Another 2016 Bears game that you can look and see just about what you want to see (except a win, which is, OK, sort of important, but just stay with me here...)
If you don’t like this Bears team, John Fox, Ryan Pace, whatever, you’re nodding knowlingly and approvingly as they fall to 2-9 after a couple of missed last-minute chances in a 27-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans (6-6).
A backup quarterback (Matt Barkley) in his first NFL start, a rookie running back (Jordan Howard) with another strong game (84 rushing yards), none of that stuff matters.
"We've done that a few times this season, looking for the positives,” said defensive end Akiem Hicks. “We're tired of that. We're looking for results."
Or do you see a 2-8 Bears team with nothing to play for and trailing 27-7 early in the fourth quarter, comes back to within a dropped pass (actually, two dropped passes) in the end zone in the closing seconds to lose 27-21. Indications from players inside the locker room last week was that this was not a Bears team that would quit on its coach or each other. That appeared to hold through Sunday, with the Bears clearly playing with some intensity even down multiple scores in the fourth quarter.
So was Sunday’s glass half-full of positives? "Absolutely,” said defensive end Willie Young. “A lotta young guys stepping up and making plays. One guy goes down, guys come in and fill that void. As long as our front seven stays together, we'll be just fine."
Of course, any Bears position group staying together this season is more than a little problematic. Witness, Sunday. The reality is that the Bears went into this game missing nine starters, and left it with potentially another, as Danny Trevathan was on a cart under the stadium afterwards with what coach John Fox termed a “serious” knee injury. That’s not including cornerback Kyle Fuller, who may yet return from IR and knee surgery but hasn’t yet. Or the absence of even No. 2’s at quarterback (Brian Hoyer) and linebacker (Lamarr Houston).
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The Bears got far more than most expected out of Barkley, the third different starting quarterback for the Bears through 11 games (Jay Cutler, Hoyer). They got basically about everything they could have asked for out of a backup, or even a starter for that matter.
“I thought he came out and played well,” said Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. “He gave his team the best chance to win and that’s all you can really ask for a guy coming in.”
(Hey, maybe the thing to do now is start another faux controversy: Does Jay Cutler get his starting job back when he’s healthy, or do you stay with Barkley? KIDDING!)
One takeaway from Sunday is really one that’s been the same pretty much all season. Fox had his team in position to win, playing with fire, at the end of a game with half his starting lineups in sick bay. If management were looking for a referendum on Fox’s leadership and whether his message is still resonating with his players, the referendum passed.
“The results are wins and losses, and the results have not been good,” said Fox, who may not excoriate publicly but neither does he deal in false positives. “As I told the team, [Sunday], it was a pretty gritty, hard-fought game to get back into it. We just have to play better for 60 minutes.”
So are the Bears a team that can play spectacularly for 15 minutes (14 first downs, 217 yards, 14 points in Sunday’s fourth quarter), or a team that can lose leads in fourth quarters (Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville), which is what bad teams do? The Bears had chances to win in fourth quarters against the Colts, Texans, Giants and now Tennessee.
Does that make them just another so-so bad team? Or are they closer to good than 2-9 says they are?
You can see whatever you want to see in the 2016 Chicago Bears.