CHICAGO — In the freezing cold with plenty of empty seats at Soldier Field, Velus Jones Jr. finally showed Bears fans why he was worth being drafted in the third round.
After the Bears’ defense forced a fumble in the third quarter, Justin Fields and the offense took over on their own 33-yard line. Fields had time in the pocket on first-and-10 and saw one of his receivers running deep. Jones got behind the defense and Fields let the ball rip into the cold December air. Jones slid and completed the 44-yard play.
“When they were in the quarter coverage, I knew the ball was coming to me,” Jones said after the Bears’ 35-13 loss. “So I stemmed the corner and I knew I wanted to keep it high. The wind carried the ball a little so I went across the field and just had to go get it.”
That vertical route down the field was something Jones and Justin Fields have been working on since the summer.
“Yeah, I mean that’s a training camp play,” Fields said. “You know Velus he’s fast and you know I’m glad we finally got to use his speed. So of course just saw the safety attach and the corner try to fall off, so just kinda put it outside, and he did a great job going to get that ball, so of course it was a great catch.”
Even though the Bears ended up turning the ball over on downs on the drive and ultimately lost the game, 35-13, Jones’ overall performance was exactly what the team, the fans and the organization needed to see to believe in the No. 71 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Jones ended the game with two catches for 52 yards – both career highs. Jones’ second-best receiving game came against the Washington Commanders: one catch for 10 yards.
And Jones also made his impact felt on kick returns. On four kick returns, Jones totaled 113 yards for a 28.3 yard average.
“Man, it felt good, you know, overall you know just to help my team out,” Jones said. “But those guys was blocking their tails off for me on the kickoff. They’ve been doing it all year. So without them that wouldn’t be possible. So, you know, it just feels good to help your team any kind of way.”
Jones started the game by returning the opening kickoff 29 yards to set the offense at Chicago’s own 36-yard line. The Bears capitalized on the field position and went on an 8-play, 64-yard drive that ended in a Dante Pettis touchdown reception – the only touchdown of the game for Chicago.
On Jones’ next kick return opportunity, he returned the ball 40 yards to set the offense up at their own 42-yard line. The Bears turned the ball over on downs after Fields’ pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Jones said in the locker room after the game that he felt this was his most complete game as a professional, and it just so happened in the coldest games he has ever played in.
“With the wind, I never encountered anything like that, especially when the ball was in the air,” Jones said. “It was sometimes difficult to judge a ball because it was always moving around and so definitely extra focus. That’s one to remember.”