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After Further Review

3 things that stood out to Eberflus in Week 5 loss

Bears coach Matt Eberflus
Bears coach Matt Eberflus

After watching tape of Sunday's 29-22 loss to the Vikings in Minnesota, Bears coach Matt Eberflus discussed three things that stood out to him:

(1) Eberflus was pleased that Justin Fields played his best game of the season.

The promising second-year quarterback completed 15 of 21 passes for 208 yards with one touchdown and a career-high 118.8 passer rating. He also rushed for 47 yards on eight carries and had an apparent 52-yard TD run nullified by a penalty on receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette for an illegal block above the waist.

Asked what impressed him most about Fields, Eberflus said: "I would just say poise. He has great poise. He's always had good command of that huddle and the calls, that's for sure, but I just felt poise and him calm and confident back there."

“You can feel that Justin's comfortable where he is right now in the offense. He’s taking command.” Bears HC Matt Eberflus on QB Justin Fields

On the Bears' final five possessions of the game—beginning with a two-minute drill that produced a touchdown at the end of the first half—Fields connected on 13 of 15 passes for 174 yards and one TD and rushed for 36 yards on five carries.

"You can feel that Justin's comfortable where he is right now in the offense," Eberflus said. "He's taking command. I can see him in practice, and I've seen in the last couple weeks him taking control of route depths and talking to receivers: 'Hey, I want you to run it this way. Run it that way.' Whatever the detail is, he's right there on top of it and he's been growing in that way, and that's been really good."

(2) Eberflus was thrilled with how the Bears responded to adversity after falling behind, but he knows that the team must learn how to finish games.

After allowing the Vikings to score TDs on each of their first three possessions, the Bears turned a 21-3 deficit into a 22-21 lead early in the fourth quarter by scoring 19 unanswered points on two touchdowns and two field goals.

"I'm really proud of the players the way they fought in the second half," Eberflus said. "Certainly showed some resiliency after being down in the first half."

Unfortunately, Minnesota rallied for a 29-22 victory, marching 75 yards on 17 plays, capped by Kirk Cousins' 1-yard TD on a quarterback sneak with 2:26 to play. The Vikings converted all five of their third-down plays on the winning drive.

Trailing by seven, the Bears took over at the own 25 with 2:26 to go. They reached their own 48, but the Vikings sealed the win when cornerback Cameron Dantzler snatched the ball from Smith-Marsette at the end of a 15-yard reception.

"My message to the players—which will be the message to the players coming up in my team meeting—is that we have to finish and make plays down the stretch to win the game," Eberflus said. "And that doesn't mean special plays; you've just got to make the mundane plays and make sure that we execute in those moments. And then we'll have good results at the end of those moments."

(3) Eberflus lamented another slow start, particularly by the defense.

In five games this season, the Bears have allowed 11 touchdowns in the first half and only one in the second half. They've yielded 56 points in the second quarter and 50 in the other three periods combined.

"We obviously have to do a better job in the first half," Eberflus said. "We've got to execute better in the first half, certainly on defense. And that's been something that we have to address going forward, so we will do that."

The Bears coach revealed that he'll consider altering how the Bears practice, though it will be difficult to implement anything new this week, with no full practices scheduled in advance of Thursday night's home game against Washington.

"You can do a bunch of different things," Eberflus said. "You can change the tempo of practice. You can change the amount of reps. And we will do that. I've got to talk to the staff more about that. We'll have some time to talk after this game, to visit on that. But we certainly are going to do something to adjust how we are performing."

Asked if he'd consider changing the team's pregame warmup regimen, Eberflus said: "We're looking at everything. You have to look at everything. Sometimes it's just a mindset, it's a mentality. Right now we have a great mentality for the second half, coming out and playing tough and playing strong and having stamina and all those things we talk about. But we've got to come out fast and start fast."

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