By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) Three weeks ago, it looked the Bears might be a .500 team as a favorable second-half schedule awaited. After a 27-24 loss to the Lions on Sunday that dropped them to 3-7, these Bears look like a five-win team.
There’s no shortage of reasons for the Bears’ struggles. They lack talent in some important areas, and they’ve had injuries to key players. Another factor could be be that this team hasn’t learned to win the close games, as evidenced by an 8-18 record in one-score contests in the John Fox era.
Connor Barth’s badly missed 46-yard field goal that could’ve tied the game in the closing seconds drew much of the attention in the aftermath. I suspect that miss will be his last for the Bears, who should be searching for a new kicker this week. Barth is only 11 of 16 this season, which is unacceptable.
The more important storyline in the big picture was the the play of rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who was critical of himself in his postgame comments and admitted he has to play better. Trubisky was 18-of-30 for 179 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t threw an interception but did have a costly fumble.
Trubisky has confidence in himself and maintained that offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has confidence in him as well. Then he made a key statement in which, to paraphrase, he referenced that Loggains was directing the offense simply in the way Fox allows him to. Trubisky wasn’t trying to criticize Fox, but in a roundabout way, that’s what he did. We’ve been blaming Loggains for the conservative play-calling when he’s been under orders to have that style.
It’s reflective of Fox’s hope that his defense will play well and keep games within reach. Fox isn’t asking Trubisky to win games but rather wants to prevent him from losing games at this point, by limiting turnovers and theoretically keeping it close.
The problem with that is as Trubisky has gained experience and been allowed to do a little more, the defense hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. On Sunday, the defense once again failed to play at the level they were at earlier this season when it was drawing plenty of praise. Matthew Stafford threw for 287 yards, and Lions receivers were wide open far too often.
Trubisky has made some mistakes and because of his inconsistent footwork, his accuracy isn’t what the Bears would like it to be. But in the learning experience that he’s going through, he has to be given the chance to win games. That doesn’t mean on the final drive but rather the whole game. The Bears offense needs to put more points on the board, and it starts with the quarterback being allowed to do more.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Bears, who face the Eagles (9-1) next Sunday. With the way Philadelphia is playing, Chicago will probably need to score at least 30 points to have a chance to win. That means it’s time to take the kid gloves off Trubisky and allow him to get aggressive. With only three wins this season, the Bears have nothing to lose.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who’s an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.