If the Bears were inclined to throw a pity party over their injury situation, next Monday night's opponent, the Chargers, would have none of it.
San Diego was already without five-time Pro Bowl (and free agent-to-be) safety Eric Weddle and big free agent signing offensive lineman Orlando Franklin heading into last Sunday's game at Baltimore, not to mention two of their last three second-round linebackers, Manti Te'o and rookie Denzel Perryman. Then they had no less than a dozen players exit versus the Ravens, eight of whom didn't return. The infirmary included starting offensive linemen King Dunlap, Chris Watt (from Glenbard West), top reserve Chris Hairston, receivers Ladarius Green, Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson, running back Branden Oliver, defensive lineman Corey Liuget and defensive backs Jason Verrett and Patrick Robinson.
Allen's injury appears most grim, identified as involving the kidney suffered on an impressive touchdown catch after originally believed to be cramps or spasms. He ended the week second in the NFL with 67 receptions and third with 725 yards.
They've also lost four straight, none by more than eight points. Half of their six defeats have come on the game's final play. Sound somewhat familiar?
Allen was front and center in the league's top passing offense, with Philip Rivers leading the NFL in completions (243), attempts (348), passing yards (2,753), third in TD passes (18) and fourth in completion percentage (69.8). His 102.1 passer rating is eighth.
While Allen may have been Rivers' favorite target, 34-year-old Malcom Floyd was making his own impact downfield. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder can still break away, as evidenced by his 19.5-yard average (second in the NFL) and 70-yard scoring grab Sunday. Green (27 catches, 314 yards, 4 TDs) took over the bulk of the tight end receiving duties while 35-year-old Antonio Gates served his four-game PED suspension. The undrafted free agent in his 13th (and likely final) season played through an ankle injury in Baltimore and has amassed 22 receptions in the four games since return.
But amidst all the aerial fireworks, their bid for balance by using the 15th overall pick (and giving up first-, fourth-, and future fifth-round picks to San Francisco to move up two spots) hasn't happened yet. Heisman runner-up Melvin Gordon has averaged just 3.7 yards a carry, and fumbled four times, losing three. Oliver was the Bolts' top rusher a year ago (582 yards) as an undrafted rookie, but the team was 31st with a 3.4 average, thus the Gordon investment. And 5-foot-8 veteran ultra-back Danny Woodhead exited after Week 3 a year ago with a broken leg, but has rebounded with 39 catches and a 3.8 rushing average (52 carries) thus far.
Left tackle Dunlap had a career year going into free agency and was rewarded (four years, $28 million) while Franklin made the move from John Fox, Adam Gase and the Denver Broncos to play next to Dunlap for $35 million (five years). Watt was the team's fifth center a year ago and began this season there, while 2013 first-rounder D.J. Fluker had trouble with speed on the edge and was moved inside once ex-Rams tackle Joe Barksdale was a late signing in free agency.
John Pagano (brother of Colts head coach Chuck) runs a hybrid 3-4 system and former Illini Liuget has been a fairly productive 2011 first-round investment. But the league's ninth overall defense a year ago has slipped to 19th this season (still struggling against the run, at 28th) and has been allowing 28.4 points per game (27th). That's another parallel to the Bears.
While Liuget's fellow linemen have been rather pedestrian, Jeremiah Attaochu was the middle of three straight linebackers chosen in the second round in 2014. He's collected a team-high four of the defense's 15 sacks after playing in just 10 games as a rookie. Te'o (2013) and Perryman (2015) have felt the injury bug bite. Veteran Melvin Ingram (2012 first rounder) has also managed to miss 19 games his previous three seasons and Donald Butler had a disappointing first year in '14 after a contract extension. That pair is fourth and fifth on the Chargers in tackles. Te'o was second on the team in that category before sitting out against the Ravens.
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In the back, Weddle remains the top tackler despite spectating Sunday, as well. That broke a string of 87 consecutive starts. He's played with 11 different strong safeties over eight seasons and the emotional leader vows to enter free agency after a contract dispute this past off-season. Nasty hitter Jahleel Addae hopes to ease the uncertainty opposite Weddle. Nickelback Jimmy Wilson is third on the Chargers in tackles after coming over from Miami via free agency and providing depth at corner behind 2014 top pick Verrett (injured after six games as a rookie) and Brandon Flowers, who answered a one-year "prove it" deal following a release in Kansas City by earning a four-year, $30 million contract. But both Flowers and Verrett, while strong in coverage, are only 5-foot-9.
It all looked good when the Chargers invested in ex-Raven Jacoby Jones to handle return duties. But get this: San Diego has just one net yard on eight punt returns (!) between Jones and Allen. Their 21.9-yard kick return average from Jones and Oliver is ordinary. But from their standpoint, seeing the Bears coverage units, they're obviously looking to get "well" Monday night.
Free agent rookie Josh Lambo (15-of-17 field goals) bumped veteran Nick Novak from kicking duties. Twelve-year veteran punter Mike Scifres' 36.2-yard net average is the second-worst of his career.