We’ve heard quarterback Nick Foles rally the troops with a spirited speech on the joys of winning ugly. And we’ve heard Foles’ Bears teammates wax poetic about his amazing leadership ability.
Now let’s see something.
Let’s see more from Foles.
Or, to put it another way, words are great, 5.1 yards per pass against the Panthers isn’t.
While we’re at it, let’s see if the Bears really are good, not a creation of a schedule that, as a whole, has been on the soft side. They play the Rams on Monday night, beginning a three-game block against playoff-grade teams. The Saints and Titans follow.
Foles had his “Braveheart’’ moment after the Bears’ 23-16 victory over Carolina last week. I don’t recall Mel Gibson painting his face and trying to think of nice things to say about a ragged group that had put up only 261 yards of total offense against the English. But that didn’t stop Foles.
“Ultimately in the NFL, it’s about winning games,’’ he said. ‘‘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.’’
Fifty points in one game? The Bears have scored 54 points combined the last three games. They’ll point out that they went 2-1 in those games, all with Foles as the starter.
Here’s a revolutionary thought: Why can’t the Bears win games and score points? Why does it have to be either/or? The franchise has been so arid on offense over the years that when Foles sermonized about the beauty of ugly victories last week, everyone nodded in numb agreement.
How much better would it be if Foles’ next postgame speech referred to an offense that had moved the ball against the Rams and defensive tackle Aaron Donald?
That’s why there’s so much skepticism about the Bears. One side of the ball, the Bears’ relentless defense, is carrying the team. And that’s why, when Foles talks about winning ugly, it rings a bit hollow. It doesn’t have to be that way. All the offense has to do is play better. Then the skepticism will dry up.
Until then, we’ll be grousing about a running game that’s ranked 29th out of 32 teams. Until then, we’ll be waiting for a pass to go farther than 20 yards in the air. Until then, we’ll be talking about a lack of talent on offense.
Deep down, perhaps Foles sees all that. Maybe he thinks that struggling to win is the only way the Bears can win this season. They’re a lopsided team — very good on defense, not so good on offense. Maybe Foles’ speech simply was an acknowledgement of that.
There has been a lot of explaining from a team that has won five of its first six games. Coach Matt Nagy has gone out of his way to remind us that his team, despite its uneven play, is in first place in the NFC North.
Much of the justifying is the result of a disbelieving media and fan base. Plenty of people, locally and nationally, haven’t bought what the team has been trying to sell on the field. That has put players and coaches in the strange position of having to defend themselves. It’s what happens when you’ve shown yourself to be half a team. If the offense were better, we wouldn’t be having these discussions. The glass wouldn’t be half-full or half-empty. It would be filled to the brim, and everyone would be drinking from it.
That’s why the game against the Rams is so important. You’d like to see more than incremental improvement from Foles and the offense. You’d like to be able to point to something substantial and say, If they can continue to do that, it changes everything.
Leadership is great. If players instinctively want to follow Foles, that’s wonderful. If they take his words to heart, it’s a positive. But at some point, performance matters. The Bears can indeed keep winning games because of their defense. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and the rest are that good. But sooner or later, the offense is going to have to come up with more than speeches. Scoring points, not making a point, is ultimately what counts in football.
Foles and the Bears’ offense need to do more than show up Monday night in Inglewood, California. It would say a whole lot more than any speech ever could.