If Bears Hope To Contend, They Need Make Home Field An Advantage

By Chris Emma–

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Anticipation rises for each home opener at Soldier Field. Tailgate lots fill early, Chicago’s offices are filled with blue and orange and excitement builds for football.

Excitement for Bears football went away quickly last season. The Packers spoiled the season opener, then the team returned home three weeks later with an 0-3 record. The Bears’ victory in Week 4 over the Raiders was their lone win at Soldier Field.

John Fox is 1-7 at home, seeking his second Soldier Field win Monday against the Eagles (1-0). In fact, he has as many wins in Chicago facing the Bears as he does coaching the Bears, as his 2005 Panthers earned a playoff victory that’s remembered in local infamy for Steve Smith’s 218-yard performance.

So, what has to change for these Bears?

“Pretty much everything — 1-7 at home is nothing to write home about, for sure,” Fox said.

Last season, Fox’s Bears finished with a winning record on the road, going 5-3 away from Chicago. The Bears left wins on their home field.

In its 2016 home opener, Chicago (0-1) hosts a Philadelphia team led by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who’s fresh off a victory over Cleveland to start his career. A home-field advantage can make the difference, especially against a 23-year-old who has never faced an atmosphere like this before.

“We expect it to be a loud and really exciting atmosphere,” Wentz said of playing in Soldier Field.

First-year Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks can recall his one and only game in Chicago — a Monday night game in 2014 when he played for the Saints. Hicks remembered how the Soldier Field stands felt right on top of the action. New Orleans won that game 31-15.

Coming into Chicago is supposed to be a daunting task for an opponent, but the Bears haven’t posed much of a challenge as of late. This team is hoping to flip the script.

Fox stated that the Bears plan to revamp their pregame approach but declined to elaborate. The comforts of playing at home are great leading up to the game. The Bears just haven’t used it to their advantage.

Does tight end Zach Miller plan to change anything? It’s fairly simple in his mind.

“We just got to win at home — that’s what we got to do differently,” Miller said.

Playing at home is of course no certainty, it’s only meant to be an advantage. But the Bears know that if they have any hope of contending this season, they have to protect their home turf. Soldier Field should provide every advantage Monday against the Eagles and their rookie quarterback.

The anticipation will be high for the home opener. The Bears must rise to the occasion.

“We got the opportunity to open up the home opener for the ’16 season on Monday night football,” Fox said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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