The Chicago Bears have been in the headlines for very different reasons over the past week. What started as fan and media outcry over their performance versus the Cleveland Browns turned into intrigue over a potential move from the city of Chicago to nearby Arlington Heights. They’ve been the epitome of polarizing.
Talk of a new stadium did well to take the stink off for the time being. But with Sunday fast approaching, we have to remember what matters now. And that is that this Bears team needs an offensive turnaround and has the lowly Detroit Lions next on the docket.
The Chicago Bears Barely Beating the Detroit Lions Won’t Be Good Enough
Since Matt Nagy took over as head coach in 2018, the Bears are 5-1 against the Lions. The lone loss came in their final meeting last season in a game the Bears led 23-20 entering the fourth quarter. It was also the second game with Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays instead of Nagy.
The results of that game — which was their sixth loss in a row — belied the “progress” showed by the offense.
It was just their second 30-point performance of the season and sparked a mini-rally that helped propel them into the postseason for the second time in three seasons. They would score 30-plus in each of the next three games, even scoring 41 on the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars.
However, unsatisfied with how the offense had to operate to be successful, Nagy resumed play-calling duties for Week 17 and their Wild Card game. They averaged 12.5 points per game over those final two contests. To be fair, they were 3-2 with Lazor calling plays but the wins came against the Lions, Minnesota Vikings, and Jaguars; not exactly a murderer’s row.
Still, the offense was its most productive version.
Heading into Week 4, we still don’t know who the starting quarterback will be and the offense is as lethargic as ever. There also might not yet be a resolution to the whole play-calling issue. Though, Nagy was less forthcoming than in the past when he was going to be.
On the Lion
The other side has had a rough start to their season as well, going 0-3 for the first time since 2015. Setting a new low might sound impossible considering how bad the franchise has been over the years. 2015 was also the last time Detroit went 0-4 to start a season so there isn’t some sort of weird statistical improbability to overcome here.
This isn’t some pushover team, though.
They made a late comeback against the San Francisco 49ers in the opener, hung with the Green Bay Packers before Jared Goff got butterfingers, and lost on the longest field goal in NFL history on a play many said should have drawn a delay of game.
Many laughed (present company included) when Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell made anecdotes about biting kneecaps but Detroit is fighting for him.
With the reports coming out of Halas after the debacle in Cleveland, things could be going in the opposite direction in Chicago.
The Bears will have the defensive edge, ranking 12th in total yards allowed and 19th in points against compared to 22nd and 31st, respectively, for the Lions. That would be all well and good if they were facing each other. But Chicago will be trotting out its anemic offense (31st in points, 32nd in yards) while Detroit (17th in yards, 19th in points) can move the ball.
Winning Ugly Over the Lions
Chicago has outscored Detroit 25.6 to 18.5 in the wins and 26.3 points to 21.3 overall under Nagy. With the margin for error already super-thin — remember, they barely won the first meeting last season when running back D’Andre Swift dropped a pass that hit him right in the hands right at the goal line.
That can’t be the case on Sunday, not if Nagy and Ryan Pace want to keep some of the heat off for another week at least.
The problem is that a Bears Week 4 victory will almost certainly have to be “ugly”. They haven’t shown the ability to be an explosive group, really, in the four years that Nagy has been at the helm. A switch to Lazor might only be a band-aid.
Critics already point out who the offense looked better against during its resurgence late last season as they picked on bottom feeders.
Beating Detroit will do nothing to calm that. Not with the gauntlet they have coming up.
Losing to the Lions, though, could be catastrophic for the current regime. We’ve already heard whispers that Nagy could be out if they don’t bounce back this weekend. If that is true, Pace might not be far behind. Of course, with this organization, it’s just as likely that the outcome won’t matter.
The court of public opinion is far less forgiving than the brain trust up at Halas Hall. Fans have heard their criticisms be echoed by the national media all week. They saw First Take put, “Should Justin Fields force a trade out of Chicago” on a chyron.
Some might say they are already there, but good luck convincing anyone the Bears haven’t hit rock bottom should they lose on Sunday.
Embed from Getty Images