First & Long: Should Bears Tank for Two? Winter is Coming, Herbert Expected to Return From IR

A debate has begun to brew that suggests on one side that the Bears should go into tank mode to ensure they earn one of the top two picks in next April’s draft. That, of course, would mean shutting down Justin Fields for the rest of the year. Most analysts feel that Fields has reached the peak of his development this year, especially because the team has little to play for.

That might be a shortsighted move, however.

Fields is a big-play quarterback, and there’s no denying that. But he still needs to work on executing the average plays. His footwork needs improvement, and he still holds the ball a little too long. Fields has improved on his checkdowns, but still shows a propensity to run before a play develops. That’s typical given his inexperience. Fields has started just 23 games across two seasons. He’s improved by leaps and bounds but still needs a little fine-tuning.

That said, he’ll do little in the next three games that will transition to the 2023 season. One thing that would transition to the next season is a devastating injury. Fields takes a lot of hits to the head, in case you haven’t noticed. He needs to learn to get lower when he goes into his slide. He also needs a little help from the officials.

“It’s just been too many times where I have slid and gotten hit too late and I don’t get any flags,” Fields said. “I’m going to be on the refs just looking for a call. When I think it’s a flag, I’m going to ask the ref. On Sunday, he said he didn’t think it was a foul. I’m just going to be begging for those calls and hope that I get one in the near future.”

Philadelphia defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh slapped Fields in the head after the quarterback slid and then proceeded to roll over him. Suh was not penalized.

Earmuff the kids for this next part.

“I felt like I was down and I just felt a 300-pound guy come on my back,” Fields continued. “Whoa, Pause.”

Please don’t make me explain the double-entendre.

The quarterback doesn’t understand how getting hit by Suh while he was on the ground didn’t warrant an unnecessary roughness penalty. It was a blatant non-call by the referee, something that has been happening throughout Fields’ short career. The last thing the Bears need is a concussion-prone starting quarterback.

In an NFL era that prioritizes protecting the quarterback, Fields doesn’t benefit from the same friendly flags that his peers do. After a Week 11 loss to the Falcons, rookie safety Jaquan Brisker demanded the NFL give Fields the same protection they afford other quarterbacks. When asked why Fields doesn’t get the same calls other signal-callers do, Brisker was at a loss.

“I do not know,” Brisker said. “Maybe because he’s strong, he’s physical. I don’t know. He’s a quarterback. I feel like he should get the same – it should be equal. Just like everybody else.”

The question therefore remains. Should the Bears err on the side of caution and protect Fields by sitting him? Nobody likes to use the “T-word,” but Chicago would be punting the rest of the season if Nathan Peterman took over for the final three games. The Peterman to Nsimba Webster passing offense doesn’t portend wins at the pro level. Or maybe any level, for that matter. In fact, it’s too blatant to pass for anything but purposefully losing. Say it out loud. Do you see what I mean?

Bears News & Notes

There’s a Flag…On the Play

Things that make you go “Hmmmmm…”

Scout Team

Film Room

Do we ever tire of watching Fields? We do not, do we?

Northern Exposure

  • Minnesota: The Vikings clinched the NFC North thanks to the biggest comeback in NFL history. Minnesota trailed the Colts 33-0 before erupting for 39 second-half points.
  • Detroit: The Lions are in the thick of the NFC wildcard race and their late surge has teammates “fully” believing in each other. With three games remaining, the Lions have a 29% chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN Analytics. Detroit hasn’t reached the postseason since 2016.
  • Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers believe they can win out and make the playoffs despite a 4-8 start. The Packers play the Dolphins in Miami on Christmas Day and then finish with home games against the Vikings and Lions.

Apropos of Nothing

Do we still call it “Bear Weather” if the team is 3-11? We do not, do we?

NFL News & Notes

Google/YouTube TV has emerged as the favorite to land the NFL’s “Sunday Ticket” package of out-of-market games, but the sides have not finalized a deal, according to multiple reports.

There are 19 teams that could be looking for a new starting quarterback next season, though the Bears aren’t one of them (a subscription to ESPN+ is required to access content).

Jalen Hurts was injured in Philadelphia’s win over the Bears, and that may give Patrick Mahomes an edge in the NFL MVP race.

The Ravens claimed wide receiver Sammy Watkins on waivers to replace starter Devin Duvernay, who was placed on IR. Watkins was waived by the Packers earlier this week.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is suffering from a spinal contusion that he says will not force him into retirement.

Thanks to the trade that sent Stafford to the Rams for Jared Goff, the Lions are in a position to get a top-five draft pick even if they make the playoffs. The Seahawks are also in a similar position after trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos.

The Rams tied the 1999 Broncos for the earliest elimination from playoff contention by the previous season’s Super Bowl winner. Coincidentally, the teams will play on Christmas Day, and their biggest television markets will be in Detroit and Seattle.

In what may have been the wildest NFL week ever, 12 games were decided by one score.

No team suffered a worse loss than the Patriots.

The Steelers and Jets are among the fringe playoff contenders who might be better off missing the postseason.

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust

  1. Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Giants is the only NFL player in the last 30 seasons (rookie or not) to have a game with 12 or more tackles, 3 or more TFLs, a sack, a forced fumble, and a score.
  2. Patrick Mahomes had an 87.8% completion rate on Sunday night, giving him the best completion percentage by a QB with 40+ attempts in a game.
  3. The Bears have lost 313 yards on 48 sacks this season, a significant reason they have been stuck at 32nd in the NFL in passing offense, now averaging 137.1 yards. For context, over the past 25 seasons, only 10 other teams have averaged fewer than 140 passing yards. The 2000 Bengals had the least productive passing offense in that span, averaging 121.6 yards. That team used Akili Smith and Scott Mitchell as its starting quarterbacks with Peter Warrick as the leading receiver. Two of the other nine teams resided at Halas Hall: the 2004 Bears (137 YPG) and the 2005 squad (125.1).

From the Podium

  • “We call [the three-technique] the engine that makes everything go because in the running game, you can’t run at the three and you can’t run away from him, so it’s hard to really dictate where you’re going to run the ball, number one, and it creates a lot of free lanes for your linebackers to run through. Typically your best offensive linemen are on the outside and if you have your best player on the inside, that’s certainly an advantage for you” – Eberflus
  • “Justin [Fields] has impressed the world. That’s not a question. With Justin, you never know what you’re going to get. I grew up watching Michael Vick and he moves just like him. You never know.”Byron Pringle
  • “[Fields] is extremely dangerous. And he’s got a good arm as well… He’s not just a one-dimensional quarterback. I think you have to look back a little bit and see some of the things we did against Lamar Jackson. They’re similar in a lot of ways. You do reflect a little on some of the things you’ve done in the past.”Leslie Frazier
  • “[Justin] can make dynamic plays. But we want to see the ordinary plays also — the check-downs, the easy passes. Take what the defense gives you. All those types of things that he thinks he needs to improve on.” – Eberflus
  • “I don’t plan on rushing for 1,000 yards every year. But I’m going to improvise and try to do whatever I can to put as many points on the board as possible.” – Fields

Running Out the Clock

Are we sick of this song yet? We are not, are we?

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