Bears need Velus to build off best game of young NFL career


CHICAGO -- The Bears were outmatched Saturday at Soldier Field, fading in the second half of a 35-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

The defeat marked the Bears' eighth straight loss. But it wasn't all doom and gloom on Christmas Eve for Matt Eberflus' club.

Rookie wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. made good contributions on offense and special teams against the Bills. Jones caught two passes for 52 yards, including a 44-yard strike from quarterback Justin Fields. Jones also racked up 113 kickoff return yards.

Jones called Saturday's performance against the Bills his best game in the NFL. It's difficult to argue with that assessment, given the rocky start the 25-year-old has had in Chicago. Jones muffed two critical punts early in the season and then had a costly fumble in the Bears' Week 15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The hope is that Saturday's showing was finally a step in the right direction.

"It felt good," Jones said after the loss. "I put my team in a good position. We were only down by one possession [at the time of the catch]. Definitely, I would say it feels good mentally to get those targets. I've been a deep-ball threat in my past in college. Hopefully, we can keep that going.

"I always had confidence in myself," Jones later said. "It was just the amount of time and when opportunity comes your way you make a play on it."

The 44-yard hook-up with Fields is a play that goes back to late in the summer. It also shows that Jones took his latest coaching point to heart. During the loss to the Eagles, the Bears ran a flea-flicker that saw Jones spring open off the line. But the rookie slowed down once he found himself open, and Fields' pass sailed long and incomplete.

Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert told Jones to keep the pedal to the metal, utilize his blazing speed, and Fields would find him. It all came together Saturday.

"That's a training camp play," Fields said. "He's fast and I'm glad he finally got to use his speed. Just that safety inside and the corner tried to fall off. Just threw it outside and he did a great job of going to get that ball."

As the Bears turn their attention to a critical offseason, continued growth from Jones over the last two games of the year should give them some confidence that he can play a more prominent role in 2023.

RELATED: Bills' plan to stop Fields shows giant offseason task for Bears

Here's the snap count from the Bears' Christmas Eve loss to the Bills:

Quarterback: Justin Fields 58, Nathan Peterman 5

Running back: David Montgomery 42, Khalil Herbert 26, Khari Blasingame 11

Wide receivers: Byron Pringle 54, Dante Pettis 46, Velus Jones Jr. 29, N'Keal Harry 28

Tight ends: Cole Kmet 59, Ryan Griffin 17, Chase Allen 2

Offensive line: Braxton Jones 63, Riley Reiff 63, Sam Mustipher 63, Michael Schofield 56, Larry Borom 42, Dieter Eiselen 28, Alex Leatherwood 1

Defensive line: Trevis Gipson 47, Justin Jones 44, Al-Quadin Muhammad 38, Armon Watts 36, Dominique Robinson 33, Mike Pennel 24, Andrew Brown 20, Taco Charlton 14

Linebackers: Joe Thomas 64, Nicholas Morrow 63, Matt Adams 25

Defensive backs: Kyler Gordon 64, Jaquan Brisker 64, Jaylon Jones 64, DeAndre Houston-Carson 57, Josh Blackwell 40, Elijah Hicks 7

Special teams: Adams 22, Elijah Lee 21, Hicks 18, Sterling Weatherford 17, Griffin 13, Blasingame 13, Houston-Carson 13, Blackwell 13, A.J. Thomas 13, Darrynton Evans 12, Trestan Ebner 12, Trenton Gill 11, Velus Jones Jr. 10, Nsimba Webster 7, Patrick Scales 7, Allen 7, Robinson 6, Watts 5, Gipson 5, Justin Jones 5, Morrow 5, Gordon 5, Thomas 5, Kmet 3, Reiff 3, Braxton Jones 3, Pettis 3, Schofield 3, Borom 3, Eiselen 3, Leatherwood 3, Cairo Santos 3, Harrison Hand 2

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