Is the Bears' remaining schedule easier than it appears?

Is the Bears' remaining schedule easier than it appears?

It's incredible how quickly storylines can change in the NFL. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Bears had one of the most challenging (if not the most challenging) remaining schedules in the NFL. But is that really the case?

It sure doesn't feel that way.

This Sunday features what should be a challenging test for the Bears against a New Orleans Saints team that's managed to survive four weeks without QB Drew Brees and amass a 5-1 record. Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater has been good enough and the defense has been fantastic. But what would this team look like without RB Alvin Kamara in the lineup? 

We might find out at Soldier Field this weekend. Kamara is trending toward missing the game with an ankle injury, which means the Bears will face the Saints without BOTH Brees and Kamara. That's not nearly as challenging of a mission as it was expected to be.

Then it's Week 8 and the Bears welcome the struggling Los Angeles Chargers, losers of two straight games, to Soldier Field. As is the case every year, the Chargers have been brutalized by injuries and are playing nowhere near the contender level anticipated from QB Phillip Rivers, WR Keenan Allen and RB Melvin Gordon. They're a bad team right now, and they won't get much better in just two weeks.

In Week 9, the Bears travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles and one of the NFL's worst all-around secondaries. Philly is 3-3 and struggling to find an identity. They've dealt with injuries, too, but man...that secondary is just awful.

Let's jump forward to Week 11 and the Bears' trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams. There weren't many NFC teams favored more than the Rams to represent the conference in the Super Bowl this year, but that shine has worn off. QB Jared Goff looks like a rookie again and the defense, even with the addition of CB Jalen Ramsey, just isn't the same. There's a reason why they're 3-3; Los Angeles is an average team right now.

And remember: The rest of the Bears' schedule includes the lowly Giants, the struggling Cowboys, the potentially Mahomes-less Chiefs and a few  NFC North matchups that are more than winnable.

Maybe this is nothing more than wishful thinking. But the Bears have a great opportunity to get hot down the stretch and build momentum for a second-straight playoff appearance.

Tarik Cohen was Bears' best offensive player vs. Rams

Tarik Cohen was Bears' best offensive player vs. Rams

The Chicago Bears offense was uninspiring once again Sunday night in the team's 17-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. While they could've had another six points had kicker Eddy Pineiro connected on two early-game field goals, it still wouldn't have been enough to win the most important game of the season.

After 11 weeks (10 games), the Bears rank 28th in points per game with 16.9. To put their brutal season in perspective, the New York Jets, who've been atrocious this year, are averaging 16.4 points per game.

Essentially, Matt Nagy has coached Chicago's offense as effectively as Adam Gase has coached the Jets'. 

Still, it's worth acknowledging strong individual performances in the midst of an overall letdown, and in Week 11's loss to the Rams, it was running back Tarik Cohen who stood tallest among his Bears' offensive teammates.

Cohen posted Chicago's highest Pro Football Focus grade on offense with a 74.3. He logged 45 snaps, 10 more than David Montgomery, and was effective when he touched the ball. He totaled 74 yards and a touchdown on 14 touches en route to being the Bears' most effective running back against a tough Rams defensive front. Montgomery managed just 31 yards on 14 carries.

Cohen hasn't had the kind of season that was expected from his role as a do-it-all offensive weapon; he's way behind his normal pace of production as both a runner and receiver. Cohen had 99 carries for 444 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 71 catches for 725 yards and five scores in 2018. He's on pace for just 186 rushing yards and 402 receiving yards this season.

Still, Sunday night's effort was a step in the right direction for him and a sign that he may continue to get more touches as the season comes to a close.

Nagy took hard look at his duties as Bears offensive play-caller, opts to retain that role

Nagy took hard look at his duties as Bears offensive play-caller, opts to retain that role

During the Bears’ 17-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Mitch Trubisky suffered a hip pointer, an injury that involved monitoring by the coaching and medical staffs from halftime on. Kicker Eddy Pineiro was missing field goals to the point of appearing to affect his coach’s decision-making. The offense was sputtering – again – and the defense, after some early takeaway success, appeared to be sagging emotionally. There were issues at tight end. Aaron Donald had to be accounted for and blocked.

All of which and more was on the head of Matt Nagy, now all of 27 games into being an NFL head coach, and who late in the game needed to stop and have a heart-to-heart, heads-together talk with his quarterback about how he was feeling.

The “and more” on Nagy’s head continues to include calling the individual plays for his bad-and-getting-worse offense.

So Nagy spent a chunk of his morning taking a hard look at whether defenses are on to him, presumably personally as well as schematically. And some of that hard look was whether he indeed should continue being the play-caller in the wake of the offense running 74 plays, netting 7 points and failing to gain 300 total yards for the ninth time in 10 games.

For now, after that look in the mirror, Nagy will remain in control of the play sheet.

“What I would say is this,” he said, acknowledging that if he felt he was the problem, “I’ll be the first to tell you, then we need to be better or if there’s a rhythm to something.

“I have zero ego and I have zero care of giving play-call duties to somebody else. I really do not care about that, and if that’s what we feel like from going through it that that’s what we need to do, then I would do that, I really would.

“But when you go through the tape and you look at things and you know schematically where we’re at and what we’re calling and when we’re calling it…. There’s without a doubt a few plays in that game that I would go back and say, ‘You know what, that’s our fault. We didn’t scheme it right,’ and that starts with me. And I need to be able to accept that and know how do I fix that. But we’ll do everything we can … we’re turning over every stone to get this thing right.”

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