Why It's Not Time for Chicago Bears Fans to Panic

Todd Thorstenson@@Thor1323Analyst IOctober 8, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 06: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears looks back at head coach Marc Trestman during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field on October 6, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Saints defeated the Bears 26-18. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears are who we thought they were.

But wait, who did we think they were? That's the real question.

Some fans had the Bears in the Super Bowl before the first snap of the season while others were more skeptical and weren't quite sure that they were even a playoff team.

The truth is that the Bears are probably somewhere in between those two assessments. I think that they are probably still a playoff team, but a Super Bowl contender? Not yet.

They got off to a nice 3-0 start, which had those in the Super Bowl contingent really believing. However, even in those three victories it was evidentor at least it should have beenthat they had the makings of a solid team, but still needed some work.

They rallied at home to beat a talented Cincinnati team to start the season, but also needed a touchdown on the final play from scrimmage to beat a not-so-solid Minnesota team. Then, they went to Pittsburgh and built a big lead on a struggling Steelers team that actually made it a game in the second half, only to see the Bears put it away late.

However, if you really watched those games, there were signs that the Bears may have some issues down the road. Sure, they were noticeably better on offense, but they still lacked consistency. On the defensive side, they were getting their turnovers, but weren't doing much else. In fact, those turnovers masked an otherwise pedestrian start to the season for the once vaunted Bears defense.

Then came the game in Detroit that saw the Lions come out and punch the Bears in the mouth early, which turned out to be a punch they could not overcome.

The offense suddenly didn't look as smooth as it did in the first three weeks as Jay Cutler was pressured into making some decisions that most fans were hoping were a thing of the past. He threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, which resulted in a Detroit touchdown.  

On the defensive side, they were sliced and diced by Reggie Bush, who carved up the Bears defense to the tune of 173 total yards and a touchdown. It was yet another game where the defensive line couldn't get pressure on the quarterback as Julius Peppers had the only sack, his only one of the season.

It certainly wasn't pretty as the Lions built a 40-16 lead before two late scores by the Bears made it a more respectable 40-32 loss. It was a loss that clearly accentuated the Bears weaknesses, particularly defensively, but one that could have been avoided if not for a few big mistakes by Cutler.

Next, the undefeated New Orleans Saints came marching into Soldier Field this past Sunday. It was a big test for a struggling Bears defense going up against Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and company.  

Julius Peppers and the Bears' defensive line still can't seem to pressure the quarterback.
Julius Peppers and the Bears' defensive line still can't seem to pressure the quarterback.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For the most part, the defense did a nice job by employing the strategy of giving New Orleans everything underneath and avoiding big plays. It held Brees under 300 yards passing for the first time in his past 10 games and only allowed 66 yards on the ground, but when it needed to make a big play, it couldn't do it.

For the first time this season, it didn't force a turnover and the bend-but-don't-break defense broke at the wrong times, most notably with 23 seconds left in the second quarter. It allowed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Thomas to make the score 20-7 at the half.

That one was a back breaker.

However, the offense didn't hold up its end either as it didn't even run a play from New Orleans territory until almost four minutes left in the second quarter. In fact, in its first five possessions it had four punts and a lost fumble. It struggled to establish any consistency early on as the Saints defense kept it on its heels. This, more than anything else, was the reason for the 26-18 loss.

The second half was a different story as the Bears finally made some adjustments, but it was again too little, too late, like it was in Detroit.

So here we are. The Bears have lost two games in a row and all the fans who had them in the Super Bowl are now looking to fire coaches and get rid of players, while the fans who were skeptical from the beginning are saying "I told you so."

But the truth is, this shouldn't be all that much of a surprise.

It was generally thought that the Bears defense might take a step backwards this season due to some aging veterans and some uncertainty at other positions. It was also the consensus that the offense should be much better, but that it would probably take time to jell as it normally does when a new head coach takes over with a brand new scheme, not to mention a new offensive line.  

So the message should have been pretty clear to fans from the start; don't expect smooth sailing for 16 games. There will be bumps in the road, so curb your enthusiasm.

Now that the Bears have hit a few of those bumps, it's not time to panic and abandon ship. There's no need to overanalyze the situation. They lost a couple of games to some good football teams. They lost to a good Detroit team on the road that basically took advantage of too many Bears turnovers, and they lost to a really good team in the New Orleans Saints who played good football, but were certainly beatable.

Make no mistake, the Bears definitely have some concerns, particularly defensively as the injuries continue to mount up on the already challenged defensive line. They also have to become more consistent offensively, but that may come with time. Keep in mind that they have played only five games in head coach Marc Trestman's offense. There's time to get better and hopefully they will.

And now some good news.

Despite the back-to-back losses, this Bears team is still in pretty good position. It gets a Giants team on Thursday that has yet to win a game this season, and then a long week, before taking on a very underwhelming Redskins team in the nation's capital the following Sunday.  

This means that the Bears have a good shot at being 5-2 going into their bye week before taking on the Packers on November 4 in Green Bay. The second half of their schedule is no cakewalk by any means as they will see the Packers twice and the Lions again. They also have dates with the defending champion Baltimore Ravens, an improved Dallas team and a surprising Cleveland team.

So they have some work to do, but it's certainly doable.

If they are 5-2 going into the bye week, that means they will more than likely need to go at least 5-4 in their final nine games to earn a playoff spot. That would put them at 10-6, which didn't get them in last season, but typically does.

I still like their chances, but they have to take care of business in the next few weeks to right the ship and get back on track going into the second half of the season.

In order to do that, the offense is going to have to find its rhythm and the defense is going to have to get back to making some big plays.

It's not time to panic yet, but there is a sense of urgency.


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