Rough road looms ahead for Bears after the break

Gene Chamberlain

The problem with an early bye week is injuries tend to accumulate over the course of a season, so the mid-season bye usually allows more injured players to heal.

In the case of this Bears team, the bye actually might be at a good time because they have key injuries now. 

It sounds as if Mitchell Trubisky might be able to return after using the bye week as extra time to heal his shoulder injury.

The injury to kicker Eddy Pineiro's knee can't be hurt by a week or more of rest. He was limping after one non-penalized hit by a Raider in Sunday's game.

Kyle Long's hip, Taylor Gabriel's concussion and possibly Bilal Nichols' broken hand will benefit from this extra time off.

The Bears have several problems looming ahead as they approach the remaining 11 games on their schedule, and an injury is one of these even with this week off.

3. Akiem Hicks' elbow/arm injury

The team hasn't specified exactly what Hicks' problem is beyond left arm/elbow, but it didn't look good and no one should be shocked if he misses several weeks.

They came through with flying colors when Hicks went out with a knee injury against the Vikings but they had an entire week to prepare for the eventuality. Hicks didn't practice the entire week beforehand.

Last week it looked like Hicks would play and he did. Then they didn't adjust well against the run when Hicks had to come out with the arm injury.

It didn't help that the Raiders repeatedly used cut blocks and chop blocks  both dirty tactics, with the chop blocks actually being illegal  and they got away with it except for one time. It tends to take the aggressiveness out of the interior of a defensive line. 

Still, taking a Pro Bowl player out of the lineup for an extended period has to take a toll even on a strong defense.

The base of the Bears' defense is stopping the run and nothing else works if they fail at this. See Sunday's results for proof. And without Hicks, stopping the run becomes so much more difficult.

2. Mitchell Trubisky's inconsistency

Everyone took a few weeks off from the Trash Trubisky movement, but they'll be back now that it appears the Bears will have their starter returning against New Orleans. It hasn't been confirmed but releasing Tyler Bray seemed a good indication it will happen.

Trubisky's inability to complete passes downfield or find receivers there, and reluctance to even throw downfield will prevent the Bears from ever putting together an offense capable of advancing in the postseason, or possibly even making it there again.

Of the league's top 33 quarterbacks yardage-wise, Trubisky and Jimmy Garoppolo are the only ones without a completion of 40 yards. He has seven completions of 20 yards, ranking him 29th in the league. His 5.5 yards per pass attempt ranks 45th among NFL passers. A solid number is 7.5 or higher.

Also, Trubisky hasn't even been a positive factor for the offense as a runner. He seems to have decided he's a pocket passer now with 21 yards on five carries.

Both of these stem from opponents relying on zone coverages against Trubisky. The zone lets them see where he's running if he scrambles. His inability to be accurate deep invites zone coverage.

The best way to punish zones is with a rushing attack or throwing underneath the coverage. But the Bears haven't had a running attack and you can't dink and dunk forever.

If Trubisky doesn't step up to a point where they need him, this season could be headed for .500 or worse.

1. The schedule

There are only two games left against teams with losing records. Six are with teams who made the playoffs last year. Their remaining opponents have a .627 winning percentage.

Tougher schedules go to winning teams in the NFL and the Bears knew this.

The Chargers (2-3) and the Giants (2-3) are the only teams scheduled among the remaining 11 opponents who have sub-.500 marks. They have five games left with teams currently in first or tied for first.

The Bears just completed the easiest stretch of games on their schedule and now are playing possibly the toughest game on their schedule, against the Saints Oct. 20.

And they're doing it without a running attack and with a defense that suddenly looked vulnerable in London.

Those days when they'd be in the divisional playoff round except for Cody Parkey's inabilities seem so very long ago.


Comments (2)
No. 1-1

Many questions with this team. But they have the potential to win the division and make the playoffs, but the offense has to get going. They did it last year, I'm sure they can do it again