In the press box at Gillette Stadium before Monday night’s game against the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles told reporters what he saw as the next step for his young team.
“For the age of our team, there have been a lot of games where we’re knocking on the door to win games,” Poles said. “The next step is learning how to finish.”
Nearly five hours later, the Bears granted his wish, scoring 23 unanswered points from late in the second quarter into the fourth quarter to pull off a 33-14 victory over the Patriots.
The game had some historical significance beyond the Bears beating the Patriots for the first time since 2000 and the first time ever in New England. It prevented Patriots coach Bill Belichick from passing Bears founder George Halas for sole possession of second place on the all-time wins list, for a week at least.
But the significance of the game for this season was that Justin Fields led the offense to 390 yards — including 243 on the ground — and a season high in points.
Fields completed 13 of 21 passes for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception and had 14 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Khalil Herbert caught a short pass from Fields that he turned into a 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter. David Montgomery added a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Each rushed for 62 yards.
Bears kicker Cairo Santos made field goals from 42, 23, 38 and 50 yards to improve to 11-for-11 on the season.
The Bears defense had two first-half takeaways — rookie Jaquan Brisker’s first career interception off starting quarterback Mac Jones and Justin Jones’ fumble recovery — to help the team pull to a 20-14 halftime lead.
Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe burst into the game with two touchdown drives after replacing Jones, who started after a three-game absence due to an ankle injury. But the Bears shut out the Patriots the rest of the way.
Bears linebacker Roquan Smith and rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon added fourth-quarter interceptions of Zappe to help put the game away.
Zappe completed 14 of 22 passes for 185 yards with a touchdown and the two interceptions.
Here’s how the game unfolded.
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Wide receiver N’Keal Harry will make his Bears debut after missing the first six games with an ankle injury that required surgery in August.
Harry was cleared to play last week but wasn’t active after a short week of practice for a Thursday night game. Now with another week under his belt, he’ll debut against his former team. The Patriots drafted Harry in the first round in 2019 and dealt him to the Bears in June for a 2024 seventh-round pick.
Inactive for the Bears are defensive back Lamar Jackson, defensive lineman Kingsley Jonathan, tight end Jake Tonges and wide receiver Isaiah Coulter.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones will return from a three-game absence due to a high ankle sprain and reportedly is expected to start.
Jones was limited in practice all week, but the Bears were confident the Patriots offense wouldn’t change much whether Jones or rookie Bailey Zappe started.
Inactive for the Patriots are cornerback Shaun Wade, defensive tackle Christian Barmore, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, safety Joshuah Bledsoe, linebacker Josh Uche, running back Kevin Harris and offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn.
Lucas Patrick leaves with toe injury
Bears center Lucas Patrick was carted to the locker room in the first quarter.
Patrick went into the medical tent after the Bears’ second drive and came out limping a few minutes later. He left the field on a cart, and the Bears announced he was doubtful to return with a toe injury.
The Bears shook up their offensive line to open the game, moving Patrick from left guard to center. Veteran Michael Schofield started at left guard, and Sam Mustipher, who had been starting at center, went to the bench.
With Patrick out, Mustipher played center on the Bears’ third drive.
Halftime: 2 late scores give Bears 20-14 lead
Bears quarterback Justin Fields led two touchdown drives and the Bears defense had two takeaways to fuel a 20-14 halftime lead against the Patriots.
Fields completed 9 of 13 passes for 133 yards with a touchdown and an interception and also had 10 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown in one of his best halves this season.
His play helped the Bears overcome a strong showing by Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe, who led touchdown drives on his first two series after replacing starter Mac Jones.
The Patriots turned to Zappe when Jones, who was coming back from a three-game absence due to an ankle injury, threw an interception to Bears safety Jaquan Brisker on their third drive.
Zappe then led a 55-yard drive, hitting Jakobi Meyers with a 30-yard touchdown pass. Meyers was wide open and caught the ball short of the end zone, but he jumped up and dived across the goal line as safety Eddie Jackson got to him.
After Fields threw an interception to safety Myles Bryant on a tipped pass, Zappe followed with a 43-yard pass to DeVante Parker. Two plays later, Rhamondre Stevenson scored on a 4-yard run for a 14-10 lead.
The Bears answered with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Fields’ 25-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Herbert with 1:54 to play in the half. And after a fumbled exchange by the Patriots, Cairo Santos made a 23-yard field goal as time expired.
Fields’ 3-yard touchdown run with 2:11 to play in the first quarter gave the Bears a 10-0 lead. Fields completed a 19-yard pass to Equanimeous St. Brown and a 14-yarder to N’Keal Harry to get to the 19-yard line. It was Harry’s first catch as a Bear. David Montgomery somehow emerged from a pile of players to rush for 8 yards to the 3 to set up Fields’ run.
Santos made two field goals, a 42-yarder on the Bears’ first drive and the 23-yarder on the final play of the half.
The Bears defense got two takeaways: Brisker’s first career interception and defensive tackle Justin Jones’ recovery after Zappe’s fumbled handoff.
Matt Eberflus dropped enough hints during the Bears’ review of the first six games that it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were to make a change on the offensive line.
The most likely scenario is Michael Schofield taking over at left guard with Lucas Patrick sliding over to center and Sam Mustipher heading to the sideline.
There are also questions about the team’s punt returner duties. Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower declined to say Friday whether Velus Jones Jr. would retain his job. But Hightower made it clear an in-season competition has become necessary, listing receiver Dante Pettis, defensive back Josh Blackwell and, yes, even safety Eddie Jackson as candidates to jump in.
‘Just got to work harder’
The time off gave Bears QB Justin Fields time to assess an opening six-week stretch in which he completed 63 of 115 passes for 869 yards, four touchdowns, five interceptions and a 72.7 passer rating with 23 sacks.
“(I found) that I can play better, and I’m always going to be like that,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist, but it’s hard to be perfect. I can get better at everything regarding quarterback play.”
Latest news from Arlington Heights
Arlington Heights village leaders promised concerned citizens a say in the impact the Bears’ proposed NFL stadium development may have on the village if the Bears move ahead with redeveloping the former Arlington International Racecourse site.
Mayor Tom Hayes promised two residents who, at the Village Board meeting, voiced concerns about the football team’s proposal that they “and other members of the public will have a full and fair opportunity to provide input before any votes are taken.”
Miss anything this week? Catch up before kickoff.