For a town such as Chicago, moral victories on the gridiron are hard to swallow. That’s what the 2022 season for the Bears has been: a season filled with baby steps and the promise of a better day. Sunday was another one of those games. The losing streak continued, but so did the positive vibes that quarterback Justin Fields almost has willed into being.
Losing seven games in a row feels awful, and we all know Bears fans deserve better. Loyalty rewards at stores this time of the year can be redeemed at some point. Fans, however, must jump out on nothing more than faith when it comes to their loyalty. It’s buried in hope that the team you cheer for will do right by you and create a winner.
Part of my job as an observer and columnist is to take in all the information, be fair and come up with an opinion about these teams. While my point of view is often a bit more clinical, I allow for the emotion of sports to help tell the story.
All of this is a preamble to me telling you that the Bears had a great day Sunday, despite their 25-20 loss to the Eagles. As a franchise, they took steps forward. Here’s why:
The second-year quarterback is the epicenter of hope when it comes to the Bears’ future. He continues to make plays that make you wonder whether he was born on Krypton. We’ve gotten accustomed to him dazzling with his feet, but he has improved as a passer. His fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Byron Pringle was a thing of beauty, and it had everything to do with how Fields has evolved.
Fields is one of the most effective runners in the league. After Sunday, he’s one of only three quarterbacks who have rushed for 1,000 yards or more in a season. Doing that in 14 games is absurd. Pringle’s touchdown showed exactly what Fields’ ability to run does to a defense. The Eagles’ Darius Slay, a talented cornerback, froze on the play, turning his attention to Fields leaving the pocket. Once he did, Pringle darted to the end zone, and Fields found him for one of the easier touchdown passes he has had all season. If Fields has unlocked the ability of running to open windows to throw, the rest of the NFL is in a world of trouble.
You’re going to have to take a leap with me on this. Despite Eagles receiver A.J. Brown racking up 181 yards on nine catches, Johnson had a good game. Brown was targeted 16 times, and Johnson had three pass breakups to lead the team. He made quarterback Jalen Hurts and Brown work for those yards. If you only looked at the box score, you’d think I’m off my rocker. But if you watched the game, you know what’s up. Johnson balled, despite what the numbers say.
The rookie cornerback had to deal with receiver DeVonta Smith. Smith did well, collecting 126 yards on five catches, but Gordon turned in one of his most complete performances. He made a play on an errant pass by Hurts and came up with an interception. He also had a fumble recovery that led to a touchdown drive.
The rookie safety stayed on track with another solid game.
While most of the analysis about the Bears this season has been about Fields’ development, auditions are going on elsewhere. Brisker, Gordon and Johnson played like long-term solutions in the defensive backfield. And that’s important.
Fields is out there doing his Neo in ‘‘The Matrix’’ thing, but he can’t do it alone. General manager Ryan Poles is obliged to identify other stars for when the Bears are actually competitive. The more players that are already here, the better.
You can’t take the NFC North and never give it back without a roster of good players. On Sunday, players who matter for the Bears’ long-term future had success.
Bears fans are wrapping their minds around the concept that the final score isn’t always indicative of growth. Next year at this time, the conversation must be different. For now, however, revel in the good and keep looking forward.
You can hear Laurence Holmes talk Chicago sports Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 670 The Score with Dan Bernstein.