Emma: Bears’ Downturn Marked By Struggles Against Lions

By Chris Emma–

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — With the new year almost upon them and great changes looming around a corner, the Bears took to Ford Field for their final game of the 2012 season.

Lovie Smith’s team was looking for a 10th victory that could’ve put them into the playoffs with the help of a Packers win over the Vikings. Chicago would earn a 26-24 victory in Detroit, but the Vikings outlasted the Packers, 37-34, behind a Blair Walsh field goal as time expired.

Dec. 30, 2012, would be a day that changed the course of Bears history. They fell shy of the playoffs via a tiebreaker with the Vikings, and Smith would be fired the next day by Phil Emery, then a first-year general manager.

The Bears have gone through two coaches and three offensive coordinators since and have just three players remaining from that team. It was also the last time Chicago’s football franchise has beaten Detroit. The skid has reached six games in a row. With another Bears-Lions game looming Sunday at Soldier Field, seven would mark a record.

Never mind how Smith staying as coach instead of Marc Trestman could’ve altered the franchise’s history. Since 1976, the Bears own a 96-71-5 edge over the Lions, but a half-dozen losses in a row define recent history. Either of those two games with Detroit in 2013 could’ve pushed Trestman’s team to the playoffs. The Bears haven’t sniffed the postseason since. Losing to the Lions has hampered the Bears ever since Smith’s final game.

“I can only speak for last year,” Bears coach John Fox said, declining to dig into recent history. “I’m very familiar with two of those and we’d like to reverse that, yes.”

Fox’s first year as Bears coach brought two more losses to the Lions — both of which could’ve been avoided.

Last October, the Bears had won two straight games — including a road win against the Chiefs — and were facing an 0-5 Lions team. A wild game went to Detroit in overtime, where Chicago lost 37-34 and blew a big opportunity. Fox was guilty of in-game decisions that proved to be costly, including poor clock management late in the fourth quarter. The Bears would fall again to the Lions in Week 17, a 24-20 loss.

“This is a completely new team, the 2016 Chicago Bears,” linebacker Sam Acho said. “It’s a new team, a new season.

“We’re pumped. It’s not really an emphasis of trying to get over any kind of anything. It’s an opportunity to go out there and dominate.”

Dominating is what the Bears used to do when the faced the Lions. They were 13-3 against Detroit from Smith’s second season of 2005 through his last in 2012.

Defeats from Detroit were rare for Chicago, which used to take advantage of the divisional bottom dwellers. The Lions have only finished better than third place twice in the NFC North (reformed in 2002), their only seasons since with winning records.

The Bears had waves of winning under Smith’s leadership. Ever since he left, the Lions have had the edge.

Just Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and Sherrick McManis remain from that victory in Week 17 of 2012. However, the Bears now have somebody from the other side of that recent history, with former Lions running back Joique Bell joining their locker room.

Bell couldn’t equate any common trends to the Lions’ six-game winning streak.

“I’ve been very fortunate to play in this league and to get any win, period, is hard to do in the NFL,” he said.

Detroit hasn’t seen a team of world beaters. The Bears’ blunders to the Packers can be equated to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. There’s no excuse for constant losing to the Lions.

The Lions (1-2) are 26-25 since the start of the 2013 season, compared to the Bears (0-3), who are 14-21. What’s especially damning for the Bears is their record at home since 2014 is 3-14, entering Sunday’s contest. Soldier Field used to be such a tremendous advantage. The Bears are 59-46 since the stadium reopened 13 years ago Thursday.

“I can’t tell you why,” Bears tackle Charles Leno said. “But I know this team has been working hard this week to get the win.”

More recent history goes against the Bears as Sunday nears. Since the divisional shift in 2002, there have been 69 teams to start 0-3, and zero have made the playoffs.

For a second straight year, the Bears are looking to overcome a brutal start.

“It’s a long season,” Acho said. “That’s the biggest thing we remember. There are 13 games left in the season; it’s a 16-game season. It started off not where we wanted, but at the same time, we know things can change quickly. Winning is contagious. Losing is as well. Once we get that one win under our belt, we’ll be fine.”

Flipping the script and beating the Lions is just what the Bears need. That last win seems like it was ages ago.

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

More from Chris Emma

More From CBS Chicago

News Via Email
Podcast Network

Listen Live