The Bears are not going to make the playoffs in Week 18. They’re not going to play spoiler in Week 18 either, since the Vikings locked up the NFC North and a playoff berth long ago. The Bears always want to win, and they view every game as an opportunity to grow, but other than those two ever-present goals the Bears don’t have much to play for when they take on the Vikings in the last game of the season.
Except for one thing. One opportunity for the Bears to make history.
Justin Fields is 64 yards away from breaking Lamar Jackson’s single-season quarterback rushing record. The Bears know it, the Vikings know it. The question is, will the Bears make special game plans this week to help make it happen?
“Yeah, that’s important,” said Matt Eberflus. “It’s an important factor, but it’s not end-all, be-all. Certainly the health of our team is the most important thing.”
When Eberflus talks about the health of the team in that context, he really means Fields’ health. Fields has been battered and bruised throughout much of the year, is already fighting through a separated shoulder, and has often had to cope with cramps from running so much. He’s taken many hits over the course of the year and it appears they’re starting to accumulate, since we often see Fields on the sidelines after drives, getting treatment from medical staff while he reviews tape on his tablet.
The Bears cannot and should not put Fields in harm’s way for the record if he’s hurting, and Eberflus left the door open for the Bears to bench him for health reasons. If he is good to go, the Bears should do what they can to help him make history. There should be read options and delayed draws. We’ve seen funky personnel groups like Cole Kmet taking snaps under center to pitch to Fields, or David Montgomery in the shotgun running the read option, and we should see more of that, too. Luke Getsy should empty the tank to give Fields as many opportunities to get to 64 yards as needed. Then, even in a completely lost season, the Bears can go into the offseason with some positive feelings.
“That would be amazing to be part of something like that, as well,” said Velus Jones Jr. “I’d be so happy for him.”
“Just a confidence booster for him also, and for his team,” said Jaquan Brisker. “If Justin breaks his record, great. Happy to see people have success, especially your teammates.”