It’s poetic that the Bears will take the field Sunday in jerseys the color of traffic cones. For the first time in the Matt Nagy era, they’re at a crossroads.
Win, and the team will be above .500 heading into the Tuesday trade deadline — an added motivation, perhaps, for general manager Ryan Pace to explore upgrades to his offense.
Lose, and the Bears would fall to 1-3 at Soldier Field and will have put at least five weeks between their next game and their last win.
Coming off the worst performance of his career, Mitch Trubisky can calm the concerns about his place as the franchise’s quarterback — or stoke them.
The Bears’ problems go beyond him. When they kick off against the Chargers, it will have been a month since Khalil Mack’s last sack and almost five weeks since the last time they ran the ball for more than 10 yards on a play. The defense is on pace to force 10 fewer turnovers than last year.
All the team meetings in the world won’t matter unless the Bears can stop those trends.
“We all understand that at 3-3 you’re getting to a point . . . where every week that goes by matters, and some separation starts to form within the league,” Nagy said this week.
The Bears’ fork in the road comes Sunday. They know it.
But the team that popularized postgame dance parties and preplanned defensive celebrations last year doesn’t want to think too long about what’s at stake.
“If you’re to say that there’s pressure right now, that’s OK, bring it on,” Nagy said. “But let’s handle it the right way. And let’s not play tight. Let’s all play loose, but let’s play with, really, a calm to our game just knowing where we’re at.”
The Bears, amazingly, took the same path last year. Just like 2019, they lost their opener to the Packers, won their next three, then lost two straight. They beat the Jets at home to improve to 4-3, though, the first win during a stretch in which they went 9-1.
Expectations are different this season. A .500 record through six games isn’t charming — or novel — this time around.
“It was new and it was the first year, so you didn’t really set the bar,” Nagy said. “You didn’t know exactly where the season was going to go last year.”
The Bears thought they did this year. Everyone else did, too — they’ve been favored in each game they’ve played.
“The second you go 3-3, now there’s that, ‘Oh, no, it isn’t happening,’ ” Nagy said. “That, in my opinion, is where you feel the difference because of those expectations that are out there.
“I just don’t want that to take over what’s real. What’s real is we’re 3-3, and we can focus on winning this next game against the Chargers. Really, that’s all we can control.”
Right tackle Bobby Massie said the Bears aren’t panicking — “We were in this position last year,” he said — and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel said a win would “heal all wounds.”
“Just imagine,” Gabriel said, “if we win Sunday, the narrative will be different.”
Lose, and it will only get worse.
“Every game is a game you have to win,” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “Everything is better when you win and nitpicky when you lose. That’s not the type of team we are. We’re together, we’re having fun out there and we’re going to go out there and get it rolling.”