LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Bears’ 31-26 collapse against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday was filled with confounding moments as Matt Eberflus’ club tossed away a 12-point lead in under five minutes.
One strange sequence that might have gotten lost in the initial wreckage of another Bears collapse was left tackle Braxton Jones getting pulled from the game in the middle of a Bears drive in the third quarter.
With the Bears trailing 14-13 with just under six minutes to play in the third quarter, quarterback Justin Fields handed the ball off to running back Khalil Herbert for no gain on first-and-10 at the Lions’ 28-yard line. After the play, Jones was pulled from the game, and Larry Borom entered. Jones went to the sideline and was clearly upset with the Bears’ training staff. He removed his helmet and slammed it into the bench before sitting down.
T.V. microphones caught Jones saying, “I can’t f—ing see,” while walking off the field. The Bears’ drive stalled, but Jones returned for the next series.
On Monday, the second-year left tackle explained the bizarre moment.
“In the play, I had rolled and tumbled, and I just got up way too quick,” Jones told Chicago media at Halas Hall. “Just got a little dizzy. I just needed a second. The refs took me off. I was evaluated. I was completely fine, honestly. I just think I was tired, needed 10 seconds to re-gather myself, but we didn’t have 10 seconds, obviously, the play clock was going down. Just needed to get off and get evaluated. I was completely fine. I knew I was fine. That’s kinda why I was frustrated, but no need to react like that, and I apologize for reacting like that. Just in the moment, I want to be out there for my teammates and everything like that. Nothing was wrong with me. I got evaluated and was right back out there playing.”
Jones said that “everything rushed to his head” when he popped back up and was “stuck” for a second. The Southern Utah product feels that he didn’t need to come out but understands his teammates and the officials were trying to do what was best for him.
“My teammates also were just trying to help me, telling me to get down and just make sure that I was all right,” Jones said. “In the mix of emotion and a lot going on and a close game there, just was frustrated. Honestly, i probably didn’t even need to come out, but they just wanted to check on me and make sure I was OK. The frustration just came from, I want to be there for my teammates. I’m a team player. I don’t like taking plays off. I don’t like coming out.”
Jones played 73 of 75 snaps in the Bears’ loss in Detroit. Per Pro Football Focus, Jones gave up four pressures in the loss.
This season was meant to be an important one for Jones’ growth as a franchise left tackle. The six-game absence due to a neck injury cost him valuable snaps, but Jones believes he can already see the difference in his play from a year ago. That doesn’t mean he’s satisfied, though. He has a lot of work to do to get where he and the Bears need him to be.
“Just based off of self-reflection, last year, I didn’t necessarily know how to gauge my play, and this year, I do,” Jones said. “I’m still not where I want to be. There’s just things I’ve gotta clean up, and I know how to clean them up.
“But I’m getting there. I’ve gotta be more strict on myself in some technique things, but other than that, I feel 100% and way better than I have in the last eight weeks, so based off last year, it’s not a true—like, I can’t compare just because I was a rookie. I was just playing, playing ball. This year, I know a little bit more. Based off my second year, I could be doing a little bit better.”
But where Jones’ most significant issue last year (anchoring against the bull rush) couldn’t be addressed until the offseason, the Year 2 improvements can be made in-season.
“To me, it’s discouraging that you don’t go out there and do it immediately, but obviously, some of this stuff takes time, especially when you have time out, but it’s super fixable,” Jones said. “I see the things glaring. Most of it’s pad level. Right now, when I put myself in the right position, I’m sitting on the bull rush, but I’m not even putting myself in the right position to sit on the bull rush and to help myself out, so I think that’s the biggest deal is putting myself in better situations.
“I just feel like I’m kinda shooting out of there, just trying to do too much, and it’s just putting me in bad situations, but when I put myself in the best situation, it looks the best, and I’m sitting on the bull rush just a little bit better than I was last year, but right now I just feel like I’m not putting myself in those good situations, and I’m gonna continue to work, and I’m doing the extra work before and after practice to try and get that done. I just think it’s gotta click on the field in the heat of the moment while I’m tired and stuff like that.”
Jones and the Bears must quickly put Sunday’s events in MoTown behind them. There’s no time to sulk in the NFL. Another opponent awaits Monday when the Bears visit Josh Dobbs and the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
That’s another opportunity for Jones to get better and another chance for this Bears team — players and coaches — to show they are building something worth continuing.