ATLANTA – Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense had the ball with 1:47 remaining in the game, trailing by three points. As has been the theme over the course of this season, the Bears couldn’t capitalize in crunch time.
On the third play of the drive, Fields threw an interception on a tipped pass intended for running back David Montgomery, which essentially ended the game. The Atlanta Falcons picked up one final first down and ran out the clock on a 27-24 victory on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Bears have had chances for late-game heroics this season. In five of the last seven games, including Sunday, Fields had the ball in his hands late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game or take the lead. For the fifth time in that stretch, the offense couldn’t do it.
On a third-and-5 at the Bears’ own 30-yard line, Fields tossed a pass underneath for Montgomery. The throw was a touch too high and wound up tipping off Montgomery’s fingertips and into the hands of Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins.
“Yeah, I just overthrew it,” Fields said after the game.
The Bears dropped to 3-8 on the season and, with a Lions win, are now alone at the bottom of the NFC North. They have lost four games in a row and six out of their last seven.
To add injury to insult, so to speak, Fields needed to have his left shoulder evaluated for an injury after the game. On the first play of the final drive, he landed hard on his non-throwing shoulder as he was tackled near the sideline.
Fields, who was dealing with cramps in his legs for much of the fourth quarter, ran designed runs on both first and second down to open the possession.
Head coach Matt Eberflus said he and his staff would evaluate the end-of-game play calls on the flight home and on Monday morning.
“We’ve just got to operate in that two-minute situation,” Eberflus said. “We’ve got to execute in those situations. We’ve got to keep our eyes forward and execute.”
The Bears once again relied on Fields to do just about everything Sunday. The second-year QB rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He threw for 153 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 14-for-21 passing.
The offense was rolling yet again in the first half, at one point scoring 17 unanswered points, but then scored just once in the second half. Following a loss to the Washington Commanders in October, Fields said he was tired of being told he and the Bears are close.
Well, once again, they were close, but not quite good enough.
“Just keep getting better,” Fields said Sunday. “Take each day on its own and just keep working. Control what we can control. It’s in the past now. Keep preparing for the future. Keep getting better. I know the character of our coaches, our team, and they’re going to come to work and get ready to work.”
Center Sam Mustipher said the offense remains supremely confident when Fields is in the huddle. Mustipher noted that Fields has grown a lot as a leader this season, even if it’s not resulting in wins.
“I feel like we could’ve given him a cleaner pocket,” Mustipher said of the final drive. “He came around the edge a little bit. Just got to run him up the field, make sure he has plenty of time and plenty of room to step up and make the throw.”
The offensive line struggled in pass protection for much of the day. Starting right guard Teven Jenkins, who is nursing a hip injury, sat out for the second week in a row. Jenkins dressed for the game, but Eberflus said the team wanted to use him only in an emergency.
The Falcons sacked Fields four times and totaled five QB hits. Fields said he still needed to hear more from team doctors about his shoulder, but that “the pain right now pretty bad.”