Why Bears Find Value in Winning Against Lions, Vikings to End Season – NBC Chicago

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Why Bears find value in winning final games of season originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Spend any time on Bears Twitter, or chatting about Justin Fields and the team’s future around the office or at the bar, and inevitably you will hear the opinion that the best thing for the franchise to do to finish out this season is to lose. The argument is that with a shot to lock up either the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick in next year’s draft, the team should tank in order to add a potential superstar on the defensive line in Will Anderson or Jalen Carter, or receive a king’s ransom from a QB-needy looking to trade up for their guy. Some folks take that a step further and say the team should bench Fields for the last two games since he’s gotten banged up over the course of the year. They want to protect him from making any lingering injuries worse.

The Bears aren’t buying any of that, though. Matt Eberflus said the team has not considered shutting Fields down for the year, nor have they shifted their focus from winning in Week 17 to winning in 2023. The reason is that even though they’re locked into a last place finish in the NFC North, they believe there are real benefits to winning over the last two weeks of the season.

“We have to learn how to finish,” said Eberflus. “We’re at the game two days ago, but you saw it, right? It was fourth quarter, eight minutes to go it was 21-13, right? We got the ball and we gotta learn how to finish. We have to finish there.”

That’s been the story for nearly every loss this season. For 55 minutes or so, the Bears have played tough. 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 presented with opportunity after opportunity to put together one last scoring drive or make one last stop for the win, they’ve fallen short.

Fields has said over and over again that he wants to play and he wants to succeed in those moments. Earlier this month he succinctly explained the value of being able to finally make it happen.

“It’s the most important thing to us,” Fields said. “That’s why we play, is to win.”

The Bears are still building the foundation of their franchise to match Eberflus and Ryan Poles’ vision. They’re not just one or two players away from competing. They’re still in the thick of overhauling their roster and are simultaneously reshaping the culture around Halas Hall. But young guys like Fields, Braxton Jones, Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker will be here. That’s why it’s important to the Bears to win now. They want those foundational players to feel what it’s like to succeed in crunch time so that they can succeed more consistently moving forward. They want them to learn what it takes to get there now, so they have something to build upon in 2023.

“They’re getting close to really understanding how to finish the game, and 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.”

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