NEW ORLEANS — Bears rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent showed a little of everything Sunday against the Saints, including promising playmaking ability and massive mistakes.
Mostly, however, Bagent underscored what has been the case for the Bears for what feels like forever: They don’t have an answer at quarterback and won’t be a winner until they do.
The Saints set a low bar, but Bagent couldn’t clear it in the Bears’ 24-17 loss at the Superdome. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the fourth quarter.
‘‘It was all on me, forcing a couple of plays there,’’ Bagent said. ‘‘You can’t afford to take plays off in the NFL because they’ll come back to bite you. You’ve gotta be sharp on every play.
‘‘Our team played extremely well, which is why it’s so embarrassing. A one-score game and you lose the turnover battle by that amount, it’s embarrassing. I’m just looking forward to building and learning from this experience.’’
Bagent also had an interception in the first quarter and receiver DJ Moore lost a fumble after a catch, pushing the Bears to five turnovers — their highest total in coach Matt Eberflus’ two seasons. The Saints, a middling team that hasn’t beaten a good opponent this season, committed none.
And now the Bears are back to hoping Justin Fields can save them. They’ve been down that road before.
General manager Ryan Poles said Sunday on the team-produced pregame show that there is ‘‘definitely’’ a chance Fields will return from his dislocated thumb Thursday against the Panthers. He missed the end of the game Oct. 15 against the Vikings and the next three starts but resumed throwing Friday.
The crucial question, however, is how much better Fields actually will make the Bears, and there has been little evidence to say conclusively he’ll vault them out of their doldrums. Fields has a bigger arm than Bagent and elite speed, but he has been inconsistent.
‘‘He’s operated in this offense and had some good weeks prior to [the injury], so we’re excited to get him back,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘And certainly . . . he can run the ball. That’s what he brings.’’
Fields put up big numbers in back-to-back weeks against the Broncos and Commanders, two teams with losing records that rank in the bottom four of the NFL in defense. In his other four starts, however, he averaged 146 yards passing, threw three touchdown passes and five interceptions, completed 58.1% of his passes and posted a 64.3 passer rating.
With however many games he has left this season, Fields will be out to make his case that he’s the Bears’ franchise quarterback and that they don’t need to spend a high draft pick on one. But he has been so far from proving it in the last three seasons that the Bears might be ready to move on regardless.
The Bears committed to Fields this season and traded out of the No. 1 pick, bypassing the chance to take someone such as C.J. Stroud, who went second to the Texans. Stroud set the NFL rookie record by throwing for 470 yards, as well as five touchdown passes, in a 39-37 victory Sunday against the Buccaneers.
Bagent, meanwhile, merely is trying to prove he’s an NFL player. And he looked like one for a while.
He had a 124.1 passer rating through three quarters, after which the game was tied at 17, but faltered in the fourth, when he went 3-for-11 for 18 yards with three turnovers. He finished 18-for-30 for 220 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions for a 65.3 passer rating — his lowest since jumping in for Fields. He also ran eight times for 70 yards.
‘‘You’ve gotta let it soak in for him; you can’t just jump on him right now,’’ Moore said. ‘‘We all know we lost the game because of the turnovers. He knows that.’’
Bagent took full accountability, saying three times in some form that the loss was ‘‘all on me.’’
Ultimately, the game was a sobering loss for the Bears, who sit 2-7 in a season that began with pursuing the playoffs but has swerved into humiliation on and off the field. Bagent’s story of rising from Division II has been little more than a diversion.
Nearly every week has brought a new distraction to Halas Hall. Last week, it was the firing of running backs coach David Walker for misconduct — something Poles explained, in part, by saying: ‘‘If you don’t meet expectations of how you move around this building and how you treat people . . . you don’t belong here.’’
There was no salvaging the week after that. A victory in New Orleans would’ve helped, but it hardly would’ve reframed how anyone looks at the Bears and their season. They’re still an egregiously disappointing team with zero certainty at quarterback.
And their latest loss illuminated all their problems beyond the quarterback.
For all the resources they’ve poured into their pass rush, the Bears went without a sack for the fourth time this season.
Every offensive lineman except Teven Jenkins committed a false-start or holding penalty. In the third quarter, Lucas Patrick and Braxton Jones got flagged for holding on the same play before Jones followed with a false start.
This was a game that was tied at halftime, and the Saints managed only 10 points on seven possessions from there. It wouldn’t have taken much for the Bears to win, but the entire fourth quarter was played on their side of the 50-yard line. They essentially did everything wrong, and that has been the case all too often this season.