Bears cite 'experience' for keeping Justin Fields in lopsided loss

DETROIT -- Bears coach Matt Eberflus cited in-game experience as the reason he kept quarterback Justin Fields under center throughout the entirety of Chicago's 41-10 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Fields completed 7 of 21 passes and finished with 30 net passing yards. The Bears were outgained 504-230 in net yards and did not score on their final 10 drives. Despite the matchup devolving into a blowout, Eberflus maintained that the only way for Fields and the offense to get Chicago's passing attack on track comes from playing in games.

"It's important for us to be able to do that going forward this last game," Eberflus said. "That's why late into the game we kept Justin in there because we want to get that live experience. You can't really get that anywhere else, so that's why we decided as a staff and we decided as working with Justin, he said, 'I want to be in there.' Credit to him, he was, 'Coach, man, I'm still going out there. I want to be able to operate.' With his toughness and grit, he wants to go out there and compete, and that's what he did."

Fields rushed for 105 yards in the first quarter, the most by a quarterback in a quarter since play-by-play tracking began in 1978. He finished the game with 132 rushing yards, which accounted for more than half of Chicago's total yards.

Outside of Fields' 10 rushes, the Bears struggled to move the ball. Chicago averaged 2.5 yards on 40 additional plays totaling 98 yards.

Injuries contributed to the offense's struggles, especially along the line. After Teven Jenkins exited in the first quarter with a neck injury, backup Michael Schofield filled in at right guard but suffered a knee injury shortly thereafter and was ruled out. The Bears rode out the rest of the game with third-stringer Dieter Eiselen at right guard.

Pass protection was an issue throughout Chicago's loss. The Lions generated pressure on 56% of Fields' dropbacks and recorded seven sacks, their most in a game since 2014. Eberflus said the Bears considered the number of hits Fields took when weighing whether to keep him in the game, but ultimately the experience of being able to play through a rotation of personnel was deemed an invaluable learning experience.

"You can certainly look at it that way but like we said, Justin's got to be back there and operate," Eberflus said. "There's going to be different people out at certain times, and he's got to be able to operate, get rid of the ball when it's not there and do a good job of having poise in the pocket."

Fields said postgame that his hip "kind of got twisted up" on a rollout play in the first half that caused him to receive treatment on the sideline between series. The quarterback visited the medical tent briefly ahead of halftime but did not miss any game time.

"Anytime I get to play this game, I don't take it for granted," Fields said. "Anytime I get to play, I want to be out there, no matter who it's with, and the fact that I know that my guys are fighting for me, and they know that I'm fighting for them, that's all the motivation I need, so to be honest to you I don't care what the scoreboard is. If I have the chance to go out there and play, I'd do it every time, and I'm going to play my hardest, so there was full desire to play."

Chicago's losing streak extended to nine games. The Bears host division rival Minnesota in the season finale in Week 18, a game Eberflus said Fields will play in, assuming he's healthy.

"I just go back to what I just kind of tried to state is in-game experience, there's nothing like it," Eberflus said. "We're not going to get that anywhere else. Again, that's a good pass-rushing group, so I thought it was really good to get that experience. Now, did it turn out the way he wanted it to or the way we wanted it to? No, it didn't, but you've got to work through adversity. You've got to work through it and figure it out as coaches, as players. We've got to do a better job."