Bears’ fourth straight loss good for draft pick, bad for progress

The Bears’ losing streak, as much as it might help their draft position — they’re now projected to pick third — is threatening to cloud whatever growth is possible in front of them. That’s doubly true with quarterback Justin Fields nursing a shoulder injury.

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Bears coach Matt Eberflus looks on during Sunday’s loss to the Falcons.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus looks on during Sunday’s loss to the Falcons.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

ATLANTA — If it weren’t for the excruciating pain in quarterback Justin Fields’ left shoulder, the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Falcons would’ve been almost indistinguishable from last week’s loss to the Lions.

“Same thing every week,” wide receiver Darnell Mooney said Sunday. “We have the ball in our hands at the end of the game, then don’t win the game.”

The Bears’ defense, of course, had the opposite problem: letting the other team do just that late in the fourth quarter.

“To have it end up like this again, it’s tough,” safety Jaquan Brisker said. “But we always have to come back.”

Whether they can will shape the last six weeks of the season.

No one pegged the Bears for a .500 team this season, much less one with legitimate playoff aspirations. But their losing streak, as much as it might help their draft position — they’re now projected to pick third — is threatening to cloud whatever growth is possible in front of them. That’s doubly true with Fields nursing a shoulder injury that will keep him out of the next game against the Jets or severely limit the plays the Bears can call for him. How will the Bears evaluate an offense built around Fields if he’s not there?

The Bears are in danger of having their season pulled further into the muck. There’s only one way out.

“Well, you end the losing streak,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “You get a win.”

When they take the field against the Jets, two months and one day will have passed since the Bears last had a winning record. They’ve lost seven of eight games since then — six by eight points or less and three by a field goal or less. They’ve lost four consecutive games since their offensive breakthrough against the Patriots, the last three by a combined seven points.

“Obviously, we’re not accomplishing the main goal, which is winning,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “That’s an important thing. But there’s also another process to that. . . . We’re building a football team here.”

Eberflus said it wouldn’t be difficult to help his players progress despite the losses — “Rely on their character,” he said — but, at some point, figuring out how to win is part of that development.

It’s unclear when they’ll get their next honest chance at it. The Jets are reeling after losing on an 84-yard punt-return touchdown with five seconds to play Sunday but still boast a 6-4 record. The Bears host the AFC favorite Bills and NFC favorite Eagles in December and have all three divisional opponents left on their schedule.

They don’t figure to be favored at any point the rest of the way. Amazingly, their best chance for a win might be against the Packers.

“For sure, everything has a domino effect,” Mooney said.

“You just have to create that effect. We were talking about that on the sideline, like, ‘Hey, let’s finish this one. This is the one we need to convert on.’ We just came up short.”

The Bears as a team don’t have much to play for; they could be eliminated from NFC North contention next week. But their players do.

“You have a locker room of guys who are young guys, and we have a lot of guys on one-year contracts,” center Sam Mustipher said.

They’re not guaranteed anything beyond this season.

“Just keep getting better,” said Fields, one of the few who is. “Take each day on its own and just keep working. We control what we can control. What happened, it’s in the past now. Just keep preparing for the future and keep getting better.

“I know the character of our coaches and our team. They’re going to come to work and get ready to work.” 

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