Bears

Chicago Bears notes: Justin Fields says passing numbers ‘don’t matter’

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) takes a hit from New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In what is becoming a trend, Bears quarterback Justin Fields had to answer questions Sunday following another frustrating performance from the Bears’ offense.

The Bears lost to the New York Giants, 20-12, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The offense failed to score a touchdown. Fields was 11-for-22 passing for 174 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

Fields’ 11 completions and 174 yards were both season highs, but aren’t going to wow anybody who looks at the stat line.

“Numbers don’t matter, I don’t think, in my opinion,” Fields said. “As long as we win, that’s all that matters.”

The sentiment is fair, but the problem is the Bears didn’t win Sunday, and they’re 2-2 through four weeks. Fields completed a 56-yard pass to receiver Darnell Mooney early in the game, which certainly helped his stat line, but it was struggles in the red zone that really did the Bears in. The offense reached the red zone three times in Sunday’s game and failed to come away with a touchdown.

“I think the run game and the pass game has to be good,” Fields said. “We just need everybody to do their job. Blocking, me making the right protection calls, routes at the right depth. Everything.”

Through four games, Fields is now averaging 117.5 passing yards per game. He has thrown two touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Head coach Matt Eberflus was just happy to see some progress from the passing game, at least in his opinion.

“I see positivity there in the passing game,” Eberflus said. “I think we ran the ball relatively well there, but I do see progression during practice and I saw progress today. That’s a defense that [creates] a lot of pressure, and we still got the ball down the field.”

Fields was sacked six times in the game.

Jones’ muffed punt: The Bears forced a punt with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Trailing by eight points, they were going to have the football at about midfield with one timeout remaining. They gave themselves a chance to tie up the game.

Until they didn’t.

Rookie receiver Velus Jones Jr. muffed the punt and the Giants recovered the fumble. Jones was making his NFL debut on Sunday. The third-round draft pick out of Tennessee was the Bears’ primary return man Sunday. He didn’t appear to play at all on offense.

His fumble on that late punt return all but ended the game.

“No one feels as bad as Velus does,” Eberflus said. “We’re going to rally our team around him. We told him that at the end of the game.”

Jones touched the ball four times, with two kick returns and two punt returns. Unfortunately, the fumble overshadowed his debut.

“Twenty-four hours,” Jones said. “We’re in the pros now. This isn’t college. It’s a job. You’ve got to just focus on next week and the task ahead. It’s a long season.”

Whitehair injury: The Bears lost starting left guard Cody Whitehair to a right knee injury in the first half. Whitehair left the game and did not return. He was walking on his own when he left the team’s sideline.

Without Whitehair, the Bears shifted veteran Lucas Patrick over to left guard and kept second-year pro Teven Jenkins at right guard. Prior to Whitehair’s injury, Patrick and Jenkins had been splitting reps at right guard. Patrick started the game at right guard, but Jenkins came in on the third possession. After Whitehair left the game, both Patrick and Jenkins remained in the lineup.

Whitehair is the most experienced lineman on the Bears’ roster. The 30-year-old veteran was a second-round draft pick in 2016. He was Pro Bowler in 2018.

If he’s out for an extended period of time, it will be a big blow for the offensive line.

New kicker: Kicker Cairo Santos missed the game due to a personal reason. The team signed veteran Michael Badgley on Saturday. He made all four of his field goal tries Sunday, accounting for all 12 of the Bears’ points.

Not bad for a guy who wasn’t on a team two days ago.

Badgley said he received a call late Thursday night that the Bears wanted him in for a tryout. He took a flight from California and landed in Chicago just after midnight Friday morning. After a quick few hours of sleep, he showed up at Halas Hall on Friday ready to compete for a job. He beat out two other tryout kickers for the position.

“These are the situations you kind of want to happen,” Badgley said. “It’s one of those things where you show up. You want to win the job and you want to be able to kick on Sundays.”

Badgley, who grew up in New Jersey, said his parents were at the game Sunday. He played three seasons with the Chargers before splitting time with the Colts and Titans last season. He briefly signed with Jacksonville in August but didn’t last long with the Jaguars.

Since then, he was working out and kicking in California, just waiting for a chance.

“You’ve always got to be ready, you never know when a call’s going to come,” Badgley said.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.