LAKE FOREST – Seven games.
In the NFL, next season is never guaranteed. Fields is expected to return this week after missing four games due to a dislocated right thumb. These will be the last seven games he has to leave an impression on general manager Ryan Poles before another momentous offseason.
In addition to Fields returning, right guard Nate Davis looks like he will return to the lineup, meaning the offensive line will be at full strength for the first time since mid-August. Additionally, running back Khalil Herbert could return, giving the Bears two quality backs between Herbert and D’Onta Foreman.
Heading into the final stretch of the season, the Bears are as healthy as they’ve been all season. They’re potentially healthier than they were in Week 1.
“We’re finally getting some guys back,” Getsy said this week at Halas Hall. “Yeah, we’re excited to kind of finally get some extra pieces back and have some depth there and everything like that. We’re excited to see, specifically, Nate. To get him back out there is going to be great.”
For the Bears, there are few excuses if the offense isn’t scoring points during these final seven games. Poles has continually backed Eberflus and his staff, but that could change if the Bears finish the year with only a handful of wins. There are winnable games remaining on the schedule. Eberflus and his staff need wins.
Does that put more pressure on Getsy to find results for the offense?
“No,” Getsy said. “I mean, maybe it’s fair for [the front office] to have to think that way and do that thing. But from our perspective, it’s about us getting better as a unit each and every day, and I think Justin’s a big part of us getting better each and every day. If he grows and gets better, then we’re going to grow and get better.”
Fields is looking at this game by game. As a player, he has to. He shouldn’t be thinking beyond the Detroit Lions this weekend at Ford Field.
The Lions will be the toughest test remaining on the calendar, and the Bears get them twice down the stretch. The Lions defensive front – led by Aidan Hutchinson and Alim McNeill – could give the newly healthy offensive line a tough first test.
With Davis returning to right guard, the Bears are pushing Teven Jenkins back to left guard (where he started the season) and keeping Lucas Patrick at center. That means veteran Cody Whitehair will be relegated to the bench.
Davis hasn’t played since injuring his ankle on Oct. 15.
“Nate’s a great player,” left tackle Braxton Jones said. “[He] comes in, does his thing. So having anybody back on the O-line or having the five that we started with, or whatever it is, is always a good thing.”
Jones said the Lions play in a manner that the Bears want to emulate. The Lions’ hard-nosed style under coach Dan Campbell has taken the NFC North by storm. At 7-2, the Lions have the second-best record in the NFC. Hutchinson gets a lot of the credit, but Jones is also impressed by McNeill and edge rusher Josh Paschal.
“All those guys play really hard,” Jones said. “I just respect the way they play the game and I think on Sunday it’s going to be a battle between two teams taking the fight to each other, and I think it’s going to be whoever takes the fight longer.”
I’m not here to prove anything to anybody. I’m playing for my teammates, I’m playing for the coaches, and that’s it. Everything else will take care of itself.”— Justin Fields, Bears quarterback
Beyond that, the Bears have a matchup with a feisty Vikings team and an impressive Browns defense. The Bears finish the season with matchups against the Cardinals, Falcons and Packers, all teams with losing records.
This feels like a pivotal stretch for Fields and Getsy. Yes, Fields is under contract in 2024, and the Bears have a team option on his contract in 2025. Still, they are currently on pace to have two top-five draft picks in April. If Poles wants to take his swing at drafting a quarterback, he may never have a better chance.
“I’m not here to prove anything to anybody,” Fields said. “I’m playing for my teammates, I’m playing for the coaches, and that’s it. Everything else will take care of itself. So, I’m not necessarily trying to prove anything to anybody. Just go out there with my brothers. And go out there and perform.”