In a season of struggle, Fields and the Bears were coming off a 31-28 defeat to the Denver Broncos in which they came closer to a triumph this season than any game prior, but likely left feeling more dejected than ever having squandered a 21-point third-quarter lead. Thus, when Chicago rolled to a 27-3 halftime advantage, but found itself clinging to a precarious 30-20 lead in the fourth quarter on Thursday night, nothing was guaranteed.
Not until Fields found Moore one final time for a 56-yard score. Insert Fields (and all of Chicago) relief here.
“Sigh of relief for sure,” said Fields, who’d only been able to lead the Bears to a couple of field goal drives in the second half after scoring on each of the team’s first-half marches. “I think we just had to reset. Of course, the drive where we had a false start, everybody was kind of jumping around a little bit, but I just went over to the guys and just said, ‘Calm down, we’re in great position. Defense going to go out there and do their thing.’ And they did. Got a stop, and of course, when DJ made that catch-and-run, it was pretty much game over by then. Heck of a play. Great catch. Great protection up front and executed well.”
Perhaps nobody associated with the Bears was feeling more relief when they walked into a winning locker room than head coach Matt Eberflus.
It’s been a hellacious season for a 2023 version of bad news Bears that was seemingly poised to turn the franchise around following a 3-14 finish last year. Chicago traded away the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a draft picks haul and the aforementioned Moore. They also added some big-money free agents such as Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards and Yannick Ngakoue. But on the field, the Bears’ defense (31st in points allowed entering Thursday) and offense (22nd in points scored entering Thursday) have struggled in unison.
Off the field, defensive coordinator Alan Williams stunningly stepped down after two weeks. Fields caused a stir with comments about being “robotic” perhaps because of his coaching, before walking it back. And wide receiver Chase Claypool has been inactive the last two weeks with his short and unfruitful time in Chi-Town all but over, it would seem.
On this Thursday night, though, Eberflus was reminded of why he got into this business in the first place.
“That’s why you get into coaching,” he said of walking into the locker room postgame. “I’ve been coaching 32 years, so when I started doing it, I was 22 and nine months. I was coaching the guys that I played with, so that was a little weird, but it’s fun because you get to see the smiles and the joy for their hard work. All the staff members, the coaches. It’s a lot of work that you put into this. We’ve gone through some adversity, but we learned lessons from that adversity. Those things harden you a little bit, so it’s going to be fun going forward.”
If there was any theme on this night from Eberflus, whose plane seat home will no doubt feel cooler, it was staying together, playing as a team. Through all tribulations, the arduous work finally paid off.
“Guys did a nice job of sticking together during our adversity and I told them that the reason we can do that is because of the relationships we’ve built in the building,” Eberflus said. “The guys have always been tight. The guys have always been determined and super excited about that.”
Prior to kickoff, news of the death of Dick Butkus, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, Bears legend and Chicago sports icon, was announced. It added a somber note to the game, but just the same added more reason for celebration of a Bears triumph at night’s end.
In the greatness that was Butkus’ career, he never made the playoffs over nine autumns.
These Bears are unlikely to do that either. Since 1990, there have been 161 teams that have begun the season 1-4 and only 11 have made the playoffs, per NFL Research.
On Thursday, that didn’t really matter, of course. If ever there was a team in need of a win it was this one.
In one 60-minute snapshot, the Bears showed their potential, had their highs and lows and finally, with Moore streaking into the end zone one final time, got that elusive first win of the season.
“It was just like we needed a win,” Moore said. “Get the mojo going in our favor, and it’s time to just carry that over into the weeks coming, so that’s the best thing.”