THE MORNING AFTER: April dreaming in mid-October?
CHICAGO – For anyone that has watched the National Football League for a long time can get a sense of when a season could be special and when it is not.
Ten years ago this past week the Bears’ gave fans a game that convinced them that the season ahead would be different from the others.
Facing the Cardinals in the new University of Phoenix Stadium, the Bears overcame a 20-point second-half thanks to two defensive touchdowns and a kick return score by Devin Hester.
The 24-23 victory made Arizona coach Dennis Green scream “We are who we thought they were!” So did the fans who saw the team win their first NFC title in 21 years a few months later.
Fans knew around mid-October that this was a team that could do damage in January and February. The way they play and some of other intangibles just work in their favor. Ten years later, that philosophy hasn’t changed but the mood certainly has.
Six weeks into the Bears’ 2016 campaign has taught fans one thing: This Bears team is headed nowhere fast.
Harsh? Perhaps considering the plethora of injuries that have robbed the defense so far this season while also hurting the offense as well. Yet as the season progresses the team, while at times competitive, have a few self-destructive patterns on the field that have this campaign headed toward one of the worst in recent memory.
That’s the feeling you get when you lose a game to the lowly Jaguars – who came in with just one win -after holding a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter. It drops the team to 1-5 on the season as the second year under John Fox threatens to be worst that the first of the team’s rebuilding effort.
“It’s the same thing I told the team. It’s not lack of heart, lack of trying. Our guys battled. We just don’t play well enough right now and that’s on all of us,” said a calm John Fox after the game on Sunday. “Everybody in there, coaches are giving their all, players are giving their all, we just got to play better to win games.”
Can they do so is the question. The last month seems to indicate otherwise.
For one the Bears’ offense goes dead once they enter the Red Zone under Brian Hoyer. While the offense has little issue putting up yardage (389 on Sunday) they continue to settle for field goals. Sunday they were 1-for-4 in the red zone after a 1-for-3 showing against the Colts the week before in a loss.
“If I had the answer, then we wouldn’t be talking about this. We have to figure it out and quickly,” said Hoyer, one of the many players without an explanation as to why the offense goes dark inside the 20. “We have a quick turnaround. We have to go and look at it and figure out what we need to do – whether it’s executing better, or going down there and scoring touchdowns. That’s what we have to expect of ourselves.”
“That’s what we have to expect of ourselves.”
But can the fans? A return of Cutler (if that is what the team or rooters want) may still be a few weeks away along with the return of outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. Kevin White is gone till the final month of the season at the very least and there won’t be much help on the way the next few months.
Is it time to actually start rooting for the team to lose more in order to secure a better draft pick? For the first time I thought about it on Sunday as another chance to turn the season around escaped the Bears on Sunday afternoon after one did the week before.
Maybe a lost season would give the team that Top 3 pick they’ve been missing since the decline of the team began late in the Lovie Smith era. Ready to start the #DefeatsforDeShone (as in Notre Dame QB Kizer), #WoefulforWatson (as in Clemson Quarterback Deshaun), or maybe even #Losing4Lamar (as in Louisville quarterback Jackson)?
Perhaps it’s a little early, but as of right now I’m taking suggestions.