GREEN BAY, Wisc. – Sometime last Sunday afternoon the wheels of the Bears 2016 season came off, in the form of the Bears losing 13-0 and 16-7 leads in a fourth quarter to the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Thursday night at Lambeau Field, whatever was left of the season went over a cliff.
The 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers, whom the Bears had defeated two of their last three times here, was just the final accounting. The Bears actually took a lead on the Packers when rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd sacked Aaron Rodgers on Green Bay’s third play of the second half, stripped the football and recovered it in the end zone for what was a 10-6 lead at the time.
The Packers (4-2) simply started from their 15 on the next series and drove 85 yards, converting four of four third downs, and reestablished their primacy. And in the process reestablished that any thought of Rodgers coming thudding down to earth was little more than wishful thinking as Rodgers, despite losing No. 1 running back Eddie Lacy and using wide receivers as running backs, threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns. No interceptions.
All of which went into the Bears’ sixth loss in seven games, the first time since 2000 (and 1997 before that) that the Bears have stumbled this wildly to start a season.
More than “a” season, however. Since upsetting the Packers last Thanksgiving, the Bears have lost 10 of their last 12, and this is before the Minnesota Vikings (5-0) come to Soldier Field to mercifully end the first half of a nightmare season.
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The only hope, such as it is, lies in the eventual return of what now feels like half the starting lineups on both sides of the football. By the end of the first half, during which quarterback Brian Hoyer was lost with a broken left arm, the Bears were without their No. 1 quarterback (Jay Cutler), No. 2 quarterback (Hoyer), both starting guards (Kyle Long, Josh Sitton), and the NFL’s leading third-down receiver (Eddie Royal), not to mention their best defensive lineman in Eddie Goldman, still down with a high-ankle sprain.
“You lose your starting quarterback, it can be a little disruptive,” said coach John Fox by way of colossal understatement. Whether the weight of injuries had finally become too much, “nobody comes and rescues you,” Fox added.
Fox has directed two turnarounds in his second seasons with the Carolina Panthers (2002 into 2003) and Denver Broncos (2011 into 2012). This season is tracking with some of the worst in Fox’s coaching career. Fox teams have frequently gone into death spirals and pulled out – sort of – albeit not always resulting in trips to playoffs or even truly successful seasons:
|2002||3-0 start, lose eight straight||7-9 (Fox's first year)|
|2004||1-1 start, lose six straight||7-9|
|2007||4-2 start, lose five straight||7-9|
|2009||0-3 start, 3-0 finish||8-8|
|2010||0-5 start, win one, lose seven straight||2-14 (Fox fired)|
|2011||1-4 start, reach 8-5, lose last three||8-8 (playoffs)|
Finding a finish anywhere near what Fox has done in previous dismal seasons is far less than unlikely.
“We are all we’ve got,” said Floyd, insisting, “We are buying into it and we will get ready for the next game.”