Bears-Lions: And the winner is…

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Bears-Lions: And the winner is…

Coach John Fox addressed his team at a special meeting on Friday. While he wasn’t getting into details of his remarks, the general tenor was clear for the wrap-up of a season of reforming a destitute culture within one of the NFL’s marquee franchises.

“I think this is unique in that you're kind of finishing one season and beginning another year so how you finish is important,” Fox said.

The specific outcome of the Bears-Detroit Lions game Sunday has not mattered since the playoffs dealt both teams out over the past couple weeks. But it does matter in the minds of Bears coaches who’ve worked since last January to install not only different systems in all three phases, but also a different mindset around winning.

[MORE: Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN]

So while the stated objective of avoiding a second straight season with double-digit losses may seem both meaningless and menial, it isn’t for those invested in the process and wanting to be part of a Bears future.

It was more than coincidence that GM Ryan Pace’s first three signings in free agency were two players from winning Super Bowl teams – Pernell McPhee, Antrel Rolle – a third who’d been part of playoff teams two of his previous four seasons – Eddie Royal – and a fourth who anchored offensive lines for playoff teams two of his last three seasons – Will Montgomery.

The point has been to import building blocks with talent and character and, particularly now, to “get some good energy in the building, some wins, some confidence,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “Because I really don’t feel like that we’re that far off.”

A season on the rebound from its 0-3 start went completely off the rails with losses to lesser opponents with losing records (San Francisco, Washington). A victory over Detroit does not give the Bears a winning record. But it would end a five-game losing streak against the Lions, longest run of futility against that division rival since the six straight losses from 1968-70.

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Coaches and personnel staff will be continuing an evaluation process that has been going on for nearly a year for more than a few players. But the bigger focus is on building a culture from within.

“It’s mostly about trying to stay positive,” said defensive end Willie Young, “and keeping all the young guys on the same page and doing whatever it takes to get this thing rolling again.”

And the winner is…

For all of the talk of attitude shifts, none of that really happens without wins to sustain confidence of players in themselves and in everything the coaching staff is presenting. For most of this season, that has been present as the schemes of coordinators Adam Gase, Vic Fangio and Jeff Rodgers put players generally in positions to make plays, and players not making them and pointing thumbs, not fingers.

The Lions (6-9) are a better team than they were when the scraped out an overtime win at Detroit back on Oct. 18, the first of the three times the Bears (6-9) played and failed to reach .500. The Bears? Not so sure what they’ve become.

The Bears had lost three straight before thumping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. The Lions have won their last two and five of seven since a 1-7 first half-season with the only win over the Bears. The Lions are wondering about the future of head coach Jim Caldwell; the Bears don’t have a head-coaching question but do have others about themselves and the ability to target a game and win it.

“It would be big,” said cornerback Tracy Porter. “To have that momentum going into the offseason, to finish the season out on a two-game wining streak, that would create huge momentum leading into next year.”

So who comes out of Sunday with momentum?

Moon's prediction: Bears 23, Lions 17

Three Bears necessities toward going 3-0 in Jerry's house

Three Bears necessities toward going 3-0 in Jerry's house

The Bears have won both times they've played in Jerry Jones' gargantuan pigskin palace. But that was in 2010 and 2012, the last two times this franchise finished with a winning record. The home team has lost eight straight times there. This matchup actually provides some hope for the offense (despite Jay Cutler's absence), but uncomfortable thoughts defensively, considering Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman will be sidelined, with safety Adrian Amos and nickel back Bryce Callahan (concussions) potentially joining them.

1. Tag Hoyer

...with a red non-contact jersey. Not possible, you say? Okay, well this scuffling offensive line needs to get in synch. And quickly. Like the Bears, the Cowboys have just four sacks so far this season. But they did deliver nine hits last week in D.C. on an already-rattled Kirk Cousins. Rod Marinelli's no-name, suspension-thinned defense has allowed fewer points than the Bears. The added concern is Hoyer's lack of work with the only player opponents must game-plan for: Alshon Jeffery, who worked primarily with Cutler throughout training camp. And who knows how much Jeffery (knee) worked at full-speed in practice this week, being held out of Thursday's workout completely. So....

2. Hand off, dump off

There is no time like now to establish the running game. There's Hoyer trying to get comfortable. There's the 4.75 yards per rush the Cowboys defense is allowing. There's the need to keep the Cowboys' offensive weapons off the field against the Bears' banged-up D. Between Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, Ezekiel Elliott, and the best offensive line in the NFL, no matter Dak Prescott looks so comfortable. And when the Bears need to mix up their attempt to pound on the ground, get Zach Miller and Eddie Royal involved with quick-hits through the air.

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3. Fill up the half-empty glass

Whether this is Dowell Loggains being unable to adjust and be creative enough to the opposition's counter moves, or a coincidental breakdown in execution, the Bears' offense has scored zero points after halftime. We signed off on Houston's talented defense two weeks ago. Three turnovers on the first four possessions lost momentum Monday night. Loggains and company need to find a way to anticipate, execute, and dictate at a much higher level over the final 30 minutes.

**Join Alex Brown, Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Chris at 6:30 p.m. Sunday night on Comcast SportsNet for "Bears Pregame Live," leading you right up to the 7:30 kickoff on NBC. Then as soon as the second quarter ends, log on to CSNChicago.com for "Bears Halftime Live," as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over adjustments. And immediately after the game ends, switch back to CSN as the four guys are joined by former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt for 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews from Dallas on "Bears Postgame Live."**

Bears vs. Cowboys: And the winner is...

Bears vs. Cowboys: And the winner is...

Severe conflict here.

The obvious temptation is to succumb to the swelling despair surrounding the Bears and predict a third loss to open the 2016 season. And “View from the Moon” did in fact call this game as a loss back in April. It’s not that easy, however.

The Bears couldn’t be pants’d by two rookie quarterbacks in a row, could they? Dak Prescott got the Dallas Cowboys to a win last Sunday while Carson Wentz was preparing to undo the Bears Monday night. Prescott posted a passer rating of 103.7 in the win at Washington while the Bears were losing their game and their quarterback the next night.

But if the Bears have had their troubles at home under John Fox (1-8), the Cowboys haven’t won a home game without Tony Romo at quarterback since December 2010.

So a contrarian view has taken shape. Brian Hoyer looked awful in training camp and preseason, but Hoyer is a controlled professional in the tradition of Josh McCown, and last year with the Houston Texans put up six games with passer ratings of 94 or better (Cutler had seven for the Bears).

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I do not like the look of the Bears defense without nose tackle Eddie Goldman and with a litany of others (Willie Young, Bryce Callahan, Adrian Amos) at less than 100 percent because of early season injuries. There is little to favor the Bears, which is why bettors placed them as clear underdogs.

But the belief here is that the offense will shed its passive mindset and attack with Jordan Howard and the running game, unlike the first two games. The first two games effectively turned on turnovers, and Hoyer last year had just one game in the 11 he played where he threw more interceptions than touchdown passes, before the meltdown in the playoffs.

If the Bears keep control of the football, they will wear down a mediocre Dallas defense, which is exactly the style of game Fox and Dowell Loggains want.

Bears 17, Cowboys 16

(View from the Moon ’16 record: 1-1)