EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When Justin Fields was included on the Bears' inactive list, it seemed like a slam-dunk that backup quarterback Trevor Siemian would start Sunday's road game against the Jets.
Only it wasn't, at least until it was again.
Siemian, who had yet to throw a pass this season before Sunday, sustained an oblique injury in pregame warmups. The Bears announced that third-stringer Nathan Peterman would start and Siemian would serve as the backup. But Siemian was ultimately able to start and played the entire game.
"He ended up straining his oblique," said coach Matt Eberflus. "Obviously, when you're a passer, that's a big issue to throw the ball down the field, so he came in and got some medication … He ended up performing really well. Nate was ready to go the whole time. Nate was made aware of that. He was ready to go at the same time."
In his first start of the season, Siemian completed 14 of 25 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a 75.2 passer rating in the Bears' 31-10 loss.
Asked if the oblique injury bothered him during the game, the veteran quarterback said: "A little bit, but honestly I'm more embarrassed getting the injury I got. You've got guys in there that are playing, what are we, Week 12, 13, going through hell and I have a non-contact thing show up. So, yeah, not ideal, but everybody is going through something at this point of the year."
Group decision: The Bears deactivated Fields after he tested his ailing left shoulder by throwing some passes in sweats during pregame warmups. Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles discussed the situation with the quarterback and the Bears medical staff before making the call.
"We decided it was in the best interest of Justin and the Chicago Bears that he was inactive today," Eberflus said. "It really comes down to one thing: strength. He didn't have the strength to protect himself in the game properly and to perform the way that he wanted to perform. That was really the gist of that right there."
Fields injured his non-throwing shoulder late in last Sunday's loss to the Falcons. Listed as questionable on the injury report after being limited in practice last week, the second-year pro was a game-time decision.
"The medical staff didn't clear him to play today," Eberflus said. "Justin didn't feel that he could protect himself and perform the way he wanted to perform. It's about mobility and strength in his left arm."
It's unknown whether Fields will be healthy enough to start next Sunday's home game versus the Packers.
"That's a good question," Eberflus said. "We think that he's getting better every single day. He felt better every single day. At the gametime today, he wasn't ready to go to perform and protect himself. I suspect we'll see how it goes. We're going to leave it day-to-day and we'll decide one day at a time. If he keeps progressing, then he's got an opportunity to [play against the Packers]."
Out of gas: After generating a field goal and touchdown on their first two possessions, the Bears were held scoreless the rest of the game. They punted on five straight drives—excluding a kneel-down at the end of the first half—and followed by turning the ball over on downs and throwing an interception.
"I just felt like we got our ass kicked, honestly," said tight end Cole Kmet. "They just played way better than we did. It was a tough one. They beat us pretty good there in the second half. Despite our record, I think we've sustained our effort throughout the game and I think we just kind of lost that a little bit there at the end."
The Bears defense also struggled, allowing the Jets to score 24 unanswered points with three TDs and a field goal to turn a 10-7 deficit into a 31-10 victory. The Bears trailed only 17-10 at halftime but were outscored 14-0 in the second half.
"The second half wasn't good enough for either side of the ball," Eberflus said. "It wasn't good enough. There's no explanation. There's no excuses. It just wasn't good enough. I told the guys in the locker room that we are better than that. We have to do a better job and perform better in the second half, and that's all phases."
Stepping up: With Khalil Herbert on injured reserve, third-year pro Darrynton Evans made the most of expanded playing time. He rushed for 34 yards on nine carries and turned a short pass into a career-long 33-yard gain.
Prior to Sunday, Evans had appeared in two games this season, playing two snaps on offense and 16 on special teams without touching the ball.
"It's always good to contribute, be out there with the rest of my teammates, be out there with the rest of the guys," Evans said. "That's what we live here for. You only get 17 opportunities to do this throughout the year, so with this being my third time, that's something I definitely cherish, being out there with them."
Evans spent the first 10 weeks of the season on the practice squad. He was claimed by the Bears March 10 off waivers from the Titans.
Selected by Tennessee in the third round of the 2020 draft out of Appalachian State, Evans played in five games as a rookie and one contest last season, all as a reserve, rushing for 61 yards on 16 carries and catching four passes for 38 yards and one touchdown. He also averaged 22.3 yards on 10 kickoff returns.
Maiden voyage: Receiver Byron Pringle caught his first touchdown pass of the season and the eighth of his NFL career, a 4-yarder from Siemian that gave the Bears a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
More involved: Receiver Chase Claypool was targeted a team-high five times and caught two passes for a team-leading 51 yards. It was his most targets and most yards in four games with the Bears.
On the Bears' first possession, Siemian and Claypool failed to connect on a fade pass into the end zone on third-and-goal from the 4. But on the offense's second drive, Claypool snatched the ball away from rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner for a 31-yard gain, setting up the Bears' only touchdown of the game. Gardner was also flagged for interfering with Claypool on the play.
"It was something we talked about this week," Siemian said, "and then as we got closer to the game, I just told him, 'Hey, I don't care who's over there, I'm going to throw it to you.' I think he's a great player, got a big body, a huge catch radius. He's a good player, so just wanted to give him a couple chances."
This and that: With Cairo Santos' 22-yard field goal, the Bears have now scored on their first possession in nine of 12 games this season—two touchdowns and seven field goals … Defensive tackle Armon Watts registered the Bears' only sack of the game late in the first half. It was his first this season and the eighth of his career … The Bears failed to produce a takeaway for the third time in four games and have generated just one on defense over that span … David Montgomery led the Bears in rushing with 79 yards on 14 carries.
Watch the Bears' Week 12 matchup against the New York Jets unfold through the lenses of our sideline photographers at MetLife Stadium.