. “So, that was really good.”

Extra points
-- Savor this, Bears fans: For the first time since prior to Brett Favre’s arrival to Green Bay in 1992, Chicago has the better quarterback in the rivalry.

-- Was that the last game Rodgers plays at Soldier Field in a Packers uniform? Given the looming uncertainty in Green Bay, it sure seems possible.

-- Bears receiver Chase Claypool avoided a serious injury when his right leg got twisted up in the first half, and he returned in the third quarter. He had five receptions for 28 yards as he saw an increased role in the offense.

-- The Bears used Alex Leatherwood in a rotation at right tackle, getting him in for 10 plays, which represented 19% of their offensive snaps. A first-round pick of the Raiders in 2021, Leatherwood was claimed off waivers by the Bears in early September after his surprising release. Perhaps Leatherwood could take over as the full-time starter for the final four games.

-- On a fourth-and-7 late in the first half, Rodgers rolled out to his left and threw deep to receiver Randall Cobb in the southwest corner of the end zone. It was a similar scenario that sunk the Bears in their devastating loss to the Packers in Chicago in 2013. This time, the pass fell incomplete.

-- Seriously, do people really think Fields can’t throw?

-- Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has had better days of work than Sunday.

-- No, don’t even go there thinking tanking was part of the Bears’ game plan.

-- Justin Fields had a notable quote after the game. “The wins are going to start coming ... I just can’t wait 'til the start coming," he said. "They’re going to start rolling here soon."

-- The Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks all lost Sunday and are a combined 19-41 this season (including NHL overtime losses). It’s a tough time to be a Chicago sports fan.

-- The Bears close the season against the Eagles (11-1), Bills (9-3), Lions (5-7) and Vikings (10-2). That top-three draft pick seems fairly secure.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

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