Why Fields believes winning now will have benefits later

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Many Bears fans want the team to lose the last two games of the season to improve their draft standing next year, but inside Halas Hall the team believes winning the last two games of the season can provide real benefits in 2023, too.

“There’s always something to play for no matter if we’re 0-15 or right now 3-12 or 12-3,” said Justin Fields. “My outlook on this game this weekend and today’s practice is just getting better, growing and learning. Especially it’s always good when we get to go up against a division opponent.”

That’s an unsurprising answer from any quarterback, but especially one who’s only started 24 games and is still getting more and more familiar in a new offensive scheme. But Fields also believes that a win or two down the stretch would be great for vibes around the team heading into the offseason and it would set the stage for next year.

“It’ll just feel good just ending a game with a win because we’re on a eight-game losing streak or something like that,” Fields said. “Yeah, just feeling good, just the amount of work we put in, and just the attitude of everybody in the building, just that positive mindset and going into practice and to the meeting rooms, just wanting to get better. So just the work that we put in during the week and it paying off with a win, that’d definitely be huge, for sure.”

If the Bears manage to get back into the win column over the final two weeks of the year, it’s likely that a strong finish will have something to do with it. It’s been a talking point all year since the Bears have had opportunities to win in the waning moments of the game nearly every week this season. Other than the Cowboys game and the first Packers game, they haven’t let their opponents walk all over them, even when they’re overmatched on paper. But when they’ve needed to put together one last scoring drive or make one last stop for the win, they’ve fallen short.

Matt Eberflus contends teams need to learn how to come through in those moments, and he believes the Bears are getting close.

“You finish with game-defining execution,” Eberflus said. “That’s what you finish with. You finish in those moments that the plays when they matter in the fourth quarter, we execute. And to me, these next two games are just about that. Being able to execute in those game-defining moments, those plays that matter, and getting it done. To me, that’s important going forward to the future.”

Michael Schofield is new to the Bears this year and he may not be with the team next year, but he believes in what Eberflus preaches, mainly because he’s experienced it first hand. Schoefield spent most of his career with the Chargers and was there when they turned things around to become real contenders. Part of that included a two-game win streak to end the year in 2017, even though the Chargers didn’t make the playoffs. Schofield said that momentum from that late surge did carry over into the offseason and the next year the Chargers went 12-4.

The comparison between the 2017 Chargers and the 2022 Bears isn’t perfect, since the Chargers weren’t in the middle of a rebuild and were set up to contend more immediately, but there are other similarities between the two clubs.

“I don’t know how many one-score games we were in, but we lost them,” Schofield said. “Same kind of thing. Next year, we won them all… We had injuries in ‘17, in ‘18 everyone was back healthy. We had our full roster and we were like, ‘We’re good to go now.’”

One of the Chargers’ wins at the end of 2017 was a 14-7 scrap with the Jets. They weren’t perfect in 2018 like Schofield said, but they were a much-improved 6-1 in those games. The Bears have similarly been bad in one-score games this year, with a 1-7 record. They’ve also been devastated by injuries. Winning one tight game won't turn them into a 10-win team next year, but it could be an important step as the franchise tries to pull itself out from the NFL basement. It could teach cornerstone players like Fields how to finish, and give the team confidence that they’ll be able to contend when they’re closer to full health. It can help the team learn to win when it feels like the deck is stacked against them, too.

“It’s never going to be perfect so when you do hit that adversity or when you do hit that point in the game where something went wrong, the only answer is to just keep your head down, keep going and keep fighting and keep playing each play out and keep going,” said Fields. “You can’t worry about what happened last game or the last drive. You’ve got to move and just say ‘F it’ and go play.”

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