No one can ever accuse Matt Eberflus of tanking. The rookie head coach indicated on Monday that Justin Fields, Chicago’s best offensive weapon, will play in the final two games against the Lions and Vikings.
“Absolutely not,” Eberflus said Monday when asked whether the two injuries Fields sustained in the loss to the Bills would put his availability in question. “He’s good to go. He’s healthy, and he’s ready to go for this week.”
Fields said Saturday that he hurt his previously injured non-throwing shoulder and had his foot stepped on late in Chicago’s 35-13 loss to Buffalo. The quarterback also said postgame that he couldn’t bear full weight on his injured foot but expected to play out the string. Eberflus sees value in getting more reps for the second-year star.
JF1 with an absolute bomb to V12 ⚡️
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 24, 2022
“Because we’ve got to get better,” Eberflus said. “We want to improve. We want to see where we are. These last two games matter. They’re division opponents to us, very important to our football team to see the competition, to see guys compete against our division. I think it’s important for each man, it’s important for each unit, and it’s important for our whole football team.”
If the Bears lose their final two games, and the Texans win one of theirs, Chicago could secure the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft. That said, the Vikings may limit their starters when they come to Chicago on January 8. The Eagles are nearly a lock to secure the NFC’s number-one seed. Minnesota needs a combination of two wins and two Philadelphia losses to earn a postseason bye.
Draft and playoff seeds mean little to Eberflus, and he wants to win both contests. The Bears are 1-7 in one-score games this season and have struggled a great deal to finish.
“I would see value in that because we have to learn how to finish,” Eberflus said. “We were at the game yesterday, or two days ago, but you saw it, right? It was the fourth quarter, eight minutes to go, it was 21-13, we got the ball and we’ve got to learn how to finish. We’ve also got to learn how to finish there. I know when it was 21-10, of course then we didn’t get the replay on the fourth down. Right there on the fourth-and-three decision, we went for it, and they called it short. Two plays later we intercepted it and then we end up getting a field goal out of that drive.
“[The players] are getting close to really understanding how to finish the game and you finish with game-defining execution. That’s what you finish with. You finish in those moments that the plays when they matter in the fourth quarter, we execute. And to me, these next two games are just about that. Being able to execute in those game-defining moments, those plays that matter, and getting it done. And to me, that’s important going forward to the future.”
With that in mind, Chicago will live or die with Fields and the rest of their healthy starters seeing significant playing time. The head coach is definitely fighting for a 5-12 season. Eberflus is therefore willing to let the draft take care of itself come April.