The Bears this season already defeated more teams .500 or better (Green Bay, Dallas, Cincinnati, Baltimore) than they did all last season (Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay). That should be indicative of a good team that has gotten better.
But the macro issue now, as it has in some ways been at various times this season, is whether this was a good team having a bad game, or a team that is just not very good and has occasional good games even against good teams.
The conclusion, if that’s even possible after 15 games, was less than encouraging because of Sunday night in Philadelphia.
The goal of Bears coaches and players, expressed multiple times daily since the beginning of offseason work, has been “to get better each and every day.” Those exact words most of the time.
If there was a single overarching negative to Sunday’s 54-11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, it was that at the one moment this season when that was needed most, the result was precisely, completely the opposite.
“We actually thought we took a step back,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who could have been speaking for every member of the staff and roster. The poor play on defense, replicated on offense and special teams, for a team coming off two straight wins was alarming because of the work that had gone into fixing the problems coming out of Cleveland.
“Where we thought maybe a week ago we were improving,” Tucker said, “we didn’t see that type of improvement.”
One other issue: Lovie Smith teams typically recovered from poor games with good ones. This team followed its beating (allowing 40 points) in Detroit with a loss to New Orleans. It followed the (42-21) embarrassment in St. Louis with a bumbling loss in Minnesota.
[Top 13 of 2013: Jay Cutler, Josh McCown and the Bears' QB situation]
And with a chance to clinch the NFC North last Sunday, the Bears played their worst game of the season.
Still, “as I said to the players during the week and I said [Sunday], if we walked into here in the locker room in April in the first OTA and said we’d be playing for the NFC North on the last day of the season, we would have taken it,” said coach Marc Trestman. “Now we’ve got that opportunity.”