I skipped my normal routine of recapping the weekly Bears game because it sounds eerily like the last four weeks.
That is: Bad defense. Poor tackling. Abysmal offensive line play. A quarterback running for his life. Subpar safeties.
These are the weekly themes for the Chicago Bears games.
Five weeks into the season, few teams are actually out of the playoff hunt, but the Bears look like they've mailed it in. But when it comes to my beloved Bears, I am an eternal optimist. So here are my five silver linings for the first five weeks.
1. Strength of Schedule
The Bears' three losses have come to the Lions (5-0), Packers (5-0), and Saints (4-1). That is a combined record of 14-1. Throw in the Atlanta Falcons—a preseason favorite—and a resurgent Carolina Panthers team and you have, without a doubt, the toughest schedule in the NFL.
Two of those tough losses were on the road in tough stadiums. Top teams find a way to win, but with some tougher games out of the way perhaps the Bears can start piling up some W's as the season goes on.
2. Upcoming Schedule
The Bears next three opponents are the Vikings (1-4), Bucs (3-2), and Eagles (1-4). None of these games are "gimmes", but the Vikings game is in Chicago, where the Vikings are 1-10 in the last 11 years.
The Bucs game is in London (instead of Tampa), where there are sure to be more Bears fans then Bucs fans (right?). And the Eagles, although talented, are in disarray; and the Bears play them after a the bye week.
Take these three games one at a time, but there's no reason that they shouldn't win two or even all three of them.
3. Cutler's Play on MNF
The only two redeeming factors from the embarrassment on Monday night was Matt Forte continuing his great play this season—and the play of Jay Cutler.
Cutler improvised and played as well as any quarterback would have. His numbers were decent (28-38, 249 yards, 1 TD, and no INTs), but it was what he did with his feet and his head that was more impressive.
The Bears receivers didn't help him much either. Dane Sanzenbacher dropped an easy pass, as did Forte. But if Cutler keeps this type of play up, the Bears will be in every game.
4. Remember the Adjustments Last Year
Last year at this point, the Bears were on the same train they are on now. Too much pressure on the quarterback, not enough points, poor coaching decisions.
It was about Week 7 when head coach Lovie Smith took offensive coordinator Mike Martz into a dark room and told him that his life was not in danger as long as he ran the ball more.
The defense also played better from that point on.
In fact, in the second part of the season in the last five seasons, Lovie Smith has had his team finish 7-2 (2010), 3-2 (2009), 4-2 (2008), 4-4 (2007), 6-2 (2006).
All of these records were better than the way his teams started.
5. Changes are coming
Describe Lovie Smith in one word: Stoic. Calm. Unexcitable.
Rarely does he ever jump to conclusions, or make rash decisions. He coined the phrase "Rex is our quarterback."
But this week he said some interesting things to say:
We’re not pleased with some of the performances we’ve gotten. I, of course, never talk about changes we’re going to make, especially before we hit the practice field and we talk to the guys.
One could speculate that Frank Omiyale's days in Bears uniform are numbered, and he almost certainly won't be a starter after being benched in the fourth quarter. Safety is another position where people could expect some change. Rookie Chris Conte may get some playing time there.
What changes do you think the Bears need to make to be successful the rest of the season?