In a defensive meeting this week, coordinator Vic Fangio listed the reasons why the Bears needed to give their all in the final four games. He said this is the time of year when some NFL teams stop doing so.
“Different guys have different reasons,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “No. 1, as a professional, that’s what you’re supposed to do, no matter what. No. 2, guys might have extra incentives, whether it’s in their contract or whether they’re a free agent.”
While we ponder what Amukamara can make the last four weeks — he’s a pending free agent — here are four Bears questions:
First quarter: When did firing the coordinator help?
John Fox said Monday that he didn’t consider firing staffers this season because it didn’t help him in the past.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis hadn’t tried such a move, but that didn’t stop him from firing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after the team failed to score a touchdown in the first two games.
Zampese and Lewis had coached the Bengals together since 2003. In the 50-year history of the franchise, the Bengals had never dismissed a coordinator during the season — until this year.
“We just felt like we weren’t moving forward the way we needed to offensively,” Lewis said. “We needed to make a change and get things jump-started.”
The move might have saved his job. The Bengals are 5-5 since.
Might Fox wish, eventually, he did the same?
Second quarter: When will Jordan Howard come out of his slump?
Jordan Howard has been nonexistent the last two weeks, totaling 44 yards on 20 carries. But say this for the Bears’ second-year running back: He’s playing.
Since being a healthy scratch in the opener of his rookie year, Howard has appeared in 27 consecutive games. No Bears running back, receiver or tight end can say the same. The Bears have used five starting quarterbacks during that time.
“I take a lot of pride in that because coming out before the draft people were saying I was injury-prone and stuff like that,” Howard said.
Not that it’s going well. Before the Eagles game, he’d averaged fewer than three yards per carry in three games for his career. Now he has done it two weeks in a row.
“Sometimes it’s hard not to get frustrated,” he said. “But every play can’t be a big play. Every play’s not going to go your way. Just gotta stay composed.”
Halftime hot tip
The Bears have covered the spread against the Bengals only once since 1987 — a 24-0 road victory Oct. 21, 2001.
Third quarter: What’s with the third quarter?
The Bears’ offense has scored one touchdown in the third quarter all year — a 27-yard pass from Mitch Trubisky to Dion Sims in Week 6. They’ve totaled only 20 points. In the other three quarters, they’re averaging 57.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said there hasn’t been a common thread — “I wish there was a bigger answer,” he said — and blamed poor execution.
Fox said he hasn’t been tempted to take the ball in the first quarter when they win the coin flip. The Bears have scored only 36 points in that frame.
“I think our defense has been a little bit more consistent,” he said. “We’d rather start with them on the field.
“We’ve had our struggles as a football team at moments this year, but I don’t know that it’s because of whether we take the ball first or in the second half.”
Fourth quarter: Time for a cold tub?
When Fox lists the Bears’ injuries, he presents them as reality, not an excuse.
Here’s a dose of reality: The Bengals will play Sunday without six starters: Linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and Nick Vigil (ankle), cornerbacks Adam Jones (groin) and Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), running back Joe Mixon (concussion) and safety Shawn Williams. All-world defensive tackle Geno Atkins (toe) is one of four questionable Bengals.
Lewis said the Bengals have a different recovery program after games against the rival Steelers, to whom they lost Monday.
“The turnaround is quicker for the restoration, both mentally and physically, that has to happen after a game like that,” he said.
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.