The Bears sit at 6-10. They were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, and Matt Nagy’s future as head coach has felt like a forgone conclusion for weeks as well. Most ways you look at it, their Week 18 matchup against the Vikings is meaningless. Simply the last game in a string to close out another disappointing season.
But the Bears maintain this last game is not meaningless, especially to their rookie quarterback who hasn’t won a game since Week 5.
“It’d mean a lot to me,” Justin Fields said. “Ending the season with a win would be a great way to end things off. We're on a two-game winning streak right now. Making it three would be awesome in just getting that positive momentum into the offseason would be great.”
Fields recognizes that each opportunity to play is an opportunity to grow. Each one of those opportunities is valuable, and rare.
“You don’t get these moments back,” Fields said. “There’s teammates on my team who– I don’t know who may be here next year, so I’m just getting that one last game with those guys in and just not taking any of it for granted. Of course I could just sit out the last game and just get ready for next season, but every opportunity I get to play the game I love, I’m gonna go and do it, especially if I can do it and stuff like that when we have one more. I think it’s just important just to show what kind of guy I am to my teammates and my coaches.”
His teammates have noticed Fields’ effort to get healthy enough to play again, too.
“Justin hasn’t been here for two weeks, I know he’s itching to get back out there,” said David Montgomery. “It would be good for him. I’m excited to go out there and play with him.”
Fields hasn’t been the only man fighting through the end of the season, however. The whole team has played hard over the past few weeks, rather than running through the motions. It’s resulted in a couple of wins and has separated the team from the bottom feeders of the NFL. That’s made an impression on Fields, too.
“Just the kind of people we have on our team, just the kind of fight that they have,” Fields said. “It just shows that they want to be here playing. Knowing that we have no chance to get in the playoffs, it just shows you that we’re not just gonna try to get to the offseason as fast as possible. Guys still want to show up to work every day and get better and just really take every day as an investment. When you go to work, just invest in your craft and you’re getting better not only for the game coming up, but for multiple opportunities that come up even next year. Just kinda continue to get better each and every day.”
Some would argue that a loss vs. the Vikings would help the Bears more than a win, as it will give them a more draft position next April. But for Fields, who is more important to the future of the franchise than any upcoming pick, truly fighting for a win is an opportunity to improve on his on-field performance. This season, he’s completed 58.9% of his passes for 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In addition, he has 420 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and 12 fumbles. He’s had some incredible moments, like his fourth quarter against the Steelers or his 4th-and-2 touchdown scramble against the 49ers. It’s hard to say he ever put together a fully impressive 60-minute performance to lead the team to a victory, however.
If he can do that against the Vikings it would go a long way towards starting the offseason positively, so that he and the offense can hit the ground running next September.