LAKE FOREST – Bears quarterback Justin Fields completed passes to seven different targets Saturday against the Buffalo Bills. Six players caught at least two passes in the game.
With top receivers Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown sidelined by injuries, nobody really stood out as a pass catcher in a 35-13 loss to the Bills. Rookie Velus Jones Jr. led the Bears with two receptions for 52 yards.
On the season, 16 Bears have caught at least one pass and 18 have been targeted at least once. It has been a revolving door at the wide receiver position. On Saturday, Fields was working with receivers who – on paper – should be his fourth, fifth or even sixth options.
“Every game, even this game, it’s a learning opportunity,” Fields said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “When those backups do come in and they’re actually starting this game, it’s just an opportunity for me and them to grow during practice, grow during that week and me being on the same page as them.”
Mooney is out for the season after injuring his ankle in late November. Claypool has missed two games because of a knee injury but is expected back before the season ends. St. Brown suffered a concussion on the first possession of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 18.
The talk of growing a familiarity with receivers should be a discussion for the spring practice period or for training camp in August. The reality is, it has been a theme for the Bears during the last several weeks.
The players who caught passes Saturday included receivers Jones, Byron Pringle and Dante Pettis, along with running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, and tight ends Cole Kmet and Ryan Griffin.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus believes there is still value in Fields playing with that cast of characters, even if they might not all be around next season. The Bears were also without two starters on the offensive line in left guard Cody Whitehair and right guard Teven Jenkins against Buffalo.
In Eberflus’ eye, it’s all about juggling adversity. That’s something everyone needs to learn, the quarterback included.
“When you’re a quarterback, you’re going to have adversity during the course of the season,” Eberflus said. “You’re going to have some linemen out. You’re going to have some skill-sets that aren’t going to be there and he’s got to figure that out. We have to figure that out as coaches. We have to be able to figure it out and maneuver – how do we move the ball down the field when this person X is out or person Z is out.”
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St. Brown missed most of the Eagles game and sat out against the Bills. Without St. Brown and Claypool, Fields struggled to get the passing attack going. He threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns against Philadelphia, and then followed it with 119 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo.
Fields continues to put in extra work with the receivers he has at his disposal after practice. His focus over the past two weeks of the season is to play mistake-free football, he said.
The Bears take on the Lions on Sunday in Detroit, then square off with the Vikings at Soldier Field in the season finale a week later. Weird things can happen against divisional opponents late in the season. Fields and the Bears really want to end their current eight-game losing skid.
“It would feel great,” Fields said. “I know we’re on a losing streak right now, but I think winning this week and winning the last week of the season, it would be great momentum going into the offseason.”