Bears no longer in learning-curve 1st quarter under John Fox staff


Bears no longer in learning-curve 1st quarter under John Fox staff

KANSAS CITY – Coach John Fox described his approach to the NFL season as one shared by myriad other coaches, that of thinking in terms of quarters. As convinced as he was of the Bears ability to achieve more than the common predictions of mediocrity for his team, he acknowledged in an exclusive interview with that the first quarter of the season would involve some sort of learning curve, and it has, for players, coaches and beyond.

The first quarter of 2015 is now over, despite the preseason feel that some sectors continue to struggle through. The expectation bar is now raised, certainly from standpoint of schedule:

The Bears’ next two opponents are a combined 1-7; none of the Bears’ second-quarter opponents are above .500; and at this early quarter-pole, the remainder of the schedule has just 4-0 Denver and Green Bay as the only teams currently with winning records.

[MORE: Bears injuries make rookie Hroniss Grasu last man standing]

After the loss in Seattle, where special teams gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and a long trick punt return, where the short-handed offense barely threatened midfield, let alone the Seahawks end zone, Fox was candid:

“Really, we’ve got young guys, whether they’re young or not because it’s all new. Our special teams, offense and defense are all new systems to these football players. It’s not an excuse.”

He wasn’t using that excuse then and he won’t now.

Offensive line positions are still at issue, and Jay Cutler has yet to throw to a fully healthy and staffed group of wide receivers.

“It does get challenging,” Cutler said. “Even this week, a bunch of new guys, we have some guys banged up, so getting through practice, just getting everyone on the same page communication's gotta be good.

“I think from the OC on down, everyone's done a great job; coaching staff, players locking in during meetings... Mistakes are going to happen out here but we'll just try to eliminate them.”

[RELATED: Alshon Jeffery still out, questionable for Sunday]

And that is really the crux of it now. The Bears are done one-fourth of their first season under Fox, coordinators Vic Fangio, Adam Gase and Jeff Rodgers, and while injuries and a learning process inevitably continue, the mistakes by members of all three phases that have been the reasons for a 1-3 start can no longer inevitable.

The suspect defense in supposed transition has made exponential leaps, with more expected with the play of Jarvis Jenkins, Pernell McPhee, Eddie Goldman and anticipated return of Jeremiah Ratliff.

The offense has outgained three of the Bears’ four opponents (excepting only Seattle when coaches drastically dialed down the game plan to “safety” for Jimmy Clausen). The Bears have as many 20-yard pass plays (14) as their opponents, and more 10-yard running plays (16) than their opponents (12).

But the Bears also have more giveaways (six) than takeaways (four), and they have been penalized 33 times to opponents’ 28, getting back to the “mistakes” issue.

Special teams have held a punting edge on opponents (47.3 yds. avg. gross vs. 44.7) and Robbie Gould is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. Lengthy returns remain an issue until they’re not (Oakland had a kickoff return for 37 yards and punt runback of 22) but the disasters of the first three games were at least scaling back.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

All of which points to a Bears team that has had its John Fox learning-curve quarter. The Kansas City Chiefs have beaten only 1-4 Houston and allowed 30-plus points in their last three games, all losses. The Bears are presumably not what they’re going to be with more time under the Fox regime but they are done with time for excusing elementary mistakes as just part of doing business.

“I think there has been parts of those games where I think we’ve been competitive,” Fox said. “We just haven’t done it for the long haul yet, for all 60 minutes.”

And that’s what the second “quarter” is about.

Rams' trade for Jalen Ramsey will have a direct impact on Bears' season

Rams' trade for Jalen Ramsey will have a direct impact on Bears' season

The Los Angeles Rams pulled off a blockbuster trade for Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey Tuesday night, sending two first-round picks (2020 and 2021) and a 2021 fourth-round pick for the superstar defender.

It's the second trade the Rams have accomplished in one day. Los Angeles shipped CB Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens for LB Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick earlier on Tuesday, completing a makeover in their secondary that will have a direct impact the Chicago Bears this season.

The Bears travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams in Week 11 as part of a brutal five-game stretch coming off of their bye week. Ramsey makes it even worse.

The Rams had little choice but to pull off a mega-deal like this. They're entering Week 7 with the 19th ranked pass defense and an underwhelming 3-3 record, a far cry from the expectations for last year's Super Bowl runner-up.

Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense will have their hands full on November 17. The combination of Aaron Donald on the defensive line and Ramsey in the secondary is as intimidating as any defensive duo in the NFL and is capable of destroying even the smartest and most efficient passing attacks. And that's not exactly Chicago's pass offense so far.

Trubisky, who's expected to return from a left shoulder injury Sunday against the Saints, hasn't proven this season that he's capable of staring down the barrel of a Donald-Ramsey alliance. It will be a ridiculously difficult challenge for a quarterback who's still finding his way as a pro.

Ramsey has missed the last three games for a variety of reasons, most of which appear as tricks to remain healthy in anticipation of a trade.  He's a two-time Pro Bowler and has nine interceptions from 2016-2018.

Now, Ramsey is an opponent on Chicago's 2019 schedule. 

Power Ranking Roundup: The bye week didn't do the Bears any favors

Power Ranking Roundup: The bye week didn't do the Bears any favors

The Bears didn't play last week, but did that stop them from falling in Power Rankings across The Web? It did not! Going into the bye on a loss never fails to stoke the panic. Here's what they're saying: 

NBC Sports Chicago -- #16
Their power rankings slide is because of how well other teams performed Sunday; Chicago doesn't feel like a top-15 team when compared to the rest of the NFL. -- #9
The Bears do have a player who's good at all that stuff when given a chance -- that would be running back Tarik Cohen, who already had nine such "big plays" through five games a year ago. In 2019? He has just one, despite being healthy and available each week. Bears coach Matt Nagy needs to get Cohen involved.

ESPN -- #16
Their vertical passing attack is limited with Mitchell Trubisky or Chase Daniel at quarterback. The offense has been equally ineffective on the ground. Chicago has gained eight or more rushing yards on just 10 running plays through five games.

Bleacher Report -- #10
Chicago had best make good use of this week off and get things figured out. Four of the team's next five games after the bye are against teams that made the postseason a year ago, including trips to face the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams.

Sports Illustrated -- #17
A Vikings win this week and strong starts from the Lions and Packers suddenly raises the stake Sunday’s game against the Saints. Unfortunately, New Orleans has a similarly great defense and a much better offense than the Bears.

CBS Sports -- #13
They come off the bye looking to generate more on offense. But it was the defense that also had some issues in London. That unit needs to pick it up as well.

USA Today -- #14
Coming out of bye, club currently just outside playoff picture hits brutal stretch with just two of final 11 opponents currently below .500.

Yahoo Sports -- #11
The Bears have only two games left against teams who are currently under .500. They face the Chargers and Giants, who are both 2-4 and not totally incapable. If the Bears make it back to the playoffs, it’ll be impressive.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.