Apart from any specific player or statistic, one unavoidable part of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions looms ominously in front of the Bears, and there is no way they can avoid it: The fourth quarter.
Every game has one, and it has been the blessing of the Lions’ 2016 existence and the bane of the Bears’. The Bears talk constantly about the importance of playing a 60-minute game.
Before last Sunday’s 28-13 win over the New Orleans Saints, the Lions had trailed in the fourth quarter of all seven of their previous victories this season. A team that had traditionally found undisciplined ways to squander games has been finding ways to win them, according to a formula.
As Detroit Free Press columnist Jeff Seidel noted, “every single one of these games has looked the same: There was the drive, the field goal and the huge defensive play or, at least, some variation of those things."
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This is particularly relevant — and concerning — for the Bears, who have been the virtual opposite: Three times this season (at Houston, at Indianapolis, vs. Jacksonville) they have led in fourth quarters and lost those games.
The reasons lie in different phases, not simply cases of one, same unit failing.
"With us it’s not excuses, but we’re young, on our third quarterback, and that can affect it as far as experience and just being in that situation,” said coach John Fox. “To close the game, sometimes it’s just a mindset. When you have young players, it’s learning how to deal with adversity and learning how to deal with prosperity.”
The Bears did not outscore an opponent in the fourth quarter of any of their first 10 games this season, finally getting something going late in the Tennessee and San Francisco games, outscoring those two opponents by a combined 19-3.
“Being able to finish games, that’s something we’re learning and I think I saw examples of it last week in the San Francisco game and even going back to Minnesota, games where we have closed it, even in the first Detroit game, although we made that one interesting,” Fox said. “We found a way. So a lot of it’s experience under pressure and hopefully we’re figuring it out and can figure it out the last four games of the year.”
Beginning Sunday, presumably, against the NFL’s reigning comeback team.