Next Opponent: Bears’ Season on Brink

The Bears are staggering after dropping four of five. They are 0-3 at home and in danger of missing the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years. (Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images)

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Their offense is underperforming. Their defense is not delivering. Their coach is coming under criticism, too.

No matter how ugly things look at the moment, general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman insist the Chicago Bears can turn around their season.

It will take quite a shift.

The Bears are 3-5 with a bye this week after brutal losses to Miami and New England, and they are fading fast in a season in which they were eyeing a run to the playoffs.

Jay Cutler still is making questionable decisions at inopportune times. An offense that ranked among the best in franchise history in Trestman's first season has been a disappointment in Year 2. The rebuilt defense hasn't delivered the way the Bears hoped. Special teams are struggling, and Trestman's grip on the locker room is in question.

"I'm not going to play self-defense here," Trestman said. "But if you look at how the team has responded to adversity after Buffalo, into our next game against San Francisco, after (the loss at Carolina) into Atlanta, I think they have continued to respond for us, for themselves, as much as anything. We're on a two-game slide, there's no doubt about it. We're not comfortable with the way we've played. Coming out of Atlanta, we thought we were headed in the right direction.

"I think this team is strong internally, I think they've got great heart," he continued. "I think they'll come back ready to go on Monday."

Exactly where are they going, though?

The Bears are staggering after dropping four of five. They are 0-3 at home and in danger of missing the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years. It's not like the schedule is taking an easier turn, either.

When they come back, they will be staring at Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Green Bay. After that, they will have two games left against Detroit and one each against Dallas and New Orleans.

The past two games were nothing short of abysmal. As if falling to Miami at Soldier Field, with Brandon Marshall yelling in the locker room afterward, wasn't bad enough, Chicago got rolled by Tom Brady and the Patriots 51-23 at New England last week.

The Bears have shown some resolve, bouncing back from a season-opening loss to Buffalo by beating San Francisco and the New York Jets on the road. They also won at Atlanta before this slide, but it's not just the losses that are alarming. There are big questions about the team's leadership and mindset.

Whether it was Lance Briggs missing practice to open a barbecue restaurant near his hometown of Sacramento, California, in the week leading up to the opener, or Marshall yelling in the locker room after the Dolphins game, the cracks were already hard to ignore.

Lamarr Houston added another one in the closing minutes against New England when he celebrated a sack against a backup quarterback. One of the Bears' top offseason acquisitions, he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

If Trestman was angry about Marshall's blowup or Houston's celebration, he didn't show it in public.

"I think Marc is fully in control of this team," chairman George McCaskey told Comcast SportsNet Chicago. "Just because a player isn't called out publicly doesn't mean the issue isn't being addressed. The players know that Marc's got their back, and anything that needs to be addressed with a player will be done behind closed doors."

What has played out on the field hasn't been pretty.

Five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen has just 1 1-2 sacks after signing a four-year deal that guaranteed $15.5 million. His string of seven straight seasons in double digits with Kansas City and Minnesota is in jeopardy.

Marshall has been slowed by an ankle injury after signing a three-year extension. Cutler still is committing head-scratching turnovers, whether he's throwing across his body for an interception against Buffalo or attempting a two-handed chest pass that resulted in a fumble against New England.

Emery acknowledged concerns about Cutler's fundamentals and decisions dating to his days at Vanderbilt. He says some of that was brought on by a lack of talent surrounding him. But the past two years, he's been working with an offense-minded head coach, two Pro Bowl receivers in Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, a productive tight end (Martellus Bennett) and a solid line.

"Have I seen improvement in the last two years?" Emery said. "Yes, I have. Because I know where we were at two years ago, and I know how many sacks he took, how much pressure and hits that he played through, and how he tried to overcome that group that was in front of him and how he tried to compensate. I think he's bought all the way in in terms of here's what's important, here's the concepts that we're trying to accomplish.

"We still have some time to go, we still have some things we have to clean up."


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