Fields won’t play in Bears’ season finale

Published 12:15 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Justin Fields won’t get a chance to break the single-season rushing record for an NFL quarterback.

Fields will miss the season finale against the Minnesota Vikings because of a strained hip and Nathan Peterman will start in his place, coach Matt Eberflus said Wednesday.

Fields finishes his second season with 1,143 yards rushing, 63 shy of the record of 1,206 set by Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in 2019 during his MVP season.

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He was one of the few bright spots in a tough first season for Chicago under Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles. The Bears (3-13) set a franchise record last week at Detroit by dropping their ninth straight game and matched one with their 13th loss.

Fields hurt his hip during the blowout loss to the Lions. Eberflus said Fields’ hip was bothering him Monday and an MRI confirmed the strain. The team’s medical staff ruled him out for the game against NFC North champion Minnesota on Sunday.

Eberflus said it is “not a long-term injury” and Fields would have been sidelined even if Chicago had a playoff game this week.

“I asked him how it was today and he said it’s still real sore,” he said.

The Bears have a shot at the No. 1 pick in the draft. The only team with a worse record is Houston (2-13-1). Eberflus insisted holding out Fields was a medical decision and not an attempt to boost the Bears’ standing in the draft.

“I would just go back to our normal operating procedure,” he said. “So what is it? It’s the medical staff, so he didn’t clear that hurdle. So if he’d have cleared that hurdle, then we’d have to go to the next one, which is the coaches. Is he functioning the way he can function to protect himself, right? Then it’s the player. Does he feel good about doing that. So he didn’t clear the first one. So, that’s just where it is.”

With Fields breaking off one dazzling run after another, the Bears lead the league in rushing. But they are last in passing.

Fields is the only NFL quarterback with three touchdown runs of 50 yards or more in a single season. The former Ohio State star ranks sixth overall in rushing and is averaging a league-leading 7.1 yards per carry.

But it remains to be seen if he can develop into the passer the Bears need him to become. Chicago has made the playoffs just three times since the 2006 team advanced to the Super Bowl and has finished with a winning record once in the past 10 years.

Fields put up huge passing numbers and was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in each of his two seasons at Ohio State.

With a shaky offensive line and lack of playmaking receivers, Fields completed about 60% of his passes for 2,242 yards. He threw 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and was sacked a league-leading 55 times.

“You could see where he improved,” Eberflus said. “The scoring offense was hitting on all cylinders midway or a little bit past that. I think that he had a lot of lineup changes with the receivers and offensive line and the running back going out and all those things. But that’s certainly impactful to the offense. So you have to be able to look at that.”

Peterman is set to make his fifth NFL start and first since 2018 with Buffalo. He briefly looked as if he was going to get the call when the Bears visited the New York Jets in Week 12.

With Fields sidelined because of a separated nonthrowing shoulder, backup Trevor Siemian injured his oblique in warmups. The Bears announced Peterman — promoted the previous day from the practice squad — would start, only to reverse course. Siemian played through the injury and then had season-ending surgery.

“It’s an awesome opportunity,” Peterman said. “It’s been a few years. Still have gotten to play a lot of football in preseason or whatnot, but obviously a regular-season game is an amazing opportunity and I’m looking forward to it.”

NOTES: The Bears signed WR Equanimeous St. Brown to a one-year contract extension. … Bears matriarch Virginia McCaskey turns 100 on Thursday. … Offensive linemen Michael Schofield III (knee) and Teven Jenkins (neck) were placed on injured reserve as was DB Josh Blackwell.