ST. LOUIS – The 2015 season began badly for the Bears, with losses to three good teams (Green Bay, Arizona, Seattle), all 2014 playoff participants. Since then the Bears have righted themselves with three wins in their last five games and begun seeing results for believing that they were capable of winning.
And the 2015 season winds down with five games against teams that are a combined 16-25 with the 6-2 Minnesota Vikings among those.
“Well, we have an opportunity to be 11-5,” said tackle Kyle Long. “That's where we are right now.”
But now the very real possibility exists that the Bears could go from winning three of their last five to losing their next three, even if they play well, beginning with the St. Louis Rams.
Here’s the problem:
The Bears rank 25th in points scored. They’ve scored more than 23 points just twice in the last 18 games, and only once this season, against the doormat Detroit Lions with their No. 32-ranked scoring defense.
In the next three games they face the Rams, sixth in fewest points allowed; the Denver Broncos are first; and the Packers are 10th in points scored, averaging nearly a touchdown a game more than the Bears’ 20.3 points per game.
“[The Rams are] probably one of the top two [defenses] we’ve faced so far, if not the best one we’ve seen,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “Very tough front, linebackers are about as good as you can get even with (Alec) Ogletree missing time. The secondary is very challenging, match up very well with us. From the front to the back end, this’ll probably be one of our toughest tests.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The problem with points production is coupled with points-avoidance, and the Rams under defense-based coach Jeff Fisher follow the template of John Fox: run the football, avoid turnovers.
But the Rams simply have done a better job executing the template. They have been out-rushed in six of eight games and before last Monday night in San Diego had gone five straight games failing to rush for 100 total yards.
St. Louis, on the other hand, are third in yards per rush (4.9) and fourth in ground yards per game (135.5), with an offense based on rookie running back Todd Gurley, standing 10th in yards from scrimmage and the only running back averaging 100 yards per game (110.7).
“You've got to be in your gaps, you got to do a good job of gang-tackling; not leave it up to one guy,” Fox said. “Team defense. Anytime you play a pretty impact player, really at any position.”