Bear Down, Nerd Up: How does sitting out affect Justin Fields’ shot at Lamar Jackson’s rushing record?

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields runs the ball against the Detroit Lions during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022 in Chicago.

Justin Fields sat out Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets. That was for the best. Nobody is going to blame the Bears for playing it safe with their star quarterback.

His status for this week’s game against Green Bay is likely to remain in doubt, especially with a bye week coming afterward.

I would never advocate for Fields to play through an injury for a Bears team that, at 3-9, is toast. That being said, he still has a shot at history. Even after sitting out Sunday, Fields still has a great chance to best Lamar Jackson’s 2019 QB rushing record of 1,206 yards.

Since Week 5, Fields is averaging 98.1 rushing yards per game. If Fields were to match that average and play four out of the final five games of the season, he would still break Jackson’s record (in only 15 games played).

If he were to average his season total of 75 rushing yards per game (including the games early in the year when he wasn’t running as much), and play all five games, he would finish with 1,209 rushing yards – breaking Jackson’s record narrowly.

Whether he plays against Green Bay or not, the record remains a possibility for Fields. Here’s what other stats and figures stood out this week.

Historically bad: This Bears’ defense likely will rank up there with the franchise’s worst. They rank 27th in the league, allowing 25.4 points per game. They rank 20th in total yards, allowing 350 yards per game.

In the month since trading Roquan Smith, the Bears have allowed 31 points and 362 yards per game.

Only three times have the Bears ranked worse among their peers in points allowed per game: 1997, 2013 and 2014. The Marc Trestman years were pretty rough, defensively. The 2014 Bears ranked 31st, allowing 27.6 points per game and 377.1 yards per game (30th). That was one season after allowing 29.9 points per game (tied for 30th) and 394.6 yards per game (30th).

The 1997 defense under Dave Wannstedt was tied for dead last (among 30 teams), allowing 26.1 points per game, despite being decent in total yards (12th).

It’s safe to say that any remnants of Vic Fangio’s epic 2018 defense are long gone. In order to wipe the slate clean and re-imagine the Bears’ defense in Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defensive scheme, it likely was necessary for this defense to go backward before it moves forward. Even so, there are a heck of a lot of issues to fix.

As a team, the Bears are tied for dead last in the league with 16 sacks (tied with Las Vegas). Armon Watts sacked Mike White on Sunday, marking the first sack by a defensive lineman in weeks. The Bears’ defensive line has accounted for 8.5 sacks, and one of those was the now-traded Robert Quinn.

Current Bears linemen have accounted for 7.5 sacks. Across the league, there are 15 individual players with more sacks on the season than that.

Jackson’s a Pro Bowl favorite: Eddie Jackson’s Lisfranc (midfoot) injury is a bummer for the Bears’ defense. It’s also a bummer because he has been having a resurgent season. His four interceptions are tied for third-most in the NFL.

The Bears placed Jackson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney (ankle) on injured reserve Tuesday after both were hurt Sunday against the New York Jets. Mooney is out for the season, and Jackson is unlikely to return.

Jackson is the leading vote-getter for the Pro Bowl among NFC free safeties. The NFL released the first results from fan voting, and Jackson has received more than 54,000 votes. A return to the Pro Bowl would mark his third career Pro Bowl honors after 2018 and 2019.

The NFL released only the No. 1 player at each position in both the NFC and AFC. Geno Smith leads NFC quarterbacks with more than 70,000 votes. It’s unclear where Fields stands in the voting behind Smith.

Montgomery’s big day: Running back David Montgomery totaled 79 rushing yards on 14 carries Sunday to go along with 34 yards on three catches.

Montgomery surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage for the second consecutive game since Khalil Herbert went on injured reserve. Montgomery, a 2018 third-round draft pick, has 4,550 yards from scrimmage for his career. He passed Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka for 11th all time among Bears players. Montgomery is the seventh Bears running back to pass 4,500 yards from scrimmage and the first since Matt Forte.

Siemian’s hot start: QB Trevor Siemian threw for 116 passing yards in the first quarter Sunday. It was the highest total a Bears quarterback has thrown in the first quarter since Mitch Trubisky threw for 139 yards against Detroit on Nov. 11, 2018, according to the team.

Sanborn’s big day: Linebacker Jack Sanborn had 14 combined tackles Sunday, which marked the most by a Bears rookie in a game (tackles weren’t consistently tracked until 1994).

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.