Bears

Bears Week 6 in-foe: A Motown mess

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Bears Week 6 in-foe: A Motown mess

Can Ndamukong Suh mean so much? And the way things are going for both since their divorce, might they want to turn back the clock, take their chances, and continue the relationship?

It would be unwise for the Bears, after two hard-fought, undermanned victories, to think they can walk into Motown, simply throw their pads on the field and beat the 0-5 Lions. The playoff team from last year is beaten down, and probably angry as the Bears eye their bye week with a potential (and improbable) 3-3 record. You can bet John Fox and his coaching staff will be emphasizing the need to be ready, and fight as hard as they have the past two weeks to avoid a two-week-long bad taste. We'll see if the pupils follow those orders in a game there for the taking, but one they'll need to earn — especially early against a desperate Detroit team. Things were just fine for the first quarter-and-a-half of their opener in San Diego, exploding to a 21-3 lead. Then they lost, 33-28. More recently, it's a team that played like the stunning disappointment of their Monday night loss-from-the-jaws-of-victory at Seattle a little more than a week ago lingered six days later.

OFFENSE

The "Hot Mess" starts with an offense that's averaging 49 yards rushing per game. That's 20 yards fewer than the NFL's second-worst unit on the ground, Suh's Dolphins. Over the past four drafts, the Lions have used two first-round picks and two third-rounders on their offensive line. The results on the ground thus far certainly haven't warranted the investment. After running for 860 yards and catching 34 passes last season, it seemed as if all Joique Bell needed was a change-of-pace sub. They seemingly got that in the second round last April in Ameer Abdullah. Bell has missed the last two games with an ankle injury after "gaining" 22 yards on 20 carries the first three weeks, and they haven't committed to Abdullah (40 carries, 132 yards). It got to the point in Sunday's blowout home loss to Arizona that they handed off ten times to undrafted free agent Zach Zenner of South Dakota State, compared to six for Abdullah.

[MORE BEARS: How Adam Gase's 'plan' for Bears QB Jay Cutler is working]

One of the problems with finishing 0-16 (in 2008) without a franchise quarterback is whether you "reach" for one with the top overall pick. Detroit may have done that with Matthew Stafford. Things looked good in 2011, when he threw for over 5,000 yards. But that bar has been difficult to reach since, and has declined each of the past three years, to the point it seems Stafford's been standing in place since. This year's been a step back, for several reasons. But his eight interceptions (against six touchdown passes) leads the NFL, and his 74.8 passer rating ranks 33rd (albeit a notch above Andrew Luck). Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi thought his first year with Stafford was too conservative, and vowed to be more risky, taking shots downfield. It's shot them in the foot so far.

Calvin Johnson isn't battling the ankle problems that plagued him all of last season, but just one of his 32 catches have gone for a touchdown. Golden Tate caught 99 balls a year ago while Megatron limped around, and has 26 through five games (with no TD's) this season. 2014 first-round pick Eric Ebron disappointed as a rookie (25-248, TD in 13 games), and had 15 grabs through the first four games this season, but injured his knee two weeks ago at Seattle and that kept him out of the Cardinals game.

DEFENSE

Here's The Suh Factor:  They've sunk from 2nd to 22nd in overall defense from a year ago. The top run defense (69 yards a game) is now 27th (126.6). The pass defense has dipped five spots to 18th so far this season.

[MORE BEARS: Frustration growing around injury status of Alshon Jeffery]

Making matters worse, the unsung hero, weakside linebacker DeAndre Levy could be done for the year. Head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday he'd leave that in doctors' hands after last season's second-leading tackler in the NFL (first in solos) missed the first four games with a hip injury. He tried coming back Sunday, then left after 17 snaps when he re-aggravated it. Josh Bynes has done his best attempting to fill Levy's shoes.

Suh wasn't the lone departure up front. Nick Fairley joined St. Louis' deep D-Line, while rotation guys C.J. Mosely and George Johnson were also allowed to leave. One of the replacements, former Saint Tyrunn Walker, is already done for the year due to injury. The bright spot up front has been 2013 first-rounder Ziggy Ansah (who concussed Jimmy Clausen in Week 16 last December), who's tied for the league lead with five sacks. He'll be Charles Leno Jr.'s next challenge. But Haloti Ngata (the five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle acquired from Baltimore to replace Suh),  has had trouble staying on the field at age 31. After missing all of training camp with a hamstring pull, he sat out last weekend with a calf injury sustained six days earlier in Seattle.

The safety tandem of Pro Bowler Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo certainly benefited a year ago from that up-front dominance, combining for 11 interceptions. The entire secondary has three thus far (including a Quin pick-six), and, with the help of Sunday's six turnovers, is minus-five in that ratio.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

SPECIAL TEAMS

While the Bears units settled down Sunday in Kansas City versus one of the elite overall units in the league run by Dave Toub (and actually "won," considering Pernell McPhee's blocked field goal), they'll need to be spot-on in kickoff coverage. That's where Abdullah's been his most dangerous thus far, ranking second with a 31.6 average. Amazingly, through five games, the Lions have attempted just three field goals, with Matt Prater connecting each time, the longest from 41 yards.

*Get the latest from Bears practice during the week with Dan Jiggetts and Chris Boden. Tune in Wednesday's at 4:30 p.m. for "Bears Huddle," when you'll hear from John Fox, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers and several players. Then come back Thursday at 4 p.m. this week for "Bears Blitz," with the latest from Fox, offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Jay Cutler and a handful of other players, previewing Sunday's matchup in Detroit*

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

It didn't take Thomas Jones long to become a fan-favorite during his tenure with the Bears, which spanned three seasons from 2004-2006.  Jones, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, resurrected his career in Chicago with back-to-back seasons over 1,200 rushing yards in 2005 and 2006.

So, when he speaks about how to improve the offense through the running game, coach Matt Nagy and the rest of Chicago's offensive staff should at least give it a listen.

Technically, Jones tweeted his plan to repair the Bears' struggling offense. But, the point remains.

"Nagy should learn the history of the Bears," Jones tweeted. "When they've won in the past it's because they ran the ball 1st! The fans & the makeup of the Bears is blue-collar. Hard-nosed, physical fundamental football. Limit turnovers, chew up the clock & let the defense get you the ball back.

"And where is their fullback? How can you run the ball in Chicago without a fullback in the game? When u have a fullback in the game the linebackers know they have to strap up their helmets. It's going to be a physical game & some of them don't want that. Can't make it easy for them."

To be fair, fullback is a nearly extinct position in the NFL. But Jones' suggestion runs deeper than that; the Bears need to at least appear like they want to run the ball in order to make the defense respect the threat of a running game.

"They NEVER try to establish the run which puts all of the pressure on a young QB who is still learning & trying to figure out who he's going to be in this league," Jones said. "The O line won't get into any rhythm if they don't run block enough & the defense can only hold up for so long."

According to Jones, Mitch Trubisky isn't ready to be the centerpiece of Chicago's offense just yet.

"Mitch is too young to have all of that pressure on him at once. He's talented but he's not ready yet. You have talented backs & an incredible defense. The O Line just needs to gain confidence run blocking in real-time. They have to establish a running game or things won't change."

Jones drew on some experience from the 2005 season when the Bears kept things pretty basic for then-rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, who enjoyed some moderate success that year. He also chimed in on the Trubisky vs. Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson debate.

"Everyone matures at different times in the NFL. He's not those other guys so comparing him to them isn't going to help them win games right now. Establish a run game & take pressure off of him. Simplify the offense by giving him basic pass plays like we did with Orton in 05."

So how do the Bears get their offense back on a winning track? You guessed it: run the ball!

"It's not a old times sake thing. It's football. Every winning team establishes some sort of running game. Even if it's running back by committee or a running QB. The more tired a defense is from having to chase & tackle the more mental mistakes they're going to make.

"Which gives you a higher chance to win the game. When you run the ball you can take more chances throwing the ball downfield, running specialty plays such as screens and reverses. The defense can't just lay their ears back because they know they can get gashed at any time."

Head over to Jones' Twitter page to follow along with his complete Bears breakdown. It's pretty epic and is a great reminder of just how passionate he is about this team, this city, and winning.

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

The Bears' two-game losing streak is doing them no favors in The Web's power rankings, but even pessimistic reviews haven't totally sold them off yet (thanks defense!). What's a bit more daunting, however, is how quickly the other teams in the NFC North are rising. Some fun road games ahead huh?? Here's what they're saying: 

NFL.com –– #15
Trubisky is clearly pressing as the pressure mounts on his shoulders. He's taken a big step back in his third season ... how long can Matt Nagy stand by the former No. 2 overall pick?

ESPN.com –– #16
The Bears no longer resemble a playoff team -- not with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Chicago's offense ranks 30th in total yards per game, 30th in yards per play, 28th in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game.

CBS Sports –– #16
Their offense is woeful at times and just won't allow them to win many games. The defense hasn't been as good the past two games either, which makes Sunday's game against the Chargers a must-win for both teams.

Sports Illustrated –– #17
Maybe Matt Nagy isn’t a cure-all. Maybe the defense is feeling the weight of carrying the offense and starting to crack (36 points to a backup QB with two weeks to prepare at home). Or maybe, just maybe, this team was never that good in the first place.

Bleacher Report –– #13
To say that the Bears are having issues offensively is an understatement. In Mitchell Trubisky's first game back from injury, he had fewer than 100 passing yards into the final quarter. Chicago had seven carries for 17 yards on the ground—for the game.

Chicago Tribune –– #18
Classes in Offense 202 need to be canceled. Nearly all the students are failing miserably. That’s reality when the Bears have yet to total 300 yards of offense in a single game. High-powered offenses will come close to that total in a good half.

Sporting News –– #19
When the Bears don't play good defense and can't run the ball, they're in trouble, because it puts games on the right arm of Mitchell Trubisky. They have a few schedule breaks coming up, but they need their third-year QB to play a lot better for that to matter.

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