PHILADELPHIA -- After their eighth, and worst, loss of the 2017 season, coach John Fox offered this assessment of what lies ahead for his team:
“We have five games remaining and that will define our season, what we do in those five games,” Fox said.
That may not necessarily be the case in the wake of the Bears’ 31-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. The Bears’ season, barring some surge that doesn’t seem to be coming, will be defined by another sub-.500 record, a last place finish in the NFC North and the job status of their head coach.
The Bears needed to play their best game of the year to even sniff competing with the 10-1 Eagles, and instead had more penalty yards (36) than net offensive yards (34) in the first half. The team’s six rushing yards are the lowest total an NFL team has had since December 2014, and are the second-lowest total in franchise history (the Bears had one rushing yard against the Los Angeles Rams in 1952).
“Really s***ty,” summed up offensive lineman Kyle Long.
A month ago, the Bears were heading to New Orleans with nascent hopes of mounting a playoff push following wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers. Even if they split their next four games against the Saints, Packers, Lions and Eagles, you could see a path for a 5-6 team to snag eight or nine wins with some winnable games down the stretch.
But the Bears are now losers of four in a row, and those games against the 49ers and Browns shouldn’t be viewed as layups anymore. Even if the Bears do manage to beat the 49ers, Browns and Bengals, that only gives them a 6-10 record, the same Fox had his first year in Chicago.
“There comes a time where you can’t just leave things in the past anymore,” Long said. “So eventually, we’re going to learn from one of these things. Just gotta — I have no idea. Just gotta keep working.”
So Fox — and his players — will have to field questions about his job security, given the lack of progress seen by this team in 2017. Whether or not the team is still buying into Fox as a coach matters, of course, but even if they are, is that enough to keep the losses from piling up?
Fox brushed off a question about his job security after the game — “frankly, I don’t give a rip, that’s not why I do this,” he said — but at least one of his best players defended him in the locker room.
“If you want my personal opinion, I would love to have Foxy back,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “For many years, he’s one of my favorite head coaches I’ve ever had. I would definitely much enjoy him being back here.
“(I like) the way he handles the team, the way that he carries himself. Whether you’re having, as a player, an up day or a down day, whether it be in practice or a game, he’s the first person to be there and be say hey man, you know, this is why we have you here, you can be a good player, you can be better than you were at that moment. He motivates you properly, he works you hard. That’s what I would say.”
The bigger picture point here, though, is that the Bears are talking about their coach’s job security and how to grow from an undisciplined, sloppy 28-point loss at the end of November. And it may be difficult for this team to change that bleak conversation over the last five weeks of the season.