As bad as the Bears have been in recent years, Bears fans have had one morsel of consolation to cling to — at least the Bears aren’t the Browns.
Now, even that is on the line.
In a dreadful, discouraging, disillusioning season that likely will end with yet another coaching change, the Bears still have something to play for: avoiding the indignity of losing to the winless Browns on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Though the Browns fell to 0-14 after losing to the Ravens on Sunday, they’re not as hapless as their reputation. Five of their losses have been by a field goal, including a Week 1 loss to the mighty Steelers and overtime losses to the Titans and Packers. And after hiring John Dorsey — a Ron Wolf protege — to replace whoever was their previous general manager, their arrow might actually be pointing up for the first time in years.
But it’s what they represent that makes this a must-win game. The Browns are the ultimate in NFL hopelessness — mired in dysfunction and bad management, spinning their wheels on multiple levels.
They’ve lost 32 of their last 33 games and 47 of their last 51. They’re going to finish last in the AFC North for the seventh consecutive season and ninth time in the last 10 years. The Bears have been in last place in the NFC North for 35 consecutive weeks, but the Browns have been in last place in the AFC North for 42 consecutive weeks — all by themselves for all but three of them.
You think Mike Glennon was a mistake? The Browns drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round in 2012 and Johnny Manziel in the first round in 2014, then passed on Carson Wentz in 2016 and Deshaun Watson (and Mitch Trubisky) in 2017 to take DeShone Kizer in the second round in 2017.
The Bears’ season has long been defined. There’s not much that can happen in the final two games to make things any better. But they can still get worse. Losing to the Browns sends a frightful message — you’re even worse than you think.
2. The Bears came into the Lions game with the most inconsistent running game in the NFL — they had four of the top 11 rushing games in the league (232, 231, 222 and 222 yards), but also the two lowest (20 yards against the Buccaneers, six yards against the Eagles).
That disparity issue was even more prominent Saturday. Four weeks after the Bears rushed for 222 yards against the Lions at Soldier Field, they rushed for 43 against the same team at Ford Field. The 179-yard drop is the largest against the same team in the NFL this season.
Circumstances played a part — the Bears were up 10-0 in the first half against the Lions at Soldier Field. They were down 13-3 at halftime on Saturday. Regardless, the inconsistency in the run game — the wasted potential — will be one of the biggest indictments of the offense under John Fox and Dowell Loggains.
3. Here’s how inconsistent the Bears’ rushing offense has been this season: Their 186.3-yard average in their top seven rushing performances is first in the NFL. Their 51-yard average in their seven worst rushing games is second-to-last in the NFL.
4. The Bears’ offensive staff seems to struggle with halftime adjustments as well. After Trubisky was intercepted on the second play of the third quarter Saturday, the Bears’ first possession of the second half in 2017 has yielded one touchdown, one field goal, one missed field goal, one interception and 10 punts — with 13 first downs in 14 possessions.
The Bears are averaging 3.4 yards per play on the first possession of the second half (238 yards on 71 plays). They are averaging 5.5 yards per play in the first half.
5. Whatever happened to Dontrelle Inman? The 6-3, 205-pound former Chargers wide receiver looked like the big target Mitch Trubisky needed when he had six receptions for 88 yards against the Packers in Week 10 in his first game with the Bears. But his impact has withered in recent games — just one catch for five yards against the Lions and nothing against the Bengals.
6. Not a good sign: Josh Sitton, who played in all 69 games in his last four seasons with the Packers, continues to struggle with injuries with the Bears.
Sitton was limited to 43-of-69 snaps against the Lions after suffering an ankle injury in the second half. It’s the fourth time this season that Sitton has missed significant snaps because of an injury.
When the Packers let a productive players go, there’s usually a reason. Lions guard T.J. Lang, another productive lineman discarded by the Packers, played just 32-of-63 snaps because of a foot injury that has been bothering him for three weeks.
7. The loss to the Lions assures the Bears (4-10) of a fourth consecutive season with 10 or more losses. They lost 10 or more games just once in Lovie Smith’s nine seasons —his first season in 2004 (5-11). The last time the Bears lost 10 or more games in four consecutive seasons was 1997-2000 — Dave Wannstedt’s last two seasons and Dick Jauron’s first two.
It also means the Bears will be in last place for 37 consecutive league weeks. The last time the Bears were not in last place in the NFC North was after Week 14 in John Fox’s first season in 2015, when they were in third place at 5-8, one game ahead of the 4-9 Lions.
8. Tyre Brady Watch: After missing most of Marshall’s previous three games with an injury, then getting sick the night before the New Mexico Bowl, the 6-3, 208-pound junior from Homestead, Fla. had six receptions for 165 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown, in the Thundering Herd’s 31-28 victory over Colorado State.
Brady, a transfer from Miami (where he was a teammate of Bears’ safety Deon Bush in 2014-15), is a potential under-the-radar wide receiver prospect for the 2018 draft. He finished the season with 62 receptions for 942 yards (15.2 average) and eight touchdowns.
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week: Panthers tight end Greg Olsen had nine receptions for 116 yards against the Packers, including a 30-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a lead they would not lose in a 31-24 victory.
10. Bear-ometer: 5-11 — vs. Browns (W); at Vikings (L).
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash
vs. Browns (W); at Vikings (L).
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash