After getting Christmas Day off, Chicago Bears players were back at Halas Hall on Monday to review their 35-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills and begin preparations for Sunday’s game against the Lions in Detroit.
Here are three things we heard from coach Matt Eberflus and his players.
1. The Bears don’t intend to shut down quarterback Justin Fields, Eberflus said.
Fields is playing through an injury to his left shoulder, which he separated in November, and he said he aggravated it in Saturday’s game. He called it a “nagging injury” that he will have to fight through in the last two games.
Fields also said his foot was stepped on in the fourth quarter, which caused the Bears to put in backup Nathan Peterman for the final drive.
But Eberflus said Fields is “good to go” as the Bears prepare for the Lions.
“He’s healthy,” Eberflus said. “He’s ready to go for this week.”
Asked if the Bears considered shutting Fields down for the final two games, Eberflus responded, “Absolutely not.”
Eberflus said the Bears want to use the games to get better and to test themselves against division opponents, including the 12-3 Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 8 at Soldier Field.
“We want to improve,” Eberflus said. “We want to see where we are. These last two games matter. … (It’s) very important to our football team to see guys compete against our division. It’s important for each man, it’s important for each unit and it’s important for our whole football team.”
2. The Bears are regrouping after their second-worst rushing output of the season.
The Bears have relied on their running game to fuel the offense most of the season. But they had just 80 rushing yards against the Bills: 62 from David Montgomery, 7 from Khalil Herbert and a season-low 11 from Fields.
“They had a couple spies on (Fields) in the passing game, for sure,” Eberflus said. “It could have been where the defensive lineman was popping out of there, or it was one of the linebackers. Dropped a couple safeties in also to spy on him that way.
“It was overall a good plan, nothing out of the ordinary. I thought that (Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier) did what he normally does — played good, sound, fundamental, fast football.”
Fields averaged 1.57 yards in his seven attempts. He might be able to regroup against the Lions, who allowed him to rush for 147 yards on 13 carries in their Week 10 matchup.
“The biggest thing obviously I’m seeing is mesh charge,” left tackle Braxton Jones said of the Bills’ plan. “So the D-ends are slanting inside and bringing the backer over top, but then they’re blitzing off of that as well. … They did get us on some of those safety pressures.
“And we’ve got to be a little bit better when we do have movement. It’s just stuff that we’re always going to see. We’ve just got to execute a little bit better.”
3. Eberflus has stayed connected to his mentors as he tries to keep perspective on a 3-12 season.
In his first season as a head coach, Eberflus said he finds it important to text or call mentors such as Tony Dungy and Gary Pinkel to listen to their wisdom.
The best bit of advice he has gotten as the Bears rebuild? “Just stay the course.”
“You’re doing the right things,” Eberflus said. “Your systems are sound and just stay the course. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Make sure the guys are doing the basics. Make sure they’re doing the rudiments of the game. Make sure they’re playing hard and just doing the fundamentals, the techniques the right way. You’re building a foundation … and that’s something you can stand on in the future.”
Eberflus was asked about the Denver Broncos firing first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday after just 15 games and whether that gives him a greater appreciation for what he has done with the Bears — and how difficult it is to succeed in the NFL.
“I do have appreciation for our coaches that are on this Chicago Bears staff and the players,” he said. “Because we’ve been focused and the morale’s been high the entire year. The guys have been going about their business, they’re playing hard, they’re playing physical and we’ve just got to do a better job of finishing the games and executing at those defining moments. But I am proud of those guys and how they’ve operated all year.”