Must-win games ahead on Bears' schedule

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Must-win games ahead on Bears' schedule

Three straight losses have left the Bears decidedly on the outside of the playoffs looking in. They are not playing well enough of offense to offset bonehead mistakes and have gone from 7-3 and in control of a wild-card to a longshot. Only the 1979 team lost three in a row and still reached the postseason. This team will need a lot of losing help in Atlanta and Detroit.

Sept. 11, Atlanta Falcons (8-5) -- W 30-12

Jay Cutler puts up 107.8 passer rating to go with Matt Fortes 158 total yards. Defense holds Matt Ryan and Falcons O without a TD.
Sept. 18, @ New Orleans Saints (10-3) -- L 13-30

Forte nets 166 total yards but Mike Martz eschews the run, Cutler is sacked six times, five in the fourth quarter.
Sept. 25, Green Bay Packers (13-0) -- L 17-27

More Martz mystery: nine run calls for Forte net two yards, Aaron Rodgers controls the game and the ball for 37 minutes 29 seconds.
Oct. 2, Carolina Panthers (4-9) -- W 34-29
Forte runs for 205 yards, Cam Newton passes for 374 yards and Panthers rush for 169. Devin Hester punt return and D.J. Moore INT provide winning points.

Mon. Oct. 10, @ Detroit Lions (8-5) -- L 24-13

Big plays and poor plays get safeties Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather benched. Defensive collapses overshadow dismal OL play.
Sun., Oct. 16, Minnesota Vikings (2-11) -- W 39-10

Cutler throws 48 yards for TD to Hester on third play from scrimmage and Hester goes 98 yards with a KOR while defense sacks Donovan McNabb five times, once for a safety.

Sun., Oct. 23, noon @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9) -- W 24-18 (London)

Bears intercept four passes, get out to a 21-5 but then fade in the fourth quarter on both offense and defense, the latter against an offense missing both top RBs and others. But a W is a W.

Oct. 30, Off week

Mon., Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m. @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) -- W 30-24

A halftime lead, then a fall in the third quarter before 13 unanswered points in a statement win. Forte uncharacteristically loses 2 fumbles but rushes for 133 yards, Cutler throws two TD passes and defense makes stops to finish.

Sun., Nov. 13, 3:15 p.m. Detroit Lions (8-5) -- W 37-13

The offense scored seven, the defense 14 and special teams 16 and all three stood up to occasional thuggishness from assorted Lions. Pulls the Bears even with Detroit in the standings as Lions lose three of four and Bears now have four straight Ws.
Sun., Nov. 20, 3:15 p.m. San Diego Chargers (6-7) -- W 31-20

Cutler breaks the thumb on his throwing hand and long snapper Pat Mannelly lost for the season with torn ACL. Philip Rivers hands away fifth straight game as defense produces three turnovers in the second half and Bears win their fifth straight.
Sun., Nov. 27, 3:05 p.m. @ Oakland Raiders (7-6) -- L 25-20

Caleb Hanies first NFL start begins badly, with three first-half INTs and poor decisions. But 175 passing yards in the fourth quarter bring the Bears to within an onsides kickoff recovery of going for the win.

Sun., Dec., 4, noon Kansas City Chiefs (5-8) -- L 10-3

The loss of Forte to a knee injury lowlights one of the more dismal overall games of 2011 for a Bears team that had the playoffs within reach but has played its way into jeopardy.

Sun., Dec. 11, 3:05 p.m. @ Denver Broncos (8-5) -- L 13-10 OT

Marion Barber goes out of bounds to give Broncos time to tie at the end of regulation, then fumbles to cost Bears a chance at a winning FG, which Denver makes of his gift. Tim Tebow fourth-quarter passing stuns the defense.

Sun., Dec. 18, noon Seattle Seahawks (6-7) Next: BEARS

Seahawks have won four of their last five and are very much a threat, particularly with Marshawn Lynch one of the top rushers in the NFL over the last six games.

Sun., Dec. 25, 7:20 p.m. @ Green Bay Packers (13-0) Next: at Kansas City

Not even a knee injury to Greg Jennings saves the Raiders from a 30-point annihilation. Packers havent lost a game since Dec. 19 last year. Aaron Rodgers has offense in overdrive and if defense is even just slightly above average, perfection is within reach.

Sun., Jan. 1, noon @ Minnesota Vikings (2-11) Next: vs. New Orleans

Getting 28 points on Detroit without Adrian Peterson was impressive but Vikings have nothing left except start planning for next years draft. New Orleans coming in wont make life any easier.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.