Bernstein: Brutal Loss Exposes Bears

By Dan Bernstein —
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) Sunday was an end to so many things, a soggy undoing of the Bears on levels small and large. Their 23-16 loss to the Packers at Soldier Field is a new and unambiguous nadir for a franchise still wandering the football wilderness blindly, with no map for a return.

Enough with the celebration of perceived competence, the bar having been so lowered as to divine optimism from them simply being less bad than before. A win over the hapless Packers was to be the Bears’ catalyst for a second half snap-back to mattering, per the agreed-upon narrative, with some more dogs on the schedule and the NFL’s gravitational mediocrity holding sway. So that’s over.

Enough about the strength of the Bears’ defense, not after a remodeled Packers offensive line controlled the point of attack, Brett Hundley cut them up with big plays at critical moments with both his feet and his arm, a third-string running back trucked through one tackler after another and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio inexplicably stopped blitzing a quarterback who showed no sign he could handle it.  This was a game that should’ve been won by that side of the ball dictating the action, and the Bears instead were passive and error prone.

Most significantly, we’ve had quite enough of coach John Fox. For those of use who had reached that point well before this season even began, the rest of you are welcome to the party. You’ll notice it’s a sad party with flat soda and limp balloons and a cake somebody sat on, and the clown just overdosed on Fentanyl, but c’mon in.

Fox’s team came out of the bye week more injured than it was going in, already a remarkable achievement for a coach with a record here of 12-29 after Sunday. The offense was both predictable and desultory while routinely kneecapping itself with penalties. And when they made their first big play, Fox gave us an unforgettable self-own, an all-time boner of a replay challenge that will live in the pantheon of dubious Bears achievements. He admitted after the game that nobody involved in the headset conversation considered the possibility that the loss of possession at the pylon could end up being a touchback, and we can only hope that the next head coach has somebody involved who will.

We’ve never been sure exactly what Fox’s true responsibilities are, but Sunday was clear evidence that the Bears weren’t ready to play.  Their overall sloppiness and lack of discipline is on him as much as the bungling that erased an almost certain touchdown. It can’t be overemphasized that this was coming out of their off week, the Bears’ best chance to make corrections and improvements and have extra time to prepare for a home game against an opponent just asking to be dismissed summarily.

Fox has made a career of limiting the opportunities for mistakes, coaching like a tennis player just returning every shot and hoping to win on unforced errors. He figures that avoiding bad is the same as being good, but when the genuinely awful arrives, the philosophy is exposed. He has to be over now.

If it’s a mordant bright side you crave, consider that the starkness and breadth of the deflation might move the Bears closer to a championship on a day that saw Mitch Trubisky develop further. The team must confront reality instead of hiding in a bubble of false positivity that was putting them on a path to wrong conclusions and potentially damaging decisions.

This was the kind of downer that forces eyes to open, where sometimes the worst can be for the better.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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