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Preparing for Bears, Jim Caldwell not denying some Lions quit vs. Cardinals

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Preparing for Bears, Jim Caldwell not denying some Lions quit vs. Cardinals

While the growth of positive momentum was palpable in Chicago after a second straight Bears come-from-behind win last Sunday, something quite different and more sinister was building over in Detroit where the Lions collapsed in a 42-17 fall-from-ahead loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell did not explicitly cite individual players for quitting, but neither did he state that full professional effort was present in a team now 0-5 and teetering on an abyss.

“I think guys still played hard and worked hard,” Caldwell said on Wednesday. “Now, if you ask me, was it every single guy? It’s tough to monitor that, to tell that deep inside every individual. They’re the only ones that can answer that question.”

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Caldwell benched a handful of players — among them, quarterback Matthew Stafford — as the downward spiral intensified, to the point of the Lions allowing 28 points in 13 minutes to the Cardinals.

Whether Stafford, who threw three interceptions in last Sunday’s loss after taking six sacks the week before in a loss to Seattle, was one of those effort questions is between Caldwell and quarterback. But Caldwell acknowledged that when a succession of setbacks occur, the need is there to guard against a “here we go again” mindset, something afflicted the 2014 Bears.

“You do,” Caldwell said. “You have to make [players] understand that it’s not a perfect game, no matter what the situation is. There’s never been a game played perfectly across the board so there’s going to be some ups and downs. They have to be able to weather through that storm.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Which the Lions didn’t do: "We didn't fight through it very well yesterday." Caldwell said the day after the Arizona debacle.

When a team talks about not quitting, some thought is that quitting blood already is in the water. When confidence is a talking point, it already is a problem and the Lions appear to be fighting against more than just opponents.

“I mean, it's still early in the season and definitely 0-5 is not where you want to be,” said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. “But if we start stacking wins and getting that confidence back in ourselves and back in each other and practicing real hard and trying to focus on getting a win, it'll come back to us.”

Which says that it’s not there now.

Will Bears offense find its identity vs. Saints?

Will Bears offense find its identity vs. Saints?

The Bears offense hasn't gotten off to the start that was predicted over the summer, when quarterback Mitch Trubisky's development was praised by Matt Nagy and his Bears teammates, and rookie running back David Montgomery felt like a lock to provide Chicago with an uptick in production as a do-it-all player.

Instead, the Bears enter Week 7's game against the New Orleans Saints with an undefined identity on offense. Nagy hasn't committed to the run game while the passing offense has been inconsistent at best.

Most of Chicago's struggles stem from the poor play of the offensive line, but even so, there doesn't seem to be any one thing this team can hang its hat on offense.

NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms, who spoke with NBC Sports Chicago this week, said the Bears' lacking identity is one of their biggest problems so far this season.

"The first thing is, have a motto, what are you, what is it, what is the Chicago Bears, have a mantra," Simms said. "We know the Dallas Cowboys, they want to run the ball. You’re seeing up in Green Bay, they made a thing, we’re gonna run the ball, and we’re gonna get in the I formation and come downhill and slowly but surely, they’ve built a lot of stuff off of it.

"I think my concern with the Chicago Bears is there’s not one thing they’re great at, and that’s important, because when you’re great at one thing, what it does is it makes defenses go 'We have to stop that one great thing,' and from there, a guy like Matt Nagy, who’s very smart, he’ll be able to play off of that and go, now defenses are doing this to take something away, and now I can do this, this, and that off of it to combat that plan of attack.

"The running game, there’s just not a lot of patience and persistence with the running game, and I see passing schematics that I think are a little bit repetitive at times, I do think there need to be a few more new ideas and concepts in the passing. But more than anything, it just goes back to find something that’s your bread and butter, and once you find your bread and butter, the defenses have to adjust, and then you can adjust off of that and come up with some creative things to beat that."

The Bears enter Week 7 with the 30th ranked total offense in the NFL, the 30th ranked passing offense and 26th ranked rushing offense. It's a minor miracle (and a credit to Khalil Mack and the defense) that this team is 3-2.

But for Chicago to make a push for the playoffs and a potential Super Bowl run, the offense has to do its part. And it has to start Sunday against the Saints. It won't be an easy task; New Orleans' defense is ranked 10th in yards allowed per game so far this year.

"Find the identity, what is the identity, I don’t know what it is right now," Simms said. "It’s just a bunch of plays and formations every week, I never go, 'Oh this is what they’re trying to do, I get it.' I’m always going, 'I don’t know, it’s underneath the center, it’s a run, then it’s shotgun for four plays, then it’s back to underneath the center and running the ball, and then it’s running the ball out of the shotgun.' I don’t know what they’re trying to get accomplished on a week to week basis."

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Mitch Trubisky will reportedly start for the Bears' Week 7 matchup with the New Orleans Saints

Mitch Trubisky will reportedly start for the Bears' Week 7 matchup with the New Orleans Saints

We'd been circling this news all week, and now it's getting closer to reality: late Saturday night, Adam Schefter reported that QB Mitch Trubisky will be under center for the Bears' matchup with the Saints this Sunday:

Trubisky was a full participant in practice from Wednesday to Friday of last week, but had still been listed as questionable up to this point. He returns after dislocating his left shoulder in Week 4 against the Vikings and missing the team's Week 5 loss to the Raiders.

The news comes at a crucial juncture of the season for the Bears, who are currently 3-2 and in third place in the NFC North.

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