Bears guard Kyle Long gave it his best shot when asked a chronic question of the post-Lovie Smith era: After years of failing to turn the corner, were there any indicators the Bears’ upset of the Steelers finally would be the start of something?
“It’s a short turnaround. This gives us an opportunity to capitalize,” Long said, referring to the game Thursday night against the Packers at Lambeau Field. “It’s a short week for both of us. They played a few hours after us, so I’m thinking maybe they’ll be like three hours sorer. Maybe we’ll have that window.”
Realizing his futility, Long all but threw his hands in the air.
“I don’t know,” he said with the resignation of a five-year veteran who has been in this position too many times. “When you get a win, you want to just come back and get another one. Once you get a taste of it, it’s like having a bite of a nice steak. You don’t want to give the plate back before you finish the rest of that thing. So we’ve got to get some more bites before we hand that bone back.”
Here we go again. The Bears’ upset of the Steelers seemed like progress. That wasn’t a lightning bolt from the sky. On the contrary — except for a glitch here or there — the Bears used a pretty solid formula to beat an established NFL contender: The defense held the Steelers to 282 yards, just 4.8 per play; the Bears rushed for 220 yards, the fourth-most against the Steelers in Mike Tomlin’s 11 seasons; and the Bears won the special-teams battle, parlaying a recovered muffed punt and a blocked field goal into 10 points.
That sure seems like a foundation for a significant leap. But we’ve been here too many times to anticipate it. The Bears have not won even two consecutive games since the middle of Fox’s first season in 2015, when they beat the Rams and Chargers on the road.
Since then, Bears victories only have led to disappointment. After beating the Packers at Lambeau two weeks later, the Bears looked ready to take off. They had won five of their previous eight games, four on the road. They had 10 days to prepare for the 3-8 Niners. And they collapsed in a 26-20 overtime loss in typical Bears fashion. Blaine Gabbert, whose long run in 32 previous NFL games was 12 yards, scored on a 44-yard scramble for the tying touchdown. Robbie Gould missed a 36-yard field goal at the buzzer. The Bears gave up a 71-yard touchdown pass to lose it.
But that disappointment was trumped last year after the Bears beat the 5-1 Vikings 20-10 at Soldier Field. Coming off their bye, the Bears were stoked. They had an extra week to prepare and get healthy. Long, Josh Sitton, Eddie Goldman and Eddie Royal were back from injuries. They were facing a 3-5 Buccaneers team in Tampa that was 0-4 at home.
And the Bears laid one of the biggest eggs in recent memory, losing 36-10.
So after their last four victories under Fox, the Bears have lost three straight, lost four straight, lost three straight and lost four straight.
“I think we’ve played the type of football that we’re capable [of] and using our talents — much like Game 1 — to give us an opportunity to win,” Fox said. “Unfortunately in Week 1, we came up short. We gave ourselves no chance in
Week 2. And in Week 3, we were able to get it done.”
That sets up another opportunity for the Bears. But at this point, they still seem one element away from taking the big step toward long-lost relevance.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.