Bears

The two main questions Bears are facing in final preseason game

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The two main questions Bears are facing in final preseason game

For a team virtually settled on its personnel for most positions, the fourth preseason game is less than insignificant except for a few players still competing for a roster spot on the team or one on somebody else’s roster. The Bears are anything but settled heading into preseason Game 4 Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.

"Being a new staff – being totally honest – we’re evaluating everybody,” said coach John Fox. “We’re only going to be our fourth time Thursday night seeing these guys play in our system. We’re still going to be learning when we get to the regular season. It’s been my experience in two other stops, again it’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish. We’re getting ready to start that race.”

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Exactly who plays how much and where wasn’t made clear by Fox. But the Bears are unsettled at two-fifths of their offensive line because of performance issues, and fraught with unknowns at wide receiver because of injuries that could force them to use an extra roster spot in order at the position group as a hedge against Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal or Marquess Wilson not holding up in-season or even not being ready to open the season vs. Green Bay.

“As I’ve mentioned a lot of times,” Fox said, “I’d prefer [the receivers] were out here. But until they’re cleared medically, I don’t have them.”

The single most intriguing focus Thursday is on the right side of the Bears’ offensive line. Neither Charles Leno nor Jordan Mills have laid a solid claim on the tackle job that has been Mills’ most of the past two years. Coaches last season considered moving Mills, struggling with a foot injury from Game 16 of the 2013 season, to left guard after injuries to Matt Slauson. His job security hasn’t improved significantly.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Mills is expected to start at right tackle and Vladimir Ducasse at right guard. The play of each may determine where Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long is positioned.

“I don’t really have a preference,” Long said. “I’d like to help the team wherever that is. I’m really sincere when I say that. If they ask me to play receiver, I’d be out there running routes now, practicing. It’s football. It’s not that complicated.”

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

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NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

The great Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Talladega Nights hit a little too close to home for the Bears in Week 7.

They came into Sunday at 3-2 at the top of the NFC North. After a 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots, they dropped to the bottom of the division.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 32-21 to improve to 3-3, leaving them tied with the Bears in the cellar.

The Minnesota Vikings’ 37-17 victory over the New York Jets jumped them to 4-2-1 overall and first place in the division over the 3-2-1 Green Bay Packers, who were off for their bye week.

The NFC North remains the most tightly contested division in the NFL, the only one with no teams under .500 through seven weeks of the season.

The final standings may not be decided until Week 17, and the Bears have already blown the early season cushion they built for themselves while the Vikings and Packers were struggling.

The divisional action will pick up in November, and Chicago only has a pair of games left to put it all together before back-to-back-to-back games against the Lions, Vikings and Lions again.    

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Laurence Holmes to break down the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots. What happened to the Bears defense over their bye week, and how did the special teams struggle so bad against New England? Plus – the guys debate Mitchell Trubisky’s decision making in the red zone and Matt weighs in on how the Bears should play his former team – the New York Jets – next week.

0:35– Special teams to blame for loss?

4:12– Where did the Bears pass rush go? 

5:27– Bad tackling followed Bears from Miami

7:25– Are the coaches to blame for the defense after the bye?

10:10– Evaluating Mitchell Trubisky’s game

11:55– Agree with Matt Nagy on Mitch’s “mental” game?

13:30– Trubisky’s red zone decision making

17:10– Are the Bears giving away games so Mitch can learn?

18:00– Bears need to run the ball more

21:04– Matt Forte scouts his former team, the New York Jets

Listen to the full podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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