The Bears answered one enormous character question in Week 4 with a win over the Detroit Lions, one that came after losing three straight to open this season and four out the last five to finish 2015. Point total (17), yardage gained (408), yardage allowed (263) — the specifics really weren’t important, good or bad.
The outcome and small things at crucial times in a game that wasn’t resolved until an onside kick was recovered in the final minutes were. Doubt can be an insidious invader of a locker room collectively and players individually, and every failure, even as players pointed the thumb rather than fingers, was going to build inevitable questions of game plans and other elements.
What the Bears found against Detroit was validation of foundation elements in their “program,” which can always come into question when any number of things don’t seem to be working. The Lions game was a “turnaround” of sorts, at the very least giving pause to a slide that threatened to take the 2016 season with it.
“When things don’t go in a flow, get a little rough, you’ve just got to find a way to lock in even tighter,” Bears left tackle Charles Leno said. “Study harder; practice harder, whatever it takes to get better and win, and that’s what we did [last] week, and I’m really proud of everybody.”
The win over Detroit loses virtually all of its luster if the Bears can’t build on it with a victory over a shaky Indianapolis Colts team, one that has started 1-3. But that will be a huge challenge even with the Colts struggling and coming off their London trip.
Two areas offer real intrigue, because they have significant implications for the remainder of the season. One is what Brian Hoyer has brought to the offense in relief of Jay Cutler — he is interception-free on all 97 of his passes — and the prospect of him retaining the job with continued solid performances. And that is precisely what a John Fox team is built upon offensively.
“[Detroit] wasn’t at all a great game but it was very efficient by all 11 guys that were on the field,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Ran the football well. Much better on third down. You take away the kneel-down, the 4-minute, I think we’re up around 45 percent [running plays], which is a huge improvement from where we have been. So it was very efficient.”
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The other is what the Bears defense is or could be. The handling of Matthew Stafford and the Lions bordered on startling if only because of how strong Stafford had been prior to last Sunday. The Bears have been so beset by costly injuries — Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Lamarr Houston — and the Dallas game was so bad that it may have obscured some growing positives.
“We’ve had three decent performances, one not-good performance,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “So I think they’re coming along. The revolving door at a lot of positions can set you back a lot, but guys have come in and done their jobs and we’ve played well as a unit.”
And the winner is...
“View from the Moon” does not like the Bears playing Andrew Luck in Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck is 21-9 at home for his career, and even though the Bears knocked him around pretty good and defeated the Colts in their previous meeting, that was the quarterback’s first NFL game, and it was in Chicago, against a Lovie Smith defense that had Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher. None of those individuals are making this trip, unfortunately.
The Colts have had problems on the offensive line but the Bears are among the NFL’s worst pass rushes. Fangio schemed with coverages to confound Stafford and got a little pressure, but not enough to beat Luck, and rookie Leonard Floyd has yet to step past his myriad injuries to make the kind of impact usually associated with No. 9-overall picks.
The 2016 season has unfolded almost exactly as “View from the Moon” expected in its preseason analysis, with the only mis-call being the loss at home to Philadelphia Eagles (and who expected Carson Wentz and the Eagles to be this good?). For some reason “View” deviated from its preseason course and picked the Bears to defeat the Cowboys in Dallas. That error will not be repeated here.
Prediction: Colts 24, Bears 14
View from the Moon 2016 record: 2-2