What meaning remains in another wayward Bears season?
And with that the last-place Bears were left in a redundant stupor. A 27-24 home loss to the Lions was the team’s third straight defeat, marking the seventh time since the start of 2015 that the team has experienced such a skid.
It was also the Bears’ 13th loss in 16 NFC North games under John Fox. It left Fox’s team two games behind the third-place Packers in the division. It also left the 3-7 Bears in miserable company, partnered with the Browns (0-10), 49ers (1-9), Giants (2-8), Colts (3-7) and Broncos (3-7) as teams that will hit Thanksgiving with fewer than four victories.
Somehow, six games still remain.
Next up for these Bears is a Sunday trip to Philadelphia to face the white-hot Eagles and MVP candidate Carson Wentz. An ugly season could get uglier. Much, much uglier.
So just where is the meaning for these Bears over the next six weeks? What storylines are still worth tracking? How can the team measure its progress as the outside world’s focus begins to drift to 2018?
Bears writers Dan Wiederer and Rich Campbell search for significance in this edition of “Real Talk.”
Dan Wiederer: Boy. It’s hard to get past the deflation that was suffocating the Bears locker room Sunday afternoon, the sense that the juice of this season was all but gone. This is how last place feels in late November, a plight the Bears have become all too familiar with.
Playing for pride is fun and all. But it only goes so far. What a difference 10 days makes in the mood of a locker room, in the hope of an entire city.
So where do the Bears go from here? I honestly don’t know. That question stumps me so much that I asked Josh Sitton — no stranger to big games in November and December and January — how this team will find meaning in its 3-7 crater with six games left to play.
Sitton’s reply: “That’s kind of a loaded question, man. But we’re all professionals. We’re here to do a job. And (yeah) it’s tough to not look at the big picture, to not look at the playoff race and things like that. But it’s our job to come to work each week. It’s a one-game season. That’s how I kind of look at it, with each week as its own little mini season.”
So here we are. Again.
Rich Campbell: We’re used to hearing the cliches about playing out the string. Dust them off. It’s that time of year. Again.
As we brainstorm about storylines worth covering over the next six weeks, let’s give a quick shout-out to Matt Barkley, whose late-season flicker helped us survive last year’s 3-13 belly flop. And, to that point, we at least have Mitch Trubisky’s development to chronicle. That itself is worth tuning in for over the next six weeks.
The rookie quarterback is the future of this team, and he has to keep getting better. It’s imperative. Same with the other young building blocks around him. Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, Adam Shaheen, Cody Whitehair, etc.
This year was always a developmental season for the Bears. My preseason prediction was 5-11, and they’re just about on that pace. Yes, this has been a disappointing step backward after the defense showed real progress against the Ravens and Panthers. But before we fully turn our attention to a potential coaching change, there are developmental gains to be made by a team that’s still rebuilding.
Wiederer: Ah, yes. Those two dreadful words that have come to define Halas Hall: still rebuilding.
Well you know what my rule has been at the outset of training camp the last few seasons. Start with the first-round draft picks, who on talent alone have the biggest opportunities to accelerate the Bears’ climb. Through that lens, here is what we’re looking at:
- Kyle Long: Gutting through injuries to his left shoulder, right ankle and left hand and pushing to again become a force on the offensive line.
- Kyle Fuller: Needs to show much more improvement and promise in the last month and a half of a contract year to remain part of the Bears’ plans.
- Kevin White: Will end up missing 43 games because of injury over his first three seasons.
- Leonard Floyd: Quite possibly out now for the rest of the year with a knee injury.
- Trubisky: The cornerstone of, well, everything. The rookie’s mental stamina will certainly be tested in the coming weeks.
Campbell: That’s a mixed bag, to be sure. We’ll have to closely monitor Long’s status, especially once the Bears are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention — the earliest that could happen is two Sundays from now. Long’s value to the offensive line was evident in Sunday 222-yard rushing output. His return to right guard put the whole offensive line back in alignment. But he’s not healthy, and we’ll have to see if he has that left shoulder surgically repaired in the offseason.