By Chris Emma-
CHICAGO (CBS) — When Sunday’s slate of games are finished, the Bears (5-8) will more than likely be officially eliminated from playoff contention. If anything, they’ll be clinging to the smallest of mathematical miracles entering their next game, against the Saints.
It’s another lost season in Chicago, one offering little reason to keep fighting. But the Bears vow to give their best effort, even if their fate is sealed.
“This team competes hard every day to get better, and they compete hard in the football game,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.
On Thursday, it was another ugly loss, a 41-28 defeat to Dallas that wasn’t as competitive as the final score would indicate. Chicago was beaten down once again.
A season filled with lowlights added another brutal loss, with playoff contention technically still on the line. The Bears aren’t going to the Super Bowl, a goal they openly embraced when training camp broke in Bourbonnais. When the regular season ends, the players and coaches will go their separate ways into the offseason.
Before that happens, they plan to keep fighting. After all, this is football.
“You need to go out there and put that in perspective, go out and have fun, and remember why you play, remember who you play for, and really find that intrinsic motivation right now,” safety Ryan Mundy said. “Because that’s what it comes down to.”
However, getting that mindset together for the season’s final three games won’t come easy. Each loss brings team morale further down — even quarterback Jay Cutler confessed to that.
“After every loss, early in the week, it’s hard, I’m not going to lie about that,” he said. “It’s hard for guys to find the motivation, the energy and stuff to get going. It’s easier after a win, that is a given.”
The Bears keep speaking of working to get better, but work is hard to accomplish when there’s little to fight for.
“If you’re not self-motivated, you shouldn’t be doing this job,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “I think we’ve got a bunch of self-motivated guys. We’ve got to look in the mirror, correct our mistakes and focus on the Saints.”
Run game still MIA
On paper, it seemed like a natural advantage. The Bears matched a Pro Bowl running back in Matt Forte against the NFL’s 22nd-ranked run defense. Trestman even stated that working a strong run game would be an emphasis.
But when the ball was booted in the air Thursday, the Bears’ rushing attack was nowhere to be found. Chicago netted just 35 rushing yards, and Forte had 26 yards on 13 carries. How did that happen?
“To be honest, I’m not a run expert,” Cutler said. “It’s hard for me to give you an answer on that.”
Forte had no answers, too.
“Nobody can explain it,” Forte said of the struggles.
The latest lack of a rushing attack came one week after Forte had five carries for six yards in a loss to the Lions. Trestman, the Bears’ play-caller, seemed perplexed as to how it occurred. Then, it happened again.
“We tried to run the football,” Trestman said. “They certainly were making every attempt to try to stop the run.”
Chicago posted 376 yards of offense, thanks to Cutler’s 341 passing yards. But there was no balance, once again.
Marshall treated in hospital
In a losing effort, the Bears suffered another key loss. Receiver Brandon Marshall left the game in the second quarter with a rib injury and was taken from Soldier Field in an ambulance. The injury occured on a fourth-and-7 completion from Cutler in which Marshall was struck in the back/midsection.
Trestman said after the game that Marshall was still being evaluated in the hospital. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that the receiver may have fractured ribs and was having his spleen examined.
“We’re all worried about him,” Cutler said. “He’s our guy, and hopefully he’ll get back sooner rather than later.”
Marshall was in the locker room at halftime, where Cutler and several other Bears players interacted with him, believing he was in good spirits. When the team returned to the field for the second half, Marshall was taken away to the hospital.
With the Bears on the verge of mathematical elimination from playoff contention, they will likely be moving on without their top receiver.
“It’s a big loss,” Forte said. “Guys got to step up in his place. But you can’t replace a guy like Brandon.”
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.