Why can’t the Bears find ways to win games against good teams? It’s a question we’ve had to ask too many times over the past season and a half, and it’s a question that came up again on Sunday afternoon when the Bears took what looked like a sure win and turned it into another disappointing loss.
We don’t need to rehash exactly how the Bears squandered their 12-point lead with just over four minutes to go in the game. But it is worth questioning why this keeps happening.
Sunday’s collapse wasn’t an isolated incident. The Bears blew a 28-7 third-quarter lead to the Broncos earlier this year. Last season, they gave up a fourth-quarter lead four times. They missed an opportunity to win a game that was tied in the fourth quarter one more time.
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So what gives? Are the coaches not preparing players enough to perform in crunch time? Do the players simply need to execute better with the game on the line? Does the team need to learn how to win? What does that even mean?
On NBC Sports Chicago’s “Football Aftershow,” two former Bears greats Lance Briggs and Alex Brown debated why the Bears consistently fold when they have a chance to win.
“It’s the frame of mind,” said Briggs on “Football Aftershow.” “It’s like, ‘Dang, offense didn’t convert on that one.’ Instead of, ‘It’s our time now. Let’s go shine, this is our moment. This is our moment, let’s go win this game.’
“Whatever the defensive call is, go out there and win the game. Go out there and be disciplined. Make sure your eyes are where they need to be, and when the play is there go out there and make the doggone tackle.”
Briggs, who was a star weakside linebacker for the Bears for over a decade, often puts the onus on the defense in losses and wins alike. One play in particular that bothered him in the fourth-quarter collapse was a first down touch from Jahmyr Gibbs. Tremaine Edmunds had an opportunity to tackle Gibbs in front of the sticks, in bounds. Instead, Edmunds let Gibbs slip through his grasp and Gibbs was able to scamper out of bounds, which allowed the Lions to save time.
“When I talk about mindframe, I’m talking about ‘I cannot let go of this guy. I have to get him down. If we have a chance to win this game I have to get him down.’”
To Brown, that’s easier said than done. Gibbs is one of the most dynamic rookie running backs and appears poised for a long career of making linebackers miss tackles.
“I can’t stand future Hall of Famers and Hall of Famers talking like this, because they talk about it like it’s easy,” Brown siad. “Yeah, it’s easy for you. You have the talent. We don’t have the guys that have your talent.”
If the Bears are still lacking talent at this point however, it’s an indictment of GM Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus. Edmunds is one of the highest paid players on defense, and was hand-picked to sure up the unit– especially by racking up tackles. The team also invested draft capital and beaucoup bucks to bring in defensive end Montez Sweat at the NFL trade deadline. This is far from the same defense that looked devoid of talent last season. It’s been completely transformed in the image of the GM and head coach.
Culture or execution? X’s and O’s or Jimmys and Joes? Brains or brawn?
These are the questions folks will debate all week, just as they’ve been debated many weeks prior. Whatever the reason for the numerous disappointing losses, it’s clear the Bears simply aren’t good enough to beat quality teams without playing absolutely perfectly.
You can catch "Football Aftershow" on NBC Sports Chicago immediately following every Bears game this season.