DETROIT Now all the Bears can do is wait.
They took care of business, more or less, beating the Detroit Lions 26-24 despite repeated failures on offense, a few costly breakdowns on defense and little help on special teams. The win pushed their record to 10-6 and into position for hoping that the Green Bay Packers can dispatch the Minnesota Vikings.
It appeared to have removed some but not all doubt that Lovie Smith will return as coach in 2013. Teams typically do not fire coaches after 10-6 seasons, and usually not ones who are 18 games over .500 as Smith is for his tenure.
GM Phil Emery was complimentary of Smith during an appearance on the WBBM pre-game programming and was seen chatting casually with Smith prior to the game at Ford Field.
Emery said that evaluations are based on a coachs or players whole body of work, not one game. Smith is 18 games over .500 for his career and has had only one of nine seasons with fewer than seven wins.
But the goal of the organization is to win championships, which begins with making the playoffs. Missing the playoffs for five of the six years since the 2006 Super Bowl appearance will work against Smith getting at least the final year of his contract.
A Green Bay win at Minnesota would place the Bears in the No. 6 slot in the NFC playoffs and send them to either San Francisco or Seattle depending upon the outcomes of late games, Arizona at the 49ers and St. Louis visiting the Seahawks.
Players pulled up chairs amphitheater-style in the locker room to watch the early stages of the Green Bay game. They were pleased with their handling of Detroit (4-12) but that was not the full day.
Ill feel happy, center Roberto Garza said in the minutes after the Bears win, in about three hours.
The Chicago Bears have been compared to the Los Angeles Rams as a team capable of a significant one-year turnaround after the many moves by GM Ryan Pace to improve the offense and build around second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
According to NFL.com's Adam Schein, the comparisons go one step further. He thinks Trubisky is the best candidate to be 2018's version of Jared Goff:
"I'm infatuated with the Bears' offseason," Schein wrote. "The Bears smartly followed the Rams' blueprint from last offseason: hand the keys to an offensive guru/quarterback whisperer (Matt Nagy) and dedicate the offseason to surrounding your young signal-caller with talent (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in free agency, James Daniels and Anthony Miller in the draft). Trubisky will follow in Goff's footsteps and take a major jump in his sophomore campaign."
MULLIN: Teammates see greatness in Trubisky
The comparison of Trubisky to Goff makes a ton of sense. Both were drafted with franchise-quarterback expectations but had average rookie seasons. Both played their first year with an old-school, defensive-minded head coach who was later replaced by a young up-and-coming offensive specialist. And both Goff and Trubisky were given high-powered weapons to begin their sophomore seasons with (the Rams signed Robert Woods and traded for Sammy Watkins before last season).
Trubisky has to turn these comparisons into production, however. The Rams' remarkable 2017 campaign was just that because rarely does a team have such a dramatic turnaround in only one offseason. The odds aren't in the Bears' favor.
Still, there's a surge of confidence and support in and around Trubisky from the coaching staff and his teammates. He's doing everything he can to prepare for a Goff-like season. We'll find out soon enough if his preparation pays off.
There's a lot of pressure on the Chicago Bears' pass rush this season.
The NFC North has suddenly become one of the league's most talented quarterback divisions with Kirk Cousins (Vikings) joining Aaron Rodgers (Packers) and Matthew Stafford (Lions). Chicago is the only team in the North without a proven veteran under center.
Leonard Floyd is the most gifted pass-rusher on the roster and the onus is on him to become the superstar sack artist Ryan Pace envisioned when he traded up in the first round in 2016 to select him. Floyd, combined with free-agent addition Aaron Lynch and veteran Sam Acho, have to deliver.
“Leonard Floyd has to stay healthy and have a good year,” Pace told The Athletic's Dan Pompei. “Aaron Lynch has to come on. Vic [Fangio] had background with Aaron Lynch, so that gave us a comfort level in signing him. There is upside there. He’s still a young player. He fits the defense and knows Vic. Sam Acho has been a consistent player for us."
Floyd has just 11 1/2 sacks through two seasons, both of which have been marred by injury. He's played in just 22 of a possible 32 games as a pro.
Pace didn't address the team's pass rush until the sixth round of April's draft when he nabbed Utah's Kylie Fitts. It seemed odd at the time that he waited so long to address one of the team's most glaring needs and there haven't been any veteran signings to sure up the group since the draft concluded. The Bears are one injury away from a serious problem at outside linebacker and are relying on a bunch of guys who haven't proven capable of playing a full season in their careers.
"We felt fortunate to get Kylie Fitts in the sixth round, and he has to stay healthy," Pace said. "You are never going to come out of the offseason and say we addressed everything, we’re perfect.”
The Bears invested most of their offseason resources into surrounding Trubisky with playmakers who can help him compete with his NFC North counterparts. The offense will be better.
But if Floyd doesn't have a breakthrough season, more pressure will be on Trubisky to score points -- and a lot of them -- to keep games close in the division. And that's not the kind of pressure the Bears are hoping Floyd creates in 2018.