Prior to their MNF matchup against the Rams earlier this week, the Bears were still being doubted. Even at 5-1 and briefly having the first seed in the NFC, almost every football media outlet had the Chicago Bears labeled as “pretenders.” Chicago fans were hoping to silence the media by beating a solid Rams team under the lights on Monday. After a somewhat humiliating 24-10 loss at SoFi Stadium the chatter is only getting louder. Everyone and their mother’s now think the Chicago Bears are a fraud, but it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. Here’s why.
After week seven, the Bears are 5-2. Before the season even started, A LOT of sports media sources were predicting the Bears to barely chalk up five wins the entire year. They were supposed to be a bad team this season in peoples eyes. After a hot start to the season, the NFL world seemingly had their grocery list of excuses in their back pockets. Whether it’s “they’ve only beaten bad and injured teams,” or “they keep getting lucky with their opponents collapsing at the end of the game,” the list goes on and on.
It is true that the Bears have their issues, particularly on offense, it doesn’t mean the 5-2 record counts for nothing. NFL fans were already waiting for the Bears to lose so they could get their confirmation bias fix. Even if they won the game and were atop of the NFC at 6-1, we’d be hearing how the Rams aren’t actually a good team because they only beat the NFC East. There is no winning in this game of perception for the Bears, who will be doubted until they win a playoff game, and that’s understandable.
They’re not alone
Because of my first point, it seems like people think the Bears are the only team with a winning record to suffer a tough loss. Here are some other teams that tend to be labeled “contenders” who have also suffered embarrassing losses:
- Bills: 42-16 at Titans
- Browns: 38-7 at Steelers
- Bucs: 34-23 at Saints
- Cardinals: 31-21 at Panthers
- Colts: 27-20 at Jaguars, 32-23 at Browns
- Packers: 38-10 at Bucs
- Rams: 24-16 at 49ers
- Saints: 34-24 at Raiders
- 49ers: 43-17 at Dolphins
The average margin of loss for these games is 16.6, which is worse than the 14 point loss the Bears suffered on Monday. For some reason, these teams get a pass for their bad games and the Bears don’t. Probably because most people expected them to be solid before the season. It can be hard for a Bears fan to keep a level head and not panic when everyone else is telling them they should.
Defense vs Offense
It’s a rare occasion for the Bears to have a good offense. They’ve been dependent on great defensive play since the beginning of time. As the tides have been turning the last couple decades, good offenses are now evidently being favored over good defenses. Especially with the rise of young offensive stars like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. All of a sudden it seems like people think a good defense counts for nothing.
Throughout the Super Bowl Era, the number one offense and number one defense have met in the Super Bowl eight times. The team with the number one defense has won the game seven of those eight times. In the past decade, this type of Super Bowl matchup has happened twice (Super Bowls 48 and 51). Both times the defense has prevailed. This notion that defenses are suddenly obsolete is asinine and doesn’t have an accurate basis on reality. Sure, playing defense is a bit harder than it was in the past. The phrase “defense wins championships” still rings true.
Better than the past
In 2018, the Bears had a very exciting season where they finished 12-4. It was eerily similar to how the Bears have played this season. The defense played lights out and the offense struggled with similar issues to what we’re going through right now. The difference however, is that in 2018 after six weeks, the Bears were 3-3 as apposed to 5-1 this year. Two of those three loses were against teams who finished with a losing record. The two teams the Bears have lost to this year have a combined record of 9-4.
Having two losses on the record to good teams after seven weeks is pretty solid. They’ve had worse starts against worse teams in recent years and bounced back. Taking a couple of L’s is not a death sentence.
Click here to read about how Nick Foles changes the Bears offense
Room to improve
There have been two main issues that are pretty clearly the cause of the Bears offensive woes. Play calling and offensive line play. After Monday’s loss, Matt Nagy was asked about play calling duties and this was his response:
The conversation is starting to happen. The leader of this team, Nick Foles, is being vocal about the issue as well. He allegedly said that sometimes Nagy sends in a play call and he knows it won’t work because he won’t have enough time after the snap. While Bears fans have been calling for this for some time now, at least Nagy is starting to acknowledge that he could be responsible and the quarterback is trying to hold him accountable. Hopefully he’ll stop being incredibly stubborn and swallow his pride.
When Foles lightly called out Nagy’s play calling, he also indirectly took a jab at the offensive line. This is a very visible problem and changes crucially need to be made. The line is in a pretty tough spot as is, with the two best linemen in James Daniels and Cody Whitehair going down. Bears fans would like to see GM Ryan Pace make some moves like signing former Bills guard Quinton Spain, but it may be a little too late for that after seeing the Bengals are expected to sign him. In a year where the Bears could potentially make a run at the Super Bowl if these problems are fixed, Pace needs to find a way. It seems like a trade may be the only solution.
Put your panic buttons back in the drawer
Being the passionate bunch that they are, Chicago Bears fans like to keep their panic buttons on their bedside table. They tend to be a very polar group; when the team wins – we’re Super Bowl contenders and after a loss the front office need to blow everything up.
It’s important to look at things sensibly, and not to over react. Sure, the Bears aren’t legitimate Super Bowl contenders until the above issues are resolved but they’re not the Jets either. There is a middle ground. As long as they keep winning the games that they’re supposed to, and beating good teams here and there (like against the Bucs) the team should be fine. If the playoffs are in arms reach and the same issues are still being ignored, it’ll be time to throw in the towel and calling for Nagy/Pace’s head will be justified.