Bears

Bears 24-20 win over Detroit – sloppy again, but pulse getting a little stronger?

Bears 24-20 win over Detroit – sloppy again, but pulse getting a little stronger?

Sometimes the absence of pain will just have to pass for pleasure. For the Bears, only losing once in the last four games and downing the Detroit Lions 24-20 on Thursday unofficially qualifies as a by-definition positive for a stumbling team that the league and NFC North had all but left for dead a few weeks ago.

The Bears won three of four to start this season, but that somehow felt more impressive, if only because the third of those wins was a throttling what has proved to be a very good Minnesota team — still the Bears’ only 2019 win over a team .500 or above. This current three of four… It’s true that you can only beat the team you’re playing, but…

Last week quarterback Mitch Trubisky was blunt in saying that their play in defeating the New York Giants was nowhere near good enough. After the Detroit game, wide receiver Anthony Miller, who led the Bears with nine catches for 140 yards, said flatly that their 10-point, 194-yard first half was “horrible.” So at least self-delusion appears to be in decline after a too-long run of it since the end of last season.

Schedule-watching

Still, the team has won three of four and and now has a full week to prepare for a Dallas Cowboys team that is reeling after a 23-15 at home to the Bills. The 6-6 Cowboys have gone the opposite direction from the Bears, losing three of their last four and finding their owner griping at and about their head coach.

“What’s good for us is all we can focus on is Dallas,” said coach Matt Nagy. “We talked about a silver lining. We still don’t know where that silver lining is… but after today, you can feel it.”

Maybe the silver lining is actually dark clouding over what is projected to be an insurmountable final four opponents of the season. Dallas has lost three of its last four. Green Bay has lost two of its last three, although the Packers should have little difficulty this weekend dealing with the Giants in New York. Kansas City has lost four of its last seven and has Oakland this weekend.

All that is to come. In the meantime, the Thanksgiving Day 24-20 defeat of the Detroit Lions pushed the Bears to 6-6 and another step back from the edge of the abyss where they found themselves at the beginning of this month at the end of a four-game losing streak. Not all that far, given that five of the six wins have been over teams with three or fewer wins, and Detroit (3-8-1) ranked in the bottom 10 in the NFL in yardage and points allowed.

But a few days earlier the offense managed just 19 points and 335 yards at home against a bad New York Giants group, so putting 24 points and 419 yards – the first 400-yard game in more than a year, since last Nov. 11 against the Lions – has to pass for progress.

“We finally had one of those games that felt good for the majority of it,” Nagy said.

It certainly has to count as that for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who completed 29 of 38 throws for a season-high 338 yards and TD passes to a wideout (Allen Robinson), tight end (Jesper Horsted) and running back (David Montgomery). Horsted and Montgomery were the second and third options, respectively, in the route progressions for those plays. “[Trubisky] did a lot of things today as far as making special throws at special times,” Nagy said.

Recurring discipline problems

The game was marked by the kind of sloppiness that has afflicted the Bears much of this season. They were assessed nine penalties for a total of 85 yards, fortunately not a deciding element only because Detroit had 10 walkoffs for minus-89 yards. If you’re going to be not very good, it’s important that your opponent is and performs worse.

“There’s no call for that,” Nagy said. "If there’s a negative to the game, the improvement we need to make, it’s the penalties.”

The defense for the second straight game needed a fourth-quarter stop (two, in fact, Thursday) to preserve a victory. Unlike in the losses to the Raiders, Chargers and Eagles, the once-elite unit made those stops, all part of holding Detroit to zero touchdowns on the Lions’ last nine possessions, after allowing touchdowns the first two times Detroit had the football.

The Bears did allow themselves another Club Dub get-down, regardless of record, opponent and all the rest.

“I know we’re 6-6 and all that but we wanted to enjoy this moment,” Nagy said, “and it felt really good.”

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Bears and Ryan Pace praise "underrated" (and highly paid) Leonard Floyd

Bears and Ryan Pace praise "underrated" (and highly paid) Leonard Floyd

I would make an argument that Leonard Floyd is the most divisive player on the Bears right now. Before you point out the obvious, you should remember that everyone's opinion on Trubisky is concretely set in stone. 

Floyd gets a lot of love from the All-The-Tools gang while garnering equal amounts of hate from people who swear by Pro Football Focus. He's an incredibly athletic, situationally-useful edge rusher who just can't really get to the passer. Is there value in that? Of course! How much? I don't know. But it's probably not $13 million. That's how much Floyd, who had a career-low 3 sacks last season, is going to make in 2020. It's a lot of money for an edge rusher who actually shows up in the box score. And it's certainly a lot of money for an edge rusher who doesn't. And it's surely a number the Bears are well-aware of.

RELATED: Will Ryan Pace's actions speak louder than his words

You would think this predicament might open the Bears up to some sort of contract restructuring or even a trade. Every second of media availability at the combine is just a chance for general managers to set smokescreens and it certainly doesn't sound like the Bears are trying to move on. 

"I think Leonard wants to be more productive as a pass rusher," Pace said on Tuesday morning. We want him to be more productive there too. He's close in a lot of areas when you look at the pressures and those things. He just needs to finish a little better on the quarterback. But I think when you're evaluating him, you have to factor in everything. His run defense. His ability in coverage."

"We consider him our "Sam" outside linebacker, so we value what he can do in coverage and think sometimes that goes a little underrated for what he does in that area, for a guy that's of his stature. Not many outside linebackers can drop in coverage like he does. So, that's a factor."

Maybe that's what the Bears WANT us to think! Maybe Pace is playing chess while we're all playing checkers. Or maybe he has a problem knowing when to cut bait with a high draft pick who hasn't panned out.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Heading into Year 3, Matt Nagy is still searching for the Bears' identity

Heading into Year 3, Matt Nagy is still searching for the Bears' identity

Matt Nagy met with media on Tuesday, so naturally the horrid state of his offense was brought up. When pressed on what's going to change, Nagy said some things that fans will probably like hearing.

"We know, offensively, we struggled in a lot of different areas but we're about fixing it," Nagy said. "If we're okay with what we did last year, then we're in the wrong place. And we're not. So, we gotta fix things."

And then he followed that with some things they may not:

“Yeah, I’ll be calling the plays," he added.

"As we go through this offseason here, we need to figure out offensively what is our identity. I think more specifically, too, in the run game. We struggled there. So, we got to figure out what our identity is and that's going to be an objective for us. And then last year you heard me say sometimes it takes five or six weeks. I feel like,, personally, that's always the case but there's a sense of urgency for us going into this year. It needs to happen sooner."

Though the notion of who's calling plays has become something of a strawman for 2019, the Bears have already addressed it plenty. Gone are offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride. (Helfrich and Hiestand were reportedly heavily involved in the team's run plan.) In their places, respectively, are Bill Lazor, Juan Castillo and Clancy Barone. They even brought on John DeFilippo to be the new quarterback coach after promoting Dave Ragone. 

"For me, as a head coach, what I’m trying to do is, I want to become the best possible head coach I could be," Nagy said. "And by doing that, having guys around me that I can delegate and give things to is important … we don’t have the run-game coordinator title but we have guys in Juan Castillo, Clancy Barone that have a great background in that. Bill Lazor can oversee, really, everything. We’re all having great ideas."

RELATED: Will Ryan Pace's actions speak louder than his words?

And while the Bears are fully embracing the idea of (too?) many cooks in a kitchen, there's still only one chef. This will still be Nagy's offense, for better or worse. With that said, after watching his professional mentor, Andy Reid, adjust the Chiefs' game plan all the way to a Super Bowl win, the art of the adjustment hasn't been lost on Nagy. 

"Coach Reid, in Philadelphia, ran a true West Coast offense," he said. "Not running that anymore. He’s been changing. So being able to change to your personnel—When we had Alex Smith, he brought in a lot of the RPO stuff. And now he’s got Patrick and they’re doing their things. So, to each their own. And it worked. But that also took a little bit of time, right? I remember coming in in 2013 in Kansas City and the year before, they were 2-14. It took time. Now seven, eight years later, it’s a Super Bowl. There’s a foundation there of players that has been created over time and that offense is not the same as what it was when I was there two years ago. That’s fun."

Here's hoping that Bears' fans have that kind of patience...

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