Bears

Bears looking close to home for answers, need 'situational football'

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Bears looking close to home for answers, need 'situational football'

Upon confronting a sorry mess in need of cleanup, legendary cartoon character Pogo once concluded, “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”

Sorting through their own messes of the recent past, the Bears have found their problems less on the opposite sideline but in the mirror.

“Absolutely, it’s always ‘us,’” said center/guard Matt Slauson. “For sure there are things the other teams do that have caused us to not execute fully. But it’s all up to us.”

It is a familiar, and in this case accurate, refrain from a team guilty of mistakes or execution shortfalls at precisely the wrong times, with games in the balance.

So what exactly is the problem? Maybe it’s something surprisingly simple.

[MORE BEARS: Bears get Shea McClellin back, but Matt Forte, Eddie Royal still out]

Because of injuries and system changes, one knee-jerk simplistic conclusion has been that the Bears are just not the talent equals of their opponents or the rest of the NFL. Possibly. But players see a different explanation.

Last year, in seven of their 11 losses, the Bears were nowhere near in position to win those games on last possessions, either with a defensive stop or offensive score. They were talent-lite, particularly on defense, and with a coaching staff that made the whole less than the sum of the parts.

Players are bought-in with coaching schemes and directives. So ...

The problem in some quarters of the locker room is not that the Bears aren’t thinking but rather that they are thinking too much at critical situations and losing their compass when it had been working perfectly fine up to that point.

“We have to learn how to play better situational football,” defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins said. “Whether it’s one person or everyone, we have to get that mentality where it’s always ‘next play.’ Never worry about what happened in the past. We’ve got to get our mindset right, and that will fix our problems.

“The way we’re playing, it looks like we’re thinking about not messing up. Playing cautious. Instead of just playing football. When we’re in the game, say, in the second quarter, we should have that same mentality when two minutes are left. Guys can get in the mindset of not taking chances. You’ve got to play exactly how it is in the first quarter and the fourth quarter.”

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Case in point perhaps: Against the Minnesota Vikings, running back Jeremy Langford dropped an easy flip from quarterback Jay Cutler that would have picked up a first down and sustained a possible game-winning drive.

An easy catch. Langford, who caught 39 passes his final two years at Michigan State, was targeted four times this preseason and caught three. Small sample size, but Langford has caught footballs before.

“You know, people made something of Jeremy Langford's drop at the end of the game,” coach John Fox said. “You know, it was just one play, and he had a lot of good plays.”

Langford said afterwards that he was simply too eager to get running with the football. What the Bears needed was simply the catch.

“We have to have better situational football thinking-wise,” Jenkins reiterated. “When there’s two minutes left in the game, we can’t be thinking like ‘It’s two minutes left in the game, what’s coming?’

“When I’m in the game, first, second quarter, I’m just playing, trusting what we were taught during the week. When we get in the two-minute (situations), we have to realize that it’s the same stuff they’re doing for the whole game. I think guys think too much. And I’ve caught myself doing that. And when you do that, you’re not sure about techniques, and that hurts you.

“Trust what you’ve been taught. Trust your technique. You gotta just go play football.”

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

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NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

The great Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Talladega Nights hit a little too close to home for the Bears in Week 7.

They came into Sunday at 3-2 at the top of the NFC North. After a 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots, they dropped to the bottom of the division.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 32-21 to improve to 3-3, leaving them tied with the Bears in the cellar.

The Minnesota Vikings’ 37-17 victory over the New York Jets jumped them to 4-2-1 overall and first place in the division over the 3-2-1 Green Bay Packers, who were off for their bye week.

The NFC North remains the most tightly contested division in the NFL, the only one with no teams under .500 through seven weeks of the season.

The final standings may not be decided until Week 17, and the Bears have already blown the early season cushion they built for themselves while the Vikings and Packers were struggling.

The divisional action will pick up in November, and Chicago only has a pair of games left to put it all together before back-to-back-to-back games against the Lions, Vikings and Lions again.    

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Laurence Holmes to break down the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots. What happened to the Bears defense over their bye week, and how did the special teams struggle so bad against New England? Plus – the guys debate Mitchell Trubisky’s decision making in the red zone and Matt weighs in on how the Bears should play his former team – the New York Jets – next week.

0:35– Special teams to blame for loss?

4:12– Where did the Bears pass rush go? 

5:27– Bad tackling followed Bears from Miami

7:25– Are the coaches to blame for the defense after the bye?

10:10– Evaluating Mitchell Trubisky’s game

11:55– Agree with Matt Nagy on Mitch’s “mental” game?

13:30– Trubisky’s red zone decision making

17:10– Are the Bears giving away games so Mitch can learn?

18:00– Bears need to run the ball more

21:04– Matt Forte scouts his former team, the New York Jets

Listen to the full podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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