A 16-game NFL schedule lends itself to huge mood swings. Each week feels like a referendum on the future of the planet.
But these Bears: Jeez.
What they do to us. What they do to themselves.
There is no such thing as temperance when it comes to the 2019 model, no such thing as in-between. The team is great, wonderful and marvelous right up until it isn’t.
Current status: Look out below!
One day, a lot of days, the Bears’ defense is the best in the world. Then a day such as Sunday in London comes along, and whatever the opposite of the best in the world is, that’s what we declare the defense to be. Deep down, we know it’s not true. But in the moment — the moment lasting until the next game — the defense is a pale, sickly child that hasn’t seen sunlight or meaningful calories in days.
But that defense wasn’t the only culprit in the 24-21 loss to the Raiders. In a span of about three hours, Chase Daniel went from a possible answer to the maddening and injured Mitch Trubisky to an exasperating quarterback who makes dumb mistakes at very bad times.
We now can say with absolute certainty that Daniel is a career backup for a reason. We also can say Trubisky is an NFL starter for no apparent reason other than the Bears drafted him second overall in 2017. But I’m guessing Daniel’s struggles Sunday made fans reconsider Mitch and proclaim him the franchise’s present and the future.
See what one bad loss does?
Coach Matt Nagy? He went from commander-in-chief to failed travel agent almost overnight. He was the genius who decided the Bears would fly into London two days before the game, jet lag be damned. Was that a factor in the loss? Would the latest research on the effects of long-distance flight support that hot take? Who cares? Off with his shaved, visor-ed head!
From first to worst in a day.
The way things go in the Bears’ up-and-down world, their next game, Oct. 20 against the Saints, probably will be a market correction. All will be well, linebacker Khalil Mack will revert to being the monster he always has been and perhaps even Good Mitch will show up. Then again, Oct. 20 is, what, three years from now?
This is no way to live. What makes it more difficult is that the 2019 Bears were supposed to be above these kinds of wild fluctuations. They were supposed to be great after five games, not 3-2.
They’re not great. That’s not a visceral, in-the-moment reaction to a bad loss; it’s reality. They’re a little bit above average right now. If their defense happens to take a week off, they’re dead. Sunday proved that.
Consistency was supposed to be the Bears’ thing. They had a phenomenal defense you could count on and an offense that obediently would stand in a corner and not speak until spoken to. That’s what made Sunday so jarring. That’s what made the loss to the Packers in the season opener so surprising.
And now? The Bears are all over the place, and so are those of us who watch them, cheer for them or write about them. The team’s identity is exactly what its record suggests it is, that of a group that has some good days and some bad days. This season was supposed to be about highs, not lows. That’s why there has been more angst about the Bears than normal, and there’s normally enough surrounding them to out-angst the angst-iest teenager.
I’m not saying the hot takes after the loss to the Raiders are invalid. I’m saying these Bears make all of us look like fish flopping around in a rowboat. They could end up 12-4 for the second season in a row and smirk at the lack of faith from the unwashed. Or they could finish 8-8. At this point, I’d say 8-8 is likelier.
That’s what these Bears do to you. They can make you believe the Super Bowl is theirs for the grabbing, and they can make you think, upon further review, ‘‘Are you kidding? The Super Bowl?’’
The game against the Raiders lands with a splat, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks gets hurt in the first quarter and fans are introduced to a prolonged solar eclipse that science hadn’t anticipated. That’s how it is with these Bears.
One emailer chided Sun-Times sportswriters for their ‘‘extravagantly inaccurate’’ predictions for the game. He was referring to the five of us who picked the Bears to win and the none of us who picked the Raiders to win.
I can only speak for me. I was just doing what comes naturally in this whiplash of a season. I was wildly overreacting to a victory against a good Vikings team the week before, their only quality victory of the season.
That means I have the Bears down for a 40-0 loss to the Saints after the bye week. Feels about right.