Wishing Bears would spend more time on controlling the line of scrimmage than controlling the message

Pay no attention to the offense, they say. We’re 5-1!

SHARE Wishing Bears would spend more time on controlling the line of scrimmage than controlling the message
In the face of criticism over his offense, Bears coach Matt Nagy keeps reminding everyone that his team is 5-1.

In the face of criticism over his offense, Bears coach Matt Nagy keeps reminding everyone that his team is 5-1.

Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

I can’t help but feel that Chicago is in a fierce battle for the Bears’ soul. I feel this way possibly because I’ve been subjected to about 1,000 political ads the last three weeks and now find myself speaking about everything in the starkest, most divisive terms.

“You’re just doing the bidding of the career politicians in Washington!’’ I’ll thunder at my wife.

“All I did was ask you to pass the salt,’’ she’ll say.

“Oh, right,’’ I’ll murmur. “The salt.’’

Two sides are fighting to control the message of a very strange first six games. The Bears, who see themselves as people of the light, would like you to know, over and over again, that their record is a beautiful 5-1. The media, whom the Bears see as people of darkness, would like you to know that with the way the ineffective offense just sits there week after week, it should be ticketed and towed. Or, to put it more succinctly: 5-1, my ass!

First in the struggle to capture hearts and minds was quarterback Nick Foles, who, after averaging a sad 5.1 yards per pass attempt Sunday in the Bears’ 23-16 victory over the Panthers, gave an impassioned 558-word homily in a postgame Zoom meeting with reporters.

“Would you rather lose pretty or win ugly?’’ he said. ‘‘I think that we’d rather win ugly. I think that is the common [theme], so I think it tells you a lot about our team. Is this who we are offensively? We want to improve. We want to get better. We want to have rhythm. But, ultimately, it’s about winning games.

‘‘It doesn’t matter how you do it; it just matters that you get it done. If you put up 50 points and you lose a game, those 50 points don’t mean anything.’’

The question put to Foles had been about the problems with the Bears’ offense, but you got the feeling that if you had asked him about the weather in Charlotte, he would have answered the same way. He knew a tidal wave of negativity was headed the Bears’ way, and he wanted to send a message to teammates and fans that he would be wearing a wetsuit and scuba gear.

The next day it was coach Matt Nagy, who, like a candidate ignoring a debate monitor’s question, managed to mention six times in a 17-minute news conference that the Bears’ record was 5-1. Had anybody asked him what the Bears’ record was? No.

“We’re excited that, hey, being 5-1 and having it be that way on offense, that gives us a lot of excitement for what happens when we do get this offense going,’’ Nagy said. “And that’s kind of where it’s at. So that’s why my vibe is the way it is, because I love where we’re at right now as a team.”

Standing across from a team living in a perpetual sunshine state is a motley crew of media members, fans, realists, truth lovers, storm seekers . . . pretty much anybody who had seen the Panthers game and noticed that the Bears somehow won with a wimpy 261 yards of total offense.

We saw a Bears defense that had to be phenomenal Sunday. We saw a Bears offense that labored to score points. We had seen this before over many seasons. What the Bears saw as negativity we saw as facts.

Who is going to win the message-controlling campaign? The team is heading into a tough three-game stretch against the Rams, Saints and Titans, all of whom have potent offenses. If the Bears win two of three, the storyline likely will be that their defense is a monster and their offense is blessedly adequate. If they lose two of three, the storyline likely will be of a pathetic offense that is holding them back from a Super Bowl run.

We’ll have to wait to find out. Until then, the Bears would like you to know that their team “culture’’ is off the charts, so who cares about the offense?

“You just build this bond, and it becomes stronger and stronger, and then, as you start getting later and later in the season, you have this culture that is, like, unbreakable,” Nagy said. “And you do it together. And you do it with positivity. You do it with happiness. You do it with a culture that’s hard to break.

“And it doesn’t matter how you do it — you do it. And that’s kind of where we’re at right now. And it’s hard to hold that down.”

Is Nagy a minister of culture or a minister of disinformation? We should know in three weeks.

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