ARLINGTON, Tex. – The stated base goal of John Fox is to improve every week, show improvement somewhere. Three games in the 2016 season, the exact opposite is transpiring, with all the ominous implications that go with that trend line for an organization trying to pull itself out of what had looked to be a generational low point. Before Sunday anyway.
The Bears’ 31-17 beating at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys left the Bears (0-3) with a second straight winless September. But while some positives were found among the losses to Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle last September, the only one from Sunday seemed to be that the Bears didn’t quit, something that seemed vaguely the case as the Philadelphia game wound down.
Brian Hoyer started in place of Jay Cutler, sidelined with a thumb injury, and whether he makes a case for a change at quarterback remains to be seen. What Hoyer did do, though, was bring the Bears back, at least close to respectability, in the second half in what he personally is taking away as one significant positive from a bad game.
“The one thing that I’ll say is that to see the resilience in that [locker] room, to come back out down 24-3 at halftime and keep battling, it’s good to see that,” Hoyer said. “It’s good to have that perseverance even in tough times. You’ve got to take that, build on that and figure out how to move the ball.”
But Hoyer acknowledged that there are no moral victories in the NFL, and Sunday was not one of those anyway.
The Bears led into the fourth quarter against Houston. They led until just before halftime against Philadelphia. They never were close to leading the Cowboys.
“I think we were kind of reversed this week – very poor first half and I thought we got better on both sides of the ball the second half,” Fox said. “The bad thing about the first three games is we haven’t put a complete game together.”
More concerning perhaps, the Bears have been outplayed in virtually every phase of every game, and looked sloppy and undisciplined too often in the process, hinting at breakdowns beyond just talent issues.
Each week this season has left the Bears seemingly worse than they were the week before. The second-half collapse at Houston was followed by a more woeful performance against the Philadelphia Eagles last Monday, which seemed almost encouraging compared to this Sunday, when the Cowboys ran up 274 yards and 24 points on the Bears – only six yards and five points fewer than the Eagles hammered for in their full game against the Bears.
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The last time the Bears saw the Cowboys, the defense of Mel Tucker allowed Dallas 194 rushing yards and 41 points. The Cowboys had 135 yards and 24 points in just the first half this time. Bears opponents scored 74 and 62 points on the historically bad Tucker defenses of 2013 and 2014. The Bears of Fox/Vic Fangio allowed 105 yards in the first three last year and 83 this year.
The offense under coordinator Dowell Loggains started the season badly and initially took another step backwards against the Cowboys. The Bears managed all of four first downs and barely eight minutes time of possession in the first half. The offense scored 14 the first week, seven the second (special teams returned a punt for a TD vs. Philadelphia) and three until the Cowboys had 24 this week.
Special teams committed penalties on consecutive plays of the first half, the second costing them a recovered onside kick.
The options now? “Give up, give in or give it your all,” Fox said. “We’ve got the right kinds of guys in that locker room and I think we’ll improve from it.”