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Bears in turmoil, but could see potential monster 2024 draft

Justin Fields Justin Fields - The Canadian Press

The Chicago Bears have been a team in turmoil this season, but the flip side of all this misery could be a monster 2024 draft.

Add to their dysfunction of Chase Claypool's exile and the Bears' biggest blown lead at Soldier Field. At this rate, the Bears will own the top two picks in next April's NFL draft, so their fans can at least dream about both USC quarterback Caleb Williams and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. coming to the rescue.

It appeared Sunday that we were witnessing not only the end of the Bears' longest losing streak in their 104-year history but a breakout performance by third-year quarterback Justin Fields, who suddenly looked like Josh Allen powering passes downfield, Patrick Mahomes putting just the right touch on his touchdown tosses and Jalen Hurts confounding defenses with both his arm and his legs.

Through three quarters, at least.

Fields, who completed his first 16 passes and finished 28 for 35, topped 300 yards passing for the first time as a pro, and when he pulled up and floated a pass to running back Khalil Herbert in the end zone from 2 yards out late in the third quarter, the Bears led 28-7 and Fields had his first career four-TD game.

Down 21 points with less than 20 minutes remaining, the Broncos looked as if they were going to lose the Basement Brawl with Sean Payton, matching Vic Fangio's franchise-worst 0-4 start in his first year as head coach in 2019.

No Bears team had ever blown that big of a lead at Soldier Field, although the Chicago did give up a pair of 21-point leads before, once to the 49ers in 1953 at Wrigley Field and again to the Patriots in 2002 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.

At that point, the Broncos' bedraggled defenders were stuck in a rut in which they'd allowed a whopping 18 touchdowns in their opponents' previous 24 possessions, not counting two mercy kneel-downs in their humiliating 70-20 loss at Miami the week before.

The Bears' first win since last Oct. 24 was in their grasp.

But the team mired in a month of dysfunction, which has been reeling ever since it made Jordan Love look like Aaron Rodgers (who was 25-5 against them) in a 38-20 loss to the Packers in the opener, found new depths in the fourth quarter.

The Bears' last four drives were a three-and-out, a strip-sack-scoop-and-score for Denver, a turnover on downs and a last-minute interception by safety Kareem Jackson.

Coach Matt Eberflus is getting roasted in Chicago for going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Denver 18 with 2:57 remaining and the game tied — and from the shotgun and after a timeout, no less — rather than send out his kicker for a chip shot field goal.

“It was a half a yard,” Eberflus explained. "So, I felt very confident about getting that right there.”

Why, then, the shotgun formation if only 18 inches were needed?

“Yeah, there’s a lot of plays that you can run there," Eberflus said. “You can run a bunch of different plays. That’s the play we chose. That’s the play we thought was the best at the time.”

Linebacker Alex Singleton shot through the gap and stuffed Herbert for no gain, and one play later, Russell Wilson put the Broncos in field-goal range themselves with a 48-yard strike to Marvin Mims Jr.

The Bears ended up losing for the 14th consecutive time — and they've allowed 25 or more points in all of those losses.

The Broncos left Chicago with native son Payton's first win with Denver. The Bears found themselves one of two teams who are sitting at 0-4. The other is Carolina, which traded its first-round draft pick in 2024 to Chicago.

If things continue on this trajectory for both teams, the Bears would be sitting pretty with the first two draft picks six months from now, a silver, if not golden, lining for a team mired in turmoil, including defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigning for what he said were health and family reasons on the same day Fields suggested he was being overcoached.

Claypool told reporters on Friday he didn't like the way he was being used, but Eberflus said that's not why he was a healthy scratch for the game. On Monday, Eberflus said Claypool won't practice with the team this week, a reversal from a day earlier when he said he expected him back in the building this week.

Eberflus also suggested after the game that it was Claypool's decision to stay away Sunday rather than attend the game with the other inactives: “We told him that it was a choice, and he’s at home right now.”

A Bears public relations employee later told reporters that the team had asked Claypool to stay away.

At this point, not even their messaging is on point.