Coach Matt Eberflus and Chicago Bears players spoke with reporters Monday at Halas Hall after Sunday’s 27-24 road loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Here are four things we learned about quarterback Justin Fields and the Bears’ Week 12 game at the New York Jets.
1. Eberflus said Fields is ‘day to day’ with a left shoulder injury.
Fields injured his shoulder when he landed on it hard while going out of bounds on the offense’s final drive against the Falcons. He had tests on it immediately after the game.
But Eberflus, who has been evasive with injury details this year, declined to provide much of an update, saying the Bears would reveal more when the injury report comes out Wednesday. He called the injury “day to day” but also declined to rule out the possibility it might be season-ending, which may or may not be just Eberflus being intentionally vague.
Eberflus acknowledged the Bears have to weigh the long-term effects of Fields playing, given that he takes a lot of hits as a frequent runner and that Fields said he thinks the injury affects his throwing motion a little bit.
“That’s a good point. Certainly, all those things have to be looked at,” Eberflus said. “When you’re looking at an injury for any player, what are the long-term effects of that and then where is it? Is it something that we can play through or is it something that we can have rest?”
If Fields can’t play against the Jets, the Bears would turn to backup Trevor Siemian, who has started 29 games since 2015, including four for the New Orleans Saints last year.
Eberflus said it wouldn’t take much for the Bears to transition to Siemian this week if needed.
“We would just lean on one side of the offense as opposed to leaning on the side that we expanded to, to a certain degree,” Eberflus said. “So that would be a pretty easy transition. Trevor is obviously a very smart individual, a very good passer, has a great grasp on the offense. He’s been here since day one. High functional intelligence. So we’ll be excited about that guy.”
Running back David Montgomery said it would be difficult to play without Fields, who has thrown for 1,642 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 834 yards and seven touchdowns this year.
“It’d be very different … losing Justin, who he is and what he means to this team and to this offense,” Montgomery said. “Yeah, it’s going to be super difficult to not have him. But you know, Coach (Luke Getsy) and the offense, we prepare all those guys the same. Whether it’s Nate (Peterman) or Trev or whoever it is, we’re all prepared to roll. Justin’s always ready to roll too.”
2. Eberflus said the second play of the Bears’ final drive was a mistake.
Getsy’s play calling on the final three offensive plays was a topic of debate Monday.
Fields’ injury came on a designed run that went for 1 yard on first down. On second down, after he clearly had injured his shoulder, Fields kept the ball for a 4-yard carry, slid to the ground and was hit by Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett, which appeared to cause more pain.
Eberflus said Fields was supposed to hand off to Montgomery on the play, but there was a communication error.
“That was supposed to be D-Mo going up the middle,” Eberflus said. “That was just miscommunication on that play between the halfback (and) quarterback.”
Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins intercepted Fields on third down on a throw that was too high and bounced off Montgomery’s hands as he was jumping.
“I could’ve come down and caught it,” Montgomery said. “Didn’t catch it and they intercepted it.”
3. When asked about Fields taking hits like the one from Jarrett, Eberflus said, ‘We’ve got to protect these quarterbacks.’
Eberflus said the Bears typically send in one to two plays each week involving hits on Fields for the league to review so they can get feedback on whether officials should have made a call or what Fields can do differently to avoid such hits.
When asked what Fields is supposed to do when he slides, gets hit and doesn’t get a call, Eberflus said: “We’ve got to protect these quarterbacks, and that’s including our quarterback. We have to do a better job in the league, the total league has to do a good job of that. These guys are special. All these quarterbacks are special. We’ve got to do a great job of protecting them when they are on the sideline and when they are in the open field.”
4. Jets coach Robert Saleh didn’t commit to starting Zach Wilson this week.
The Jets have their own quarterback issues after Wilson completed just 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards in a 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday. Afterward, when a reporter asked Wilson if he felt like he let the defense down, Wilson replied, “No. No.”
That set off a string of outside criticism about Wilson’s leadership.
On Monday, Saleh told reporters the Jets are “keeping everything on the table” when it comes to their quarterback. They could turn to Mike White or Joe Flacco if Wilson doesn’t start.