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CHICAGO — Justin Fields sat at his locker still in full uniform, head down and didn’t say a word to anyone on Sunday afternoon.
The reason for a defeated Fields despite throwing for 335 yards and four touchdowns on 28 of 35 attempts?
Another devastating defeat.
The Bears lost to the Broncos, 31-28, at Soldier Field on Sunday — the 14th straight loss for the team dating back to last season. There have been some tough losses in the losing steak.
Kanas City whooped Chicago 41-10 at Arrowhead a week ago. The Packers embarrassed the Bears 38-20 in the home opener in Week 1. In 2022, the Bears had a one-point loss to the Lions and lost in a 35-32 shoot out to Miami.
None of those, though, compare to this one. The Bears had a 21-7 halftime lead thanks to Fields. He finished the first two quarters 16 of 17 for 231 yards and three touchdowns. His only incompletion was off a Hail Mary attempt.
“Yeah, I mean, it hurt,” Fields said after the game. “Just come out with, I don’t even know, just the lead that we had, you know, and I wasn’t able to finish it off.
“Of course it hurt. Almost like, I don’t know — it’s just, yeah. Emotions are just flowing everywhere, so, yeah.”
Those emotions left Fields staring at the ground of his locker as the team somehow, someway let another game slip away. In the loss, Fields had his first 300-yard passing game, and made several big-time throws, but it was all for nothing.
“Yeah, we were in a rhythm,” Fields said. “Luke (Getsy) was dialing it up. Guys were protecting up front and the receivers were getting open. So we were definitely in a rhythm but you know, at the end of the day, we lost the game. So it really doesn’t matter.”
The Bears extended their lead to 28-7 with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter. After that, all hell broke lose.
Denver quickly scored on the next possession with a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The Bears’ offense followed with a 3-and-out. Courtland Sutton finished a 10-play, 66-yard touchdown drive with a 13-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game.
Then on a naked bootleg on first-and-10 from Denver’s 48, Fields was hit as he tried to throw the ball. The ball ended up on the ground, and Jonathon Cooper scooped up the fumble and returned for a touchdown, tying the game at 28.
“I mean, it’s tough because the rule on boots, nakeds, is no sacks,” Fields said. “So in that situation, of course you’d rather have a sack than a fumble scoop and score for
a touchdown. You know, me personally, I turned around, he was right there. I was just trying, you feel me, to dirt the ball, and it just didn’t end up working that way. If I could do anything, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can really do anything on that one to be honest with you. I just tried to get the ball out and I don’t know what the down and distance was on that play but just make an incomplete pass and move on to the next play.”
Despite everything in the second half, the Bears still had an opportunity to win the game. The Bears moved the ball down the field after starting on their own 25-yard line. They eventually were faced with a fourth-and-1 opportunity on Denver’s 18-yard line.
Instead of taking the lead, Bears coach Matt Eberflus elected to go for it. Prior to the play, Khalil Herbert had 17 rushes for 103 yards — averaging 5.7 yards per carry. The Bears lined up in the shotgun, Fields handed the ball to Herbert, and he was tackled for no gain. Turnover on downs.
“Yeah, just because of the way we were running it,” Eberflus said on the decision to go for it on fourth down. “It was a half a yard. So I felt very confident about getting that right there. Every situation is different. You’ve got to look at the game in its entirety, and I think that the way we were running the football and the confidence that we had on offense in that moment, I would say that you know, we’re going to do that right there.”
Darnell Wright also was sitting at his locker after the game. He was soft spoken, as he usually is, but it appeared something was bothering him.
“The fourth down was probably on me,” Wright said. “I had a critical error on a block. I mean we had, it put us in a good situation. Just have to execute.”
Wright also said he came off the ball late, and the linebacker was able to make the tackle to stop Herbert short of the first down. Herbert mentioned after the game that he just “has to find a way to get it.”
But Fields, Cole Kmet and Herbert all backed up the decision to go for it on fourth down.
“I mean, if you get it, the game’s over most likely, you know,” Fields said. “Got to make the them use their time-outs. Probably getting past the two-minute warning, and then at least you’re kicking a field goal with under a minute left. So I love the decision. It shows, you know, Coach has trust in us to convert on that and in that situation. And you know, we’ve just got to execute.”
The Broncos then went on a 5-play, 48-yard drive that ended in a 51-yard field goal to give Denver a 31-28 lead with 1:46 remaining in the game. Fields was intercepted on the last drive, attempting to hit Kmet in the middle of the field, but the two had a miscommunication on the route and that sealed the game.
It’s been a long time since the Bears last won a game — 342 days to be exact. And those losses are starting to take a toll on this team. Fields put up his best statistical game of his career, and the result didn’t change.
The Bears are still searching for their first win of the season and now have a quick turnaround to face the Washington Commanders on Thursday Night Football on the road. For Fields, he had a simple message to his teammates.
“Keep going. Never stop,” Fields said. “No matter how hard it gets, never stop. We’re playing for each other. I’m playing for each and every guy in that locker room. They know that I’m going to give my all, and you know, I know I’m going to get the same thing back from them.
So keep going, don’t be discouraged, and play every play and every game like it’s your last. So that’s the message.”
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