The 2022 regular season has mercifully come to an end for the Chicago Bears, and it featured one more loss that had significant ramifications. The Bears fell 29-13 to the Minnesota Vikings, losing their 10th game in a row. But this loss, coupled with a win by the Houston Texans, gave the Bears the top selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.
As far as the actual game goes, the Bears pulled out all the stops to ensure they wouldn’t win. Justin Fields was out due to a hip injury, so head coach Matt Eberflus rolled with two quarterbacks. Nathan Peterman got the start and Tim Boyle shuffled in throughout the day. Neither was particularly effective, but it didn’t matter as the defense was carved up by the Vikings starters before they exited the game to rest up for the postseason.
With the final loss of the season, the Bears finish 3-14 but have numerous possibilities that await this offseason. Here are our takeaways from Sunday’s game.
1. This was the most necessary loss in Bears modern history
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JANUARY 08: Head coach Matt Eberflus of the Chicago Bears talks with general manager Ryan Poles prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on January 08, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
No Bears loss has ever done more good for the franchise as a whole than the one we witnessed during Week 18 of the 2022 NFL season. The Bears set a new record for most losses in a row with 10. They lost more games than ever before with 14. They were swept by their entire division. And yet here they stand with the keys to the offseason with the most cap space available in the league by a mile and a budding franchise quarterback who can seemingly break a game open at any moment. Now, thanks to a loss no one will remember in a year, they have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
A win against this Vikings team truly meant nothing in the long term. Fields didn’t play, the coach or GM wasn’t trying to save their job, and they couldn’t even play spoiler for a potential playoff-bound team. This was all about taking care of business to have the best chance possible of securing that pick. Thanks to some help from an old friend and the Houston Texans, that was achieved.
Losing stinks and it’s something Bears fans are more accustomed to seeing than not in the last 10 years. They had 623 losses in the entire history of the franchise coming into Sunday’s game. Loss No. 624 might be the biggest of them all. It’s been a franchise-altering season, one hopefully we won’t see again for a very long time.
2. Velus Jones' emergence was the lone bright spot
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JANUARY 08: Velus Jones Jr. #12 of the Chicago Bears reacts after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter of a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on January 08, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
There will be plenty of time for conversations regarding free agency and the NFL Draft. As far as the actual game goes, the biggest positive comes from Velus Jones Jr. Most of Jones’ rookie season didn’t go according to plan, but he began finding his groove over the last couple of weeks. The best play of his young career came on Sunday when he took a handoff 42 yards for a score, tip-toeing the sideline to miraculously stay in bounds.
The play was fantastic, but the one that has me more excited was his back-shoulder catch that he made in the first quarter. Jones adjusted to an underthrown ball by Peterman and made a tough catch, the longest reception of the day for the Bears.
It’s a play Jones probably doesn’t make in October or even November. He’s now had two impressive catches in three games, providing hope that he can be more than a fast gadget player on offense. If anyone needed a strong finish to the season, it was Jones.
3. Tanks for the memories
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JANUARY 08: Greg Stroman Jr. #27 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after an interception during the third quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on January 08, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Sunday’s game felt more like a preseason finale than a regular season finale given the sheer number of backups and practice squad players who saw significant playing time. In Week 1, the Bears’ starting secondary was Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker, and Eddie Jackson. In Week 18, it was Harrison Hand, Greg Stroman, Elijah Hicks, and Brisker. And that’s just one section of the team.
The Bears rolled with two quarterbacks throughout the game, one of which had zero chemistry with the wide receivers and wound up throwing two interceptions. The Bears were shuffling more guys into the game than they did in the Super Bowl Shuffle back in 1985. It’s not something you usually see, even when starters are pulled for rest. This was a tank job orchestrated by the higher ups and executed by many players who won’t be here next here.
The roster is about to undergo significant changes this offseason. With 26 pending free agents and a boatload of cash, things will look different with the roster come August. But for those players who played a role in the Bears landing the top overall pick on Sunday, thank you for playing an instrumental part in helping change Bears history.