Bears Aim for .500 Mark Against David Blough, Lions

Gene Chamberlain

It's the time of year when NFL teams play big games, and Thanksgiving Day has always been a showcase.

The 5-6 Bears play in Detroit against the 3-7-1 Lions, who are trying to decide whether to fire a coach who has had to use three different starting quarterbacks due to injuries. They make firings into sport in Detroit. 

The pilgrims were likely hopeful of something much better when they started this holiday. The Bears definitely expected something much better when they started this season. 

Last week the Bears climbed back within a game of leveling their record with yet another ugly victory. 

"It feels good to win no matter how you do it," coach Matt Nagy said. "But now we've put ourselves in a position to get back to .500 and the only thing you can do is let's put together that one game where it feels really good, where all three phases are playing well."

This would be a rarity in a season when only their fourth-ranked defense has lived up to its advance billing.

They still struggle to kick the ball.

There is no running game. They thought they fixed the running attack by getting rid of Jordan Howard in the offseason and now they average 3.4 yards a carry, their worst average since 2007 when they averaged 3.1 after they fixed the running game by getting rid of Thomas Jones.

The answer to why the running game struggles seems as ambiguous as the answer to why they experience problems passing it.

"It's a little bit of everything," Nagy said.

Mitchell Trubisky every day absorbs the brunt of national blame for the Bears ranking 30th in passing, yet there's enough buffoonery for all to share on any given Sunday. 

The Bears are back in the league lead in dropped passes (19), they commit silly penalties of all sorts and run pass patterns 2 yards too long, leading to turnovers.

Of course, there is Trubisky throwing 40-yard passes to receivers who are well covered, leading to interceptions and 30-yard returns.

"Why is it?" Trubisky said rhetorically when asked about the offensive problems. "I don't know. People take their turns, so. ... There are a bunch of plays throughout the game and everyone takes their turn.  Nobody's perfect out there. I make mistakes, guys make mistakes. 

"It just so happens that on offense if the right guy makes the mistake then the play is not going to work and the advantage goes to the defense. You could have a guy mess up on defense away from the play and someone else might tackle him and it's fine. But on offense there's always key spots where if a guy doesn't do the right thing, then it's going to be highlighted and we're not going to have a successful play."

The old yellow highlight pens have been marking up this Bears season so much it looks like the yellow pages.

Sure, the Bears could beat up Thursday on the downtrodden Lions, who won't have pass rusher Trey Flowers due to a concussion, or starting quarterback Matthew Stafford because of the back injury which kept him out Nov. 10 in the Bears' 20-13 win at Soldier Field.

They won't even have backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, due to a mysterious hamstring injury which some Bears coaches doubt actually happened. That's right, the Bears doubted someone else's quarterback injury. Go figure.

So it's David Blough facing them, pride of Purdue and a Lion by way of the Browns.

A win gets the Bears even-steven on the year and is certainly less embarrassing than losing to rabble like the Lions, especially when their quarterback is making his first NFL start.  

Then that's likely the end of it because their final four games are against division leaders Dallas, Green Bay and Kansas City, and finally the Vikings, who are sitting in a wild-card position. 

There's no Blough or Driskel waiting to face their defense in that group, although Kirk Cousins might not be far from it.

When the Bears beat the Giants last week, Nagy had a message for his players: "Just for us, what I said to them after the game was let's make sure we don't get complacent."

Complacency puts teams in Thanksgiving Day games that mean almost nothing. 

Complacency earns losses against third-team quarterbacks.

It's not the only way to reach a dead end, but the Bears have certainly explored all of the other avenues to get there in this disappointing season.

Twitter@BearsOnMaven

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