By Jeff Joniak-
(WBBM) Sneak in, charge in, or fold up the tent.
Those are the three roads the Bears and all the NFL playoff contenders can take at this point. They are coming up on mile marker 15 in the 2012 season and the forecast is stormy:
The Bears have lost four of their last five games, and are three-and-four in their last seven games. They have taken on more than a bushel full of injuries to starters and other key role players.
They get Green Bay Sunday at Soldier Field and have not beaten the Packers since September 27, 2010.
In the five consecutive Packer wins, including the 2011 NFC championship game, Aaron Rodgers completed 68.4% of his passes at a clip of 8.22 yards-per-pass attempt, with 11 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 11 sacks, and a 103.3 quarterback rating.
The Packers have outscored the Bears 116-to-65 during that span, a 51-point differential. The Bears scored that much in Tennessee Nov. 4, but only 72 points combined in the last five games.
Scoring is an issue right now for the Bears. In their four losses in the last five games, they’ve scored fewer than 18 points four times.
Under Lovie Smith they are 64-and-12 when scoring 18 points or more, and 7-and-0 this season.
Since Mike McCarthy took over the Packers in 2006, Smith’s Bears have scored more than 18 points six times in 14-games, going 5-and-1.
Since Dom Capers took over as defensive coordinator and moved to a 3-4 defense, the Bears have scored more than 18 points twice in eight games going 1-1.
They lost the other six games.
In fact, the Bears have averaged only 14.25 points/game against Capers’ defense since 2009 and are averaging only 14.4 points/game during their current five game tailspin.
So how do they get back to putting the ball in the end zone? Make the half-dozen plays that change the game. They’ve had multiple opportunities to do so in recent losses to Houston, Seattle and Minnesota, and even in the Week 2 loss to the Packers. In each game, there were at least a half-dozen “critical” situations that turned into missed opportunities.
In Sunday’s game against the Packers, those “opportunity” plays must be made and they can come on any of the three phases.
A Bears win keeps the Bears in the playoff picture, prevents the Packers from winning the NFC North for now, with a road game at woebegone Arizona to follow.
That gives the Bears an opportunity to charge into the playoffs.
That’s the road that needs to be traveled.
But they’re going to have to earn it.
And they’re likely going to need more than 18 points. The Packers have scored more than 21 points six times in the last eight games against the Bears.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffJoniak.