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An actual game-time decision? Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts on the Chicago Bears’ Week 12 loss, including that pregame QB chaos. – Boston Herald


10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears hung in there with the New York Jets through a rain-soaked first half Sunday at MetLife Stadium, then got blown out as injuries and miscues piled up in a 31-10 defeat. It was the Bears’ fifth consecutive loss and eighth in nine games.

1. Leave it to the Bears to have their quarterback situation appear to be in complete chaos Sunday morning.

They officially made Justin Fields inactive 90 minutes before kickoff, which was no surprise. The curveball came 38 minutes later when team officials disclosed Trevor Siemian suffered an oblique injury in warmups and No. 3 quarterback Nathan Peterman, elevated from the practice squad Saturday, would start.

Fasten your seat belt, right?

Peterman, whom the Bears originally signed May 11, has four career starts. The last one came against the Bears on Nov. 4, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y., where he threw three interceptions in a 41-9 Buffalo Bills loss. The dreadful showing led to Peterman being benched for ex-Bear Matt Barkley the following week and later released by the Bills.

He has thrown five regular-season passes since, all in mop-up duty in a 2020 game for the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s probably better now than he was when he last started for the Bills, but few teams have any interest in seeing their third quarterback in action.

With Fields out and Siemian in pain after throwing to receivers in what amounted to individual drills, the situation would generously be described as suboptimal. But a little more than 30 minutes before kickoff, Siemian came out and took snaps with the starters, and it became evident he might be able to give it a go.

Instead of a game-time decision with Fields, the Bears had a legitimate game-time call on Siemian, who would have served as the backup if Peterman had to play.

“Honestly, I’m more embarrassed getting the injury I got,” Siemian said. “You’ve got guys in there that are playing — what are we, Week 12, 13? — going through hell, and I have a non-contact thing show up. So, yeah, not ideal, but everybody is going through something at this point of the year.”

Coach Matt Eberflus did his best to maintain the storyline that Fields’ availability was a Sunday morning decision, but all Fields did was some light throwing (emphasis on light) with quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko overseeing. It’s not like the team’s power brokers were huddled watching Fields.

“We met with the medical staff and with Justin after that and then also with (general manager) Ryan (Poles) and myself,” Eberflus said. “We decided it was in the best interest of Justin and the Bears that he was inactive. It really comes down to one thing: strength. He didn’t have the strength to protect himself in the game properly and to perform the way that he wanted to perform.”

Fields didn’t need to toss the ball around for the team to know he wouldn’t have the strength and ability to protect himself coming off a shoulder separation last week in Atlanta. The Bears knew before they arrived in New Jersey that Siemian would be playing and then went through the little scare.

“Everybody had their own opinion on that,” Jets defensive end John Franklin-Myers said when I asked if the team had a lean during the week on which quarterback it would face. “You’ve got to prepare for everybody. Some people were saying it wasn’t that serious of an injury and others were saying (Fields) can’t even throw. We prepared for both of them. It was probably as split as you can make it. At the end of the day, a pass is a pass. The only difference is whether they’re going to run the ball 50 times or 30 times. Is it going to be 15 quarterback runs or zero quarterback runs?

“I didn’t care who they put out there. We faced Lamar (Jackson) this year. We face Josh Allen twice a year. Tua (Tagovailoa) has an element of running to his game. Mac Jones, despite what people say, is third-highest in scrambles on third down. Everyone can run now. Who cares who they put out there? At the end of the day, the quarterback has got to get hit by us. The more you run the quarterback, the more you put him at risk.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh said the pregame confusion didn’t mean anything.

“It didn’t matter once Fields was out,” he said. “We were playing a completely different game.”

As the Bears have rolled through quarterbacks for more than two decades. I never have seen them go from No. 1 to No. 3 without No. 2 getting injured in a game. Fortunately Siemian avoided that indignity, and he played pretty well through two series, leading a 71-yard drive that ended in a field goal and a 71-yard touchdown drive.

The Bears took a 10-7 lead on Siemian’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Byron Pringle 40 seconds into the second quarter. Siemian benefited from some big run-after-the-catch yardage by running backs David Montgomery and Darrynton Evans on the first possession, and he hit wide receiver Chase Claypool for a 20-yard gain off a play-action fake on the second series and then gave Claypool a chance to make a play on a deep sideline shot that resulted in a 31-yard catch. On third-and-goal from the 4, Siemian put a nice throw into a small window as Pringle was covered tightly by cornerback D.J. Reed.

Two possessions, two scores and Siemian was 7 of 9 for 120 yards, big numbers in a half for the Bears this season, let alone two possessions. It was pretty much all downhill from there.

The offense went four consecutive series without a first down, injuries started to pile up in a hurry (more on this in a bit) and the Jets had a field day with their No. 2 quarterback as Mike White completed 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. The Jets’ 466 yards of offense was the most the Bears have surrendered this season and the fourth time they have allowed 400 or more.

“That was tough,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “Obviously we had some guys go down. That’s tough. We kind of got our ass kicked in the second half.”

2. Attrition has become a real thing for the Bears.

And it has happened quickly for a team that entered last week as one of the healthiest in the league. Yes, the Bears have had some guys out here and there and offensive lineman Lucas Patrick will wind up missing most of the season, but they were the fourth-healthiest team through Week 11 based on Dr. Matt Provencher’s BUS — Banged Up Score. Provencher is the former New England Patriots team doctor, and while there are subjective ways to view the health of rosters, the Bears were mostly fortunate for the first 2½ months.

Missing quarterback Justin Fields (left shoulder) and half of the secondary — strong safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Kyler Gordon were sidelined by concussions — put the Bears in a tough spot Sunday. Then players started dropping.

Right tackle Riley Reiff went out with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. Defensive back Dane Cruikshank, who was playing on special teams and in the dime package because of injuries in the secondary, was lost to a hamstring injury that has plagued him off and on for most of the season.

Free safety Eddie Jackson was lost to a left foot injury in the second quarter. He hobbled to the medical tent before being taken by cart to the locker room. Jackson went to the turf on a 54-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson. It appeared to be a non-contact injury, and he wore a walking boot to the team buses after the game.

Wide receiver Darnell Mooney was rolled up from behind by safety Jordan Whitehead as Mooney was blocking in the third quarter. He couldn’t put any weight on his left leg as he was helped to the locker room, and NFL Media reported he likely will require season-ending surgery.

Finally, Larry Borom, who replaced Reiff, went out in the fourth quarter with an injury the team did not announce. Borom was sidelined previously this season with a concussion.

You can say “next man up” all you want — or listen to the coach say it — but the process of getting to that next man takes a real toll on the roster.

“Tough to see guys like that go down,” center Sam Mustipher said. “We understand it’s a violent sport we play. Things happen. Guys get rolled up on, take cleats, soft-tissue injuries, freak accidents. We know every time we’re on the field and we strap the helmet on, we don’t know who’s going to be walking off. You never want to see that type of stuff happen.”

It has been a while since I have seen injuries pile up like this in a game for the Bears, and this poses challenges on both sides of the ball and special teams for a team already using young, inexperienced players in so many spots.

“It’s part of football, man,” defensive tackle Justin Jones said. “That’s why we’ve got guys who are backups. As the next man up, you’ve got to make sure you are in your playbook and make sure you know what is going on (because) you never know when your number will be called. That is like the realest statement in the NFL right now. You’ve got to be ready. If you’re not, who knows what is going to happen.”

Generally, Matt Eberflus likes to say injury information comes after practice on Wednesdays, which is when the team releases the first injury report during the week of a Sunday game. It’s his way of concealing information from the opponent, and then Eberflus doesn’t meet with reporters until after practice on Fridays.

Perhaps he’ll have injury information to reveal Monday if some of these are serious. But who knows? The team waited weeks to announce Patrick had undergone season-ending toe surgery.

3. Eddie Jackson has proved his value to a front office that didn’t draft or extend him and a coaching staff that inherited him.

He leads the team in tackles (81), pass breakups (six), interceptions (four) and forced fumbles (two). He’s one of the few players on defense putting the “T” in Matt Eberflus’ “H.I.T.S.” system. The “T” stands for takeaways — and on offense for not turning the ball over.

It has been a real bounce-back season for the sixth-year free safety. Jackson nearly intercepted Mike White in the second quarter. That was a few plays before he bounced off wide receiver Elijah Moore, failing to wrap up and turning what should have been about a 20-yard gain into a 42-yard gain. It happens in the open field, but it has happened considerably less often to Jackson this season after a couple of years of sloppy tackling.

Seeing him get injured hit the locker room hard because, for a bunch of younger guys, Jackson has proved his value in meetings, as a teammate on the sideline and in more ways than you can imagine.

“He’s helped in the biggest way,” said rookie cornerback Jaylon Jones, who played Sunday with Kyler Gordon out. “He’s definitely the vet on the team. He also has an aura about him that is contagious. He has this confidence about him that just wears off on all of us. He’s gone out of the way to take that leadership role.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for that man. I can’t speak highly of him enough.”

Rookie safety Jaquan Brisker detailed before the season how Jackson had him over to his house to help Brisker study, prepare and learn. Jackson opened his home on Thanksgiving to teammates who didn’t have family in the area and had his personal chef cook for everyone.

“There were too many teammates there to count,” Jones told me. “Not just DBs. Offense and defense. (Darnell) Mooney, Justin (Fields), lots and lots of guys. Eddie is just a good dude. The food was amazing, and since a lot of us, we’re not from Chicago, so if you didn’t have family, ‘Bo’ just invited us over.”

Said rookie safety Elijah Hicks, who came in when Jackson was injured: “He’s been doing that all year. I’ve been over there to his place a couple other times to get haircuts, all kinds of stuff. That’s what he does for us. I was just praying for Eddie because he’s a baller, for sure, and I hope he’s straight.”

Jackson was the player who broke the team down after pregame warmups.

“His speech was, ‘Get a win by any means,’” Jones said. “We didn’t do it, but you can see the type of guy he is. All he wants to do is win. He puts his body on the line. Just respect a guy like that.”

4. There are plenty of questions for the week ahead, none bigger than whether Justin Fields will play against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Soldier Field.

“That’s a good question,” Matt Eberflus said after the game. “We think that he’s getting better every single day. He felt better every single day. At game time today, he wasn’t ready to go perform and protect himself. I suspect we’ll see how it goes. We’re going to leave it day to day and we’ll decide one day at a time. If he keeps progressing, then he’s got an opportunity to do so.”

Last week, Eberflus laid out three boxes that had to be checked for Fields to play:

  • He needed clearance from the medical staff — and there’s a difference between getting the OK to participate in non-contact practice and to play in a game.
  • He needed to express confidence to coaches he was good to go and could protect himself.
  • The coaches had to sign off.

“He was 0-for-3,” Eberflus said.

What are the chances Fields bats 1.000 this week? I don’t know. I do know the Bears have an open date after hosting the Packers, so they could give him three weeks off and have him miss only two games. Eberflus has said Fields will be back when he’s ready, but you have to imagine the Bears will entertain the idea of an extra week if they feel like he’s close but maybe not all the way there.

It’s important for Fields to play as much possible in the final five games without exposing him to a more serious injury. The offense took a major jump forward in a span of four games starting in late October. Who’s to say what can be done in three or four more games? You want to see Fields throwing downfield to Chase Claypool and hitting Byron Pringle on in-breaking routes. You want to see him throwing more to Cole Kmet.

A ton of growth needs to happen for the Bears passing game. I referenced NFL Films’ Greg Cosell earlier this season because he’s about the most measured analyst you’re going to find. Cosell shares what he sees on film, and he discussed Fields when he made his regular appearance on the “Ross Tucker Football Podcast.”

“This is one of the most fascinating sort of 30,000-feet questions now that’s going to be talked about by teams,” Cosell said, “particularly when it comes to the draft because there will be more college quarterbacks that come out that have movement ability and that are not necessarily precision pocket players but can provide this kind of explosive movement outside of structure or by design in the run game.

“So I had this conversation actually with someone this week. What have we learned this year about Justin Fields? And it’s a very legitimate question, by the way, and I’m not taking sides. I’ve been going back and forth in my brain about this for the last number of weeks because I have watched every one of Fields’ games this year because it’s a fascinating case study.

“By NFL standards — and what I am about to say is based purely on tape — their pass game is remedial and elementary. They run the ball with Fields both by design and he makes special out-of-structure plays. So can you play quarterback in the NFL like that? In other words, are we going to say that, ‘Hey, some quarterbacks are just different than what you know (as) the conventional’ … in other words, I’m just an old guy who is thinking about quarterback 20 years ago and that, ‘Hey, running is just as important or more important as passing for an NFL quarterback if that is what your skill set is.’

“That comes back to my question: What have we learned about Justin Fields this year? They don’t really run an NFL passing game in the strict sense, and we know he is a dynamic, explosive runner who is 230 pounds. It’s a philosophical question without, I think, a defined answer. I am sure there are coaches who will say, ‘Hey, we’ve learned nothing because at some point you’ve got to throw it from the pocket.’ There’s others who will say, ‘Hey, there are different ways to play quarterback and this is the way he plays quarterback.’

“The bottom line is they are scoring a lot of points and one could easily say, and there is absolutely no argument in response to this, ‘If they are going to score 30 points a game, then what’s the problem?’”

The problem right now is Fields is injured, and it’s the third time in a little more than 1½ seasons that an injury has forced him to the sideline. We know how dynamic he is as a runner, and every chance he gets to play is a chance for growth because game experience is exponentially more important than anything that happens in the offseason.

5. What’s the best way GM Ryan Poles can help Justin Fields in the offseason?

It’s an open-ended question with so many areas of the roster in need of improvement. You can make a case for upgrading the offensive line. Who would argue with trying to land a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver? There are few wrong answers. It’s a matter of opinion, and I would start with completely revamping the defensive line.

With a significantly better defensive line, would the Bears have taken a three-game winning streak into Sunday’s game instead of a four-game losing streak? They lost to the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons by a combined seven points. The offense couldn’t mount drives late in the fourth quarter to rally, and that’s an area where the Bears need to get better. But would they have been in similar predicaments in each game with a much better defensive line?

This isn’t an either/or discussion because the Bears need to make calculated decisions in the offseason to improve on both sides of the ball. The needs in the trenches are glaring. The defensive line entered Sunday’s game with 22 quarterback hits, and that includes three by Robert Quinn, who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 26. Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams entered the game with 18 QB hits by himself.

The Bears entered Week 12 ranked 29th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 142.6 yards per game, and 27th in sack percentage at 5.07%. The Jets ran for 158 yards — piling up 132 in the second half — and the Bears got one sack from defensive tackle Armon Watts and three QB hits: one each by Watts, defensive tackle Justin Jones and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson.

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota was 13 of 20 for 131 yards last week, and the Bears had one hit on him by middle linebacker Jack Sanborn on a blitz. The Falcons leaned heavily on play-action passing to get Mariota out of the pocket and keep him on the move, much the same way the Bears run their passing game with Fields.

“Where everyone looks at the stats, they know how many sacks you have at the end of the game,” defensive line coach Travis Smith said. “What they don’t look at is, ‘OK, how many opportunities did they really get?’ If you look at the (Falcons) game, we didn’t do a good enough job stopping the run. So if you watch that game and really look at it, how many true on-on-one opportunities or pass-rush drop-backs did we really get? Probably zero. There were a couple third downs on blitzes.

“We’ve got to stop the run in our room, make sure we’re working together, and then there won’t be as many play-actions where you’re playing the run and there won’t be as many setting edges when there are boots and that sort of thing. Now you get true rushes and, ‘Hey, win your one-on-ones.’ Whether we get two one-on-one opportunities or two true rushes or we get 50 of them, we’ve still got to affect the quarterback. The way those numbers go up is when you handle the run first, stop that run and then you’re going to get more opportunities in true pass-rush, drop-back situations.”

I don’t disagree with Smith, and this has been a recurring theme for the Bears. They’ve come out of a handful of games that, when you go back and look at it, there really weren’t many chances to get after the quarterback. That’s not so much an excuse as it is a reason Poles needs to add some talent to this group.

The Bears have to do a better job playing the run and forcing opponents into second-and-long and third-and-unmanageable, but they also have to be able to win pass-rushing opportunities when they’re presented and there’s little evidence they can do that right now.

Defensive end Trevis Gipson leads the team with eight QB hits, and half of them came in the first two games with three in Week 2 in Green Bay. Jones is next with five, and no other lineman has more than two. The Bears are tied with the Las Vegas Raiders for last in the league with 16 sacks. The Raiders, who already had their open date, have played one fewer game.

What the Bears lack are players who can be stout against the run and consistent threats to win one-on-one matchups to get to the quarterback. That can be true along with what Smith said. That’s why I envision Poles addressing the defensive line in free agency and the draft. This has become the most glaring area on the roster from my vantage point.

6. The Bears have lost five consecutive games for the third consecutive season and now own the second-worst record in the league at 3-9.

They trail only the hapless Houston Texans, who are 1-9-1. That means if the draft were based on the current standings, Ryan Poles would own the No. 2 pick. That’s rare territory for the Bears, who have picked second only three times. Ryan Pace traded up one slot to that position in 2017 to get Mitch Trubisky. The Bears selected Notre Dame quarterback Bob Williams with the No. 2 pick in 1951, one of the first shots they took at replacing Sid Luckman, whom they got with the second pick in 1939.

Three other teams have only three wins. The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7) visit the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night. Then there are the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos, who are both 3-8 and already traded their first-round pick. The Rams’ selection belongs to the Detroit Lions and the Broncos’ pick is owned by the Seattle Seahawks, part of expensive quarterback trades. Nine teams have only four wins, so plenty can change with six weeks and, for the Bears, five games remaining.

The crowd that’s all for the Bears losing every week to maximize draft position forgets one thing. Poles has to build a roster for 2023 largely based off the current team. Probably about 30 players from the 2022 team will make the roster to start next season. You know what kind of nucleus you’re likely to get from a team that wins only three or four games? A pretty bad one. The Bears have some players who, when surrounded by better talent, will raise the level of their play. But they don’t have the kind of difference makers needed to swing ballgames.

One factor that would make the team’s current downward trajectory palatable is if it creates a situation where Poles can auction off that draft pick for a huge bounty of picks to a team seeking to move up for a quarterback. Even then, you’d probably be talking about some picks in 2024 and maybe even 2025. A lot of work is needed to rebuild this roster, and the beating the Bears took Sunday is a reminder.

7. Trevor Siemian wanted to look Chase Claypool’s way, a point he delivered during the week.

“It was something we talked about this week,” Siemian said, “and as we got closer to the game, I just told him, ‘Hey, I don’t care who’s over there, I’m going to throw it to you.’ He’s a great player, got a big body, a huge catch radius, so just wanted to give him a couple chances.”

The first chance came on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line on the opening possession. Siemian tried a fade route to Claypool on the back side of the formation. He was in man coverage against Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner, a good bet to be the league’s defensive rookie of the year, and the pass was incomplete.

Siemian went right back to Claypool on the next series with a 20-yard completion and then a deep fade that Claypool pulled down for a 31-yard gain despite a pass interference call against Gardner. Justin Fields tried the one deep shot to Claypool late in the loss to the Lions that didn’t draw a pass interference call. It’s something the Bears need to do more. Allow the big body to turn 50/50 balls into 70/30 balls.

“I knew it was going to come at some point,” Claypool said. “As we get that timing down, we’ll start running it more. We want to keep them on their toes. We don’t want to run too many because we need to mix up the route tree.”

The Bears will need to account for the loss of Darnell Mooney. Claypool looms large, and Byron Pringle got more action Sunday. My unofficial count had Pringle with 30 snaps, and he caught Siemian’s touchdown pass.

“BP just running to the back of the end zone, made an awesome play,” Siemian said. “Dude is just tough as nails, he’s athletic, big catch radius, so made a great play on that. Made another great, tough catch at the end on the slant. He’s a fun player to play with for sure.”

Dante Pettis was the odd man out. I didn’t have him with a snap on offense until after Mooney went out. Velus Jones Jr. got sprinkled in a little with 13 snaps, about half at the very end. The Bears need Claypool to ascend, and Pringle should be ready to do more.

8. The Bears promoted Darrynton Evans from the practice squad to the 53-man roster Saturday.

Then he basically leapfrogged rookie Trestan Ebner as David Montgomery’s backup Sunday with Khalil Herbert still on injured reserve. Evans had nine carries for 34 yards and caught a check-down pass with a ton of room to work, gaining 33 yards.

The Bears claimed Evans off waivers from the Tennessee Titans in the offseason but cut him as they got down to 53 at the end of August. He was forced to bide his time on the practice squad.

“You just have to trust the process,” said Evans, who was primarily a special teams players in two seasons for the Titans. “My time in Tennessee and then when I got picked up here, it was just a breath of fresh air, new scenery, new team, just trying to come in and contribute. That’s all my main thing is — just contribute.”

I was a little surprised the Bears pushed Ebner down the depth chart. One thing we haven’t seen him get much of a chance to do is catch the ball out of the backfield, something he was really good at in college. Ebner has two receptions for 8 yards, and you have to imagine he will get a little more work in the coming weeks. But seeing Evans maximize his opportunities is encouraging.

9. Former Bears returner Devin Hester was named one of 28 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 last week.

It would be a stunner if he doesn’t advance to become one of 15 finalists when that list is revealed in early January. Hester was a finalist last year but missed the cut, and while that was disappointing for him, the fact he reached that stage in his first year of eligibility virtually ensures his day will come soon.

In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for first-year eligible players to gain induction. Only 19 players have done it in the last 11 years, a list that includes Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Charles Woodson in 2021 and Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis and Randy Moss in 2018.

According to Jack Silverstein, who does a nice job tracking the history of the selection process, every first-ballot finalist — as Hester was a year ago — since 2004 eventually has been inducted, with the longest wait six years.

Possible first-ballot selections this year include former Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was honored at halftime Sunday when he was inducted into the ring of honor at MetLife Stadium. Thomas and Revis stand out as the superior new names among the semifinalists, which includes 19 players who reached this stage a year ago. Defensive end Jared Allen, who spent a brief portion of his career with the Bears, is also a semifinalist.

Hester’s time will come because the Pro Football Hall of Fame has to include the greatest returner in the sport’s history.

“My argument for him is how he changed the game,” said Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who was in that role for the Bears during Hester’s prime. “They always talk about Hall of Fame guys, how they changed the game. He definitely changed the game. After Devin came into the league, everybody had to have a returner. Everyone wanted a guy like that because that is how we won games. We won games on defense and special teams. We proved you could do that.

“Everybody had to get a returner and then they had to get cover guys. Teams started getting guys for their roster that could run and tackle in space where their job was to cover kicks. Gunners became real important and then the emphasis on the kickers. They had to get better. They had to kick better. They had to get stronger legs so they could kick touchbacks. They had to get a better variety of kicks. There was a whole shift of personnel because you didn’t have big guys running down on kickoffs anymore.”

10. There’s a possibility the Bears coaching staff will have an opportunity to coach in a postseason college all-star game, but it won’t be the Senior Bowl.

Full NFL coaching staffs will coach in the East-West Shrine Bowl on Feb. 2 in Las Vegas. The game is being held at Allegiant Stadium the same week as the Pro Bowl Games, the newly imagined series of competitions the league created to replace an actual Pro Bowl game.

Veteran scouts told me the NFL asked the Senior Bowl to move from Mobile, Ala., to Las Vegas. The Senior Bowl declined. Now the league will alternate years it has full coaching staffs work the East-West Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl will have coaching staffs filled with assistants nominated by their NFL teams this year, and the formats will flip in 2024.

This new arrangement raised questions about where the most talented players would go, as the NFL clearly is supporting the Shrine Bowl. To this point, the Senior Bowl is “absolutely” expected to have better rosters based on the early lists of players who have accepted invitations, one scout told me.

If the Shrine Bowl operates in similar fashion to the Senior Bowl in selecting coaching staffs, the Bears figure to be a real possibility. Generally the two staffs represent the teams with the highest draft position that are not undergoing a coaching change. A team can decline the invitation.

The last time the Bears coached in the Senior Bowl was in 2017, when John Fox and his staff were in Mobile. Maybe the most notable thing was Fox using a timeout to ice Memphis kicker Jake Elliott — the Lyons graduate who has been the Philadelphia Eagles kicker for six seasons — late in the first half of that year’s game.

The Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl will overlap somewhat. The Senior Bowl will be played Feb. 4, two days after the Shrine Bowl. That’s another complication.

10a. Illinois running back Chase Brown became the fourth Illini player to accept a Senior Bowl invitation, joining three defensive backs: his twin brother, safety Sydney Brown; safety Jartavius Martin; and cornerback Devon Witherspoon.

10b. It’s a little early to start looking ahead to 2023 opponents, but so many have been fixated on the draft order, we might as well take a look at how the schedule is shaping up for next season. The Bears will play eight home games and nine on the road, which means there will be two preseason games at Soldier Field and one on the road.

They will play home games against their NFC North rivals along with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders and the corresponding finisher from the NFC West. The Bears are currently last in the division, meaning right now they would host the Los Angeles Rams, who are a half-game behind the Arizona Cardinals.

The Bears will play road games against their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and the corresponding finishers in the NFC East and AFC North. Right now, that would mean trips to face the Washington Commanders, who are a half-game behind the New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers, who are a half-game behind the Cleveland Browns. Close races are going on, but this gives you an idea of how it could shake out.

10c. Linebacker Jack Sanborn was credited with a game-high 14 tackles, 10 of them solos. He has 42 tackles in four starts since the Roquan Smith trade.

“I say this every week: I felt really confident about Jack going into the season even though he’s a rookie,” linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi said Thursday. “He had a good preseason. He had a good offseason and OTAs, had a good training camp. You always worry a little bit because he hasn’t had a lot of experience, but evidence was on film in practice and preseason that he could perform at a high level and he’s done that.

“He’s got really good instincts. You can tell he’s played linebacker his whole life. He sees the game really well. He’s smart. He studies. He asks a lot of good questions. He prepares really, really well. So it’s not like he has good instincts and he just shows up on Sunday. He works at it and he’s tough and he’s smart, so I’m really happy with Jack’s performance so far.”

10d. The Bears used punter Trenton Gill on kickoffs. He delivered two touchbacks and the Bears covered one kickoff after an 18-yard return.

10e. In a bit of a scheduling quirk, due in part to having a Week 14 bye, the Bears won’t play a road game in December. The only away game remaining is Week 17 against the Detroit Lions on Jan. 1 at Ford Field. The Bears will host the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills in December. The last time the Bears didn’t play a road game in December was 1964, when the NFL played a 14-game schedule and there were only two games during the month.

10f. The Fox Sports crew of Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth and Kristina Pink will call Sunday’s Bears-Packers game at Soldier Field.

10g. The Packers opened as four-point favorites at Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. With Aaron Rodgers ailing and uncertainty regarding Justin Fields, we’ll see what happens with this number.



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