The 16-13 win over Carolina was ugly – but a win is a win. The Bears scored only one offensive touchdown, but kicker Cairo Santos made all three of his field goal tries, and the defense had one of its best performances.
The Bears have nine days off before returning to action Nov. 19 against Detroit. Here are three things Eberflus said Friday after watching the film.
On Justin Fields’s potential return
Eberflus didn’t give much of an update on Fields. It’s notable, however, that Fields will continue to work closely with the training staff over the long weekend. Most Bears players have the weekend off, but the injured players will be given a little extra attention.
“All the guys that are going through the injury deal right now are working with our [training staff] to get back,” Eberflus said. “He’s no different than anybody else.”
“All the guys that are going through the injury deal right now are working with our [training staff] to get back. [Justin Fields is] no different than anybody else.”— Matt Eberflus, Bears head coach
Ultimately, though, the No. 1 thing Fields’ injured right thumb likely needs is rest. He returned to practice over the past week after going 19 days without throwing a football. The grip strength in his hand is the primary concern.
Eberflus hasn’t announced a starter for next week’s game in Detroit. The Bears likely will wait to see how Fields’ thumb responds next week. Backup Tyson Bagent is 2-2 as the starter the past four games.
On throwing on third down to seal Thursday’s win
With a three-point lead and the clock ticking toward zero, the Bears faced a third-and-7 near midfield. The Panthers had just used their final timeout. The Bears could’ve run the ball and punted, eating up much of the 1:26 remaining on the clock, and hopefully pinning the Panthers deep.
Instead, Eberflus and the coaching staff decided the throw the ball. Bagent connected with receiver Darnell Mooney for a tough catch in traffic, gaining just enough yardage for the first down to seal the win.
Bagent said after the game that his instructions there were to be careful with the football and, if the throw isn’t there, take a sack. A sack in that scenario keeps the clock running, and the Bears still could pin the Panthers deep with a good punt.
Eberflus thought the Bears executed perfectly.
“Just talking about it with [offensive coordinator] Luke [Getsy] and the play call, we really liked that,” Eberflus said. “We kind of knew what they were going to be in. Excellent route by Mooney, and what a pass by Bagent. Really good pass. Put it right on the money. Really good job of working forward in terms of getting the first down by Mooney. Took a big shot on there as well. Thought it was a really good job in terms of his courage being in there and concentration.”
The aggressive move paid off. The Bears knelt out the clock for the win.
On Velus Jones Jr.
The Bears made receiver and return specialist Velus Jones Jr. inactive Thursday. With receiver Equanimeous St. Brown coming off injured reserve, they were bound to deactivate a receiver.
Jones was the odd man out.
The mistakes have piled up in recent weeks for Jones. He dropped a sure touchdown two weeks ago against the Chargers and had a bad special teams penalty last week against the Saints.
Jones has had numerous chances to integrate into the offense, but mistakes keep happening. He has been a valuable kick return man, but the vast majority of teams are kicking touchbacks over his head this season, so his usefulness in that area has been limited.
Asked specifically about Jones, Eberflus wouldn’t give any indication about what the plans are moving forward with the 2022 third-round draft pick.
“Every week we decide who the best people are to come up for the game,” Eberflus said. “If somebody sits down because of penalty or inconsistent play and somebody comes up because they are more consistent, that’s where it is. We are always going to make the best decision for our roster to win the game.”