By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Looking up toward a stadium filled with hope, Bears great Charles Tillman recalled one of his favorite memories of Soldier Field. It was simple, yet genuine.
Tillman thought back to third downs for the defense, when the video boards played a graphic that started the stadium in unison — “Let’s Go Bears!” He screamed it into the microphone, bringing the fans to their feet.
Rather fittingly, it was a Bears player from the past who brought the loudest cheers Chicago’s 29-14 loss to Philadelphia on Monday night. Now 0-2, this young Bears team hasn’t brought much of anything to cheer or chant about. Poor play in Monday’s primetime contest was just one of many concerns. The Bears have even greater issues.
Quarterback Jay Cutler walked up to his postgame press conference with a cast supporting his right thumb. Cutler left in the third quarter after aggravating an injury from earlier in the game, as he explained. Cutler was one of six key Bears players to leave early and not return.
“I’m concerned,” Cutler said of his injury.
Everybody at Halas Hall should be concerned, too, not just for the state of their quarterback but for any hopes of 2016 bringing contention. Suddenly, those hopes are on life support.
The Bears also lost linebacker Lamarr Houston to what coach John Fox called a “substantial” knee injury. Defensive lineman Eddie Goldman suffered an ankle injury, while defensive backs Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan left with concussions. Running back Ka’Deem Carey also went down with a hamstring injury.
And yes, Bears fans everywhere have broken hearts.
Entering Year 2 for Fox and general manager Ryan Pace, a requirement for the Bears to contend included good health. After years of bad drafting failed to create organizational depth, the Bears couldn’t afford to play next-man-up football.
Suddenly, Cutler could miss extended time, Goldman may be missing from the pass rush, Houston is surely lost from the edge-rushing rotation and the starting safety and nickelback are in the concussion protocol.
Fox spoke to his players after the game and made sure their heads were up. The Bears want to avoid letting one loss turn into many more.
“We’re working towards that,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said.
Leading into their 15th home loss in 18 games, the Bears weren’t a great team by any means. They would’ve needed breaks this season to stay in the NFC North race, which proved to be hotly contested in Sunday’s primetime game between the Vikings and Packers. Monday’s revealed that Chicago likely won’t have a team fighting in the running.
Two games in September don’t define a season, but when the starting quarterback and five other regulars are injured, one game can decide a season. Fox has led turnarounds for the Panthers and Broncos in his second season in each stop. It will take quite the coaching effort to bring out the best in this team.
“It’s tough,” Fox said. “It strengthens you. I think, a lot of times, if it was easy, anybody could do it. It’s two games, and we have 14 games left. Right now, our focus — very quickly — goes to Dallas. We’re on the road Sunday night, and we have a lot of improving to do.”
Adding to the Bears’ problems, they now have a short week to prepare for the Cowboys. It may be Brian Hoyer starting at quarterback Sunday night in Dallas and several replacement players scattered throughout the lineup.
Monday could have been the catapult towards better days for the Bears. They contained Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz for the first half, leading until the final three seconds before halftime. Under the bright lights, the Bears briefly showed their potential, with Cutler connecting to Alshon Jeffery and the defense flying around.
Then the script flipped quickly on the Bears, and the injuries made a struggling team even worse. What is the state of these Bears?
“It’s not as tough as last year,” Fox said. “We were 0-3.”
It may get even worse.