It actually isn’t all that unexpected that a day like Sunday eventually occurred after hearing Bears quarterback Justin Fields talk over the previous two weeks. Fields admitted he was “hurting pretty good” after a 12-7 defeat to the Commanders on October 13 and that he was looking forward to the mini-extra bye’s rest and medical attention. Fields acknowledged his soreness after last week’s loss to the Lions and said that at this stage in the season, exhaustion was more of a problem than any one hit.
Although we won’t know the full extent of Fields’ health until a few days from now, it certainly looks like it may have reached a breaking point on Sunday when the Bears lost to the Falcons 27-24. If the numerous tweets depicting him being taken away for further postgame X-rays wasn’t enough to spook Bears fans, his admission that he’s unsure whether or not he’ll play next week 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.”
Over the past six weeks, this has been the terrifying prospect that everyone has tried to avoid discussing. Fields was taking two or three cringe-inducing hits every game even before head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy devised an attack that more brilliantly and successfully showcased his running abilities. The fact that the officials frequently fail to protect him doesn’t help, but as Fields has developed into a franchise quarterback, the physical cost of being a team’s whole offense is increasingly clear. The designed runs aren’t changing (and shouldn’t), but knowing the kind of condition he was in makes some of the play calls on Sunday, particularly in the second half, difficult to defend. It’s probably not the best environment for developing and communicating a clever plan for a game-winning drive to spend the whole fourth quarter with the trainers.
“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 strange choices made by the Bears coaching staff extended beyond how Fields was utilized. Teven Jenkins, the team’s starting right guard, could have played if “absolutely necessary,” according to Eberflus, but because his hip continued to bother him during pregame warm-ups, the team would only have contemplated using him in an emergency. And although it’s fair to say that a backup simply doing poorly doesn’t represent the kind of crisis that would be worth sending Jenkins on, I suppose there was a time during Michael Schofield’s time when Eberflus truly gave it some thought. Isn’t Fields getting hit behind the line of scrimmage a dozen times every game, at the risk of sounding dramatic, sort of an emergency?
Overall, the coaching staff of the Bears had a lackluster day. There are many issues with cautious strategies and protracted second-down runs, but the much, much bigger problem is how they endangered Fields on Sunday. With eight defeats before Thanksgiving, Trevor Siemian is probably going to make one or two starts. Let’s just hope the Bears decide to utilize Trevor Siemian because they want to and not because they have to.