One last time the 2016 Bears go into a game faced with a challenge, not to achieve something, but to avoid ignominy, in this case to stave off what would be the worst individual season in terms of wins and losses since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978.
It is not exactly the kind of goal teams set for themselves before a season. This year has been reduced to a final attempt to accomplish a feat that has generally eluded the Bears all season.
The 2015 Bears mysteriously struggled at home, with just one victory at Soldier Field while inexplicably playing to a 5-3 mark on the road – a success rate achieved only by playoff teams last year.
Only the Browns share the Bears’ level of being road kill at 0-7.
And yet the real point of Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings matters less in the standings or even in any divisional rivalry, and more with how players are looked at beginning later in the week when personnel evaluations begin in earnest.
“I think these [Halas Hall] rooms don't look the same year to year,” said coach John Fox, himself subject to evaluation but expected to be given a third season to effect a turnaround for a franchise now missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season and ninth time in the last 10. “You know it's not a threat, it's not negative, it's just the reality.
“You know these guys have been doing this long enough even though we're pretty young. But regardless, they understand every one of these [games] is a resume and you know whether it's here or somewhere else. You know it's competitive, it doesn't stay the same, things change, there's drafts, there's free agency, there's just a lot of things that change. So you know they take every one of these about the same, it's another opportunity to perform and show what they’re capable of doing.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
And the winner is…
After the rout at the hands of Washington last week, a game marked by a perceived lack of fire for the first time in quite some time, envisioning a victory over a better team in the opponent’s home arena, during a season in which the Bears haven’t won on the road, is too much of a longshot. The late-game scrappiness that marked Matt Barkley performances in his brief tenure was missing, and even when that has been present, the Bears still weren’t good enough to close the deal in the comebacks vs. Tennessee, Detroit and Green Bay.
Neither team is playing for anything beyond affirming their own professional pride and one last chance to impress the evaluators, or at least the ones still undecided about individual futures.
But the Vikings are simply better than the Bears, with a defense marked with more impact players than Washington’s, and Barkley was flummoxed by that group. The Bears were able to shut down Minnesota in the teams’ first meeting, but that was with Jay Cutler playing his best game of the few he did play in ’16, and Barkley does not threaten the Vikings with what Good Jay brought to bear on them.
The Bears’ season-long futility at generating takeaways has shown no signs of improving. Without that help from the defense, and quarterback Sam Bradford is among the NFL leaders in ball security this season, Bears are simply overmatched.
Bears 10, Vikings 21
View from the Moon ’16 record: 8-7