Bears

Bears must find solutions just for one win

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Bears must find solutions just for one win

The state of the Bears was chronicled all too eloquently by coach Lovie Smith amid the aftershocks of the loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Smith had run through the problems of the day, then he paused and changed direction toward the real fallout issues facing his team.

Of course, Im just kind of telling what happened, Smith said. Im not giving you a lot of solutions for the problems we have going on right now, which we have to find out pretty quick with a big game against Green Bay coming up.

Solutions, like the football, have eluded the Bears ever since Jay Cutler fractured is right thumb late in the win over the San Diego Chargers. And whether they have found any since Smiths assessment, beginning with new quarterback Josh McCown, is what the Bears will sort out in Lambeau Field on Sunday night.

No longer is the discussion about whether the Bears can clinch the playoffs with two or three wins, the way it was when Cutler and then Matt Forte went down.

Now it is simply winning one single game. NFL seasons usually are approached that way anyway but the Bears have been reduced to that condition, and unfortunately against the consensus one elite team in the 2011 NFL.

Simple assignment

McCown is now the Bears starting quarterback primarily because Caleb Hanie threw nine interceptions in his four starts. If McCown does nothing else, he is tasked with ending that season-altering pattern.

Green Bay is a lowly 31st in yardage allowed in the NFL (398 yards per game), a respectable 14th (21.1 points per game) and a spectacular No. 2 in turnover ratio with a plus-20. The Packers will give up yardage -- occasionally some points -- but rarely the ball.

And they rank No. 1 in the NFL scoring 34.3 points per game, which means that any takeaway their defense manages will likely end in points.

You dont want to give the ball away, McCown said. But, especially for them, the numbers can be a little skewed, because their offense is so good, that teams are passing against them and trying to move the ball. So theyve always got big leads, so teams are going to get yards against them. But I think what youre concerned with most of all is their takeaways.

It was right there for Bears

Playoffs have not been a prominent topic of conversation since the Seattle game. With good reason. So many scenarios and contingencies exist that any attempt at precise analysis, given the Bears freefall, seems pointless.

But the Bears in fact are still a team with a chance to reach the postseason, and they cant be officially eliminated by the kickoff time Sunday. If they do lose one more, playoffs are out. With Detroit clinching its first postseason birth since 1999 by defeating San Diego on Saturday, if Atlanta wins one more, the Bears are done, but the Falcons do not play until Monday night.

The four-game losing streak was agonizing enough, with its succession of head-shaking plays: Mike Martzs call of the throw-back screen in Oakland, Roy Williams dropped TD pass and Marion Barbers formation foul-up vs. Kansas City, Barbers stay in bounds and fumble in Denver, Hanies two pick-sixes vs. Seattle and 41.8 passer rating throughout the four games.

But the sting was the more acute both because the playoffs were virtually locked up and because while the Bears were losing those four, other playoff wannabes were slipping up on or past them.

The Falcons, over whom the Bears hold a head-to-head tiebreaker, went 3-1. The Detroit Lions bumbled to a 2-2 stretch, and the New York Giants have been 1-3 while the Bears were foundering.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks were going 3-1 to reach 7-7 and the Arizona Cardinals, with surprise fill-in rookie quarterback John Skelton, were putting together a 4-0 sprint. Those two NFC Westers play each other in game 16, but theyve drawn even with the Bears, further reducing the Bears margin for errors.

Its been frustrating, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. It hasnt been hard. You know football is still football. Its still fun. Its been hard to make plays for us for some reason.

As Smith said about finding solutions, the Bears need to find reasons too.

Under Center Podcast: Chris Simms fixes the Bears

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USA Today

Under Center Podcast: Chris Simms fixes the Bears

Laurence Holmes is joined by NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms live from radio row in Miami as they try to fix the Bears. They also discuss what the Bears can learn from the San Francisco 49ers and their head coach Kyle Shanahan.

(1:57) - How to fix the Bears/Trubisky

(6:54) - What would he tell Mitchell Trubisky

(9:24) - What people don't understand about Khalil Mack

(11:44) - Kyle Shanahan is a football genius

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

Under Center Podcast

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Bears' odds to sign Teddy Bridgewater just got better

Bears' odds to sign Teddy Bridgewater just got better

When Bears GM Ryan Pace selected quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, he referred to future Hall-of-Famer, Drew Brees, as the kind of passer he envisioned the former North Carolina product becoming. After three underwhelming seasons under center in Chicago, Trubisky's fallen way short of those expectations. It's unclear whether he can even become an average starter at this point.

The 2020 offseason is expected to bring competition for Trubisky and it's most likely to come via free agency. Pace will have an opportunity to tap into the Brees-led Saints quarterback room to find that competition, as all three passers (Brees, Taysom Hill and Teddy Bridgewater) are scheduled to hit the open market.

The reality, however, is that only one of the three will likely be available. According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, it'll be Bridgewater.

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

Brees will call his own shot; if he wants to return to New Orleans, he will. And while Bridgewater played well enough to warrant a starting opportunity in 2020, he'd also serve as the perfect starter-in-waiting for the Saints. But that player is Hill, who Glazer said New Orleans views as a legitimate franchise quarterback.

This is actually great news for the Bears. Of the three Saints quarterbacks, Bridgewater would make the most sense as a target for Chicago. He'll turn 27 next season and still has several years of high-level play remaining in his arm. In the 2019 regular season, Bridgewater started five games (he went 5-0), completed nearly 68% of his passes, and threw for 1,384 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. 

Is Bridgewater an elite player? No. Is he a franchise-changing quarterback? No; but that's not what the Bears are looking for. Instead, Pace needs to sign a veteran who is consistent and reliable enough to support an elite defense with enough points to win. Trubisky's failed mightily at that, and Bridgewater proved in relief of Brees in 2019 that he's not only capable of it, but he can thrive in that role.

Bridgewater's projected market value is a three-year, $60.1 million deal (or $20 million per season) per Spotrac. It may seem like a lot of money to pay to a quarterback whose signing wouldn't come along with a guaranteed starting job, but when combined with Trubisky's $9.3 million salary in 2020, as long as the Bears receive quality play from whoever their starting quarterback is, the cost will be in line with those teams that have respected starters on their payroll.

It's possible Bridgewater won't sign with a team that doesn't promise him the starting job. But is a promise even needed with Trubisky being the only roadblock in Bridgewater's way? It wouldn't take long for him to distance himself at the top of the depth chart, and maybe, once and for all, the Bears can enjoy some Saints-like quarterback play. 

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