Bears must find solutions just for one win


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.

First and Final Thoughts: Bears in good position to go 2-1

First and Final Thoughts: Bears in good position to go 2-1

Welcome into First and Final Thoughts, one of our weekly columns with a title that's a little too on the nose. Here we'll have Insider J.J Stankevitz, Producer Cam Ellis, and a rotating cast of NBC Sports Chicago's Bears team give some insight into what's on their minds between games.

Final Thought on Week 2

J.J. StankevitzWhat we saw Monday night is probably a blueprint for how the Bears can be successful in 2018: A developing quarterback makes some mistakes but leads a couple of scoring drives, which provides enough points to support an elite defense. The Bears' defense proved that, really, all it needed was to put forth four quarters of effort to solve the issues it seemed to create in that Week 1 loss to Green Bay. The offense is larger question, and it was at least a little concerning that Seattle's defense felt like it was best to sell out to stop the run -- the preferred strategy of defenses against the Bears' 2017 offense. The Bears needed more help from their offensive line and Jordan Howard, yes, but more than anything they needed -- and will need -- Mitch Trubisky to be better going forward to make sure teams can't drop safeties down and stack the box to stop the run. 

Cam Ellis: Of the three big offensive additions (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton) that the Bears made this year, Robinson's looked the best so far. He's clearly Trubisky's go-to guy; he only has one less target (21) than Gabriel and Burton combined (22). He hasn't found the end zone yet, but his current 66.7 Catch% would be the highest of his career by a significant margain. He was even Pro Football Focus' highest-rated Bears offensive player in Week 2. Frustratingly enough, he's only averaging 10.3 yards per reception, which wasn't exactly the idea when they brought him in. It's hard to blame him for tha, however, when the Bears rank 30th in the NFL in yards per pass attempt (4.9). 

First Thought on Week 3

J.J. Stankevitz: Goodness, Arizona is bad. In two games, they've managed only 19 first downs, 350 total yards of offense and four third down conversions in 20 attempts. Sam Bradford is averaging four yards per attempt. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' defense is allowing 6.1 yards per play, including an average of 8.8 yards per passing attempt. But here's maybe the most wild stat about the Cardinals: They haven't attempted a field goal -- not even a PAT -- in two games. Just about every team in the NFL matches up well against Arizona (well, maybe besides the Bills), so the Bears will head to the desert with an excellent opportunity to move to 2-1. But then again, last year, the Bears were 0-2 and coming off a horrible Week 2 loss...and then beat a playoff team in the Pittsburgh Steelers behind Mike Glennon (who's now Arizona's backup). Anything can happen in the NFL.

Cam Ellis: If the Bears want to compete for an NFC North title, they should be able to go out and win games like these, presumably comfortably. (Though Arizona getting 6 points at home seems a bit dramatic) The Cardinals are very not good, and like J.J. said, NFL games can be coin flips. The Bears went 2-6 away from Soldier Field last year, and that obviously won't cut it with this year's roster. The Bears' last quarter of the season features the Rams and Packers at home before road games at San Fransisco and Minnesota, so taking care of favorable matchups like this week (and Nov. 4's in Buffalo) are critical. 

Bears are nearly touchdown favorites over Cardinals for Week 3


Bears are nearly touchdown favorites over Cardinals for Week 3

After facing a pair of elite quarterbacks to start the season, the Bears get a little bit of an easier matchup with the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3.

Sam Bradford has struggled under center so far this season, and fans have been clamoring for rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to get the start. The team could possible turn to Mike Glennon too.

The 0-2 Cardinals are among the worst teams in the NFL thus far, and so Las Vegas sportsbooks see the Bears earning win No. 2 on Sunday.

Chicago favored by six points against Arizona, according to Vegas Insider, and that might even be selling them short.

The Cardinals have scored six points total in two games this season, with their one touchdown coming in Week 1 against Washington. They were shutout last week against the Los Angeles Rams.

Las Vegas is expecting a low-scoring game regardless, with the lowest over/under (38 points) set for any game this week.

If Bradford can right the ship, the Arizona can give the Bears a run for their money this week, but if not, a QB change could be in store for the Cardinals.