Four quarters: Bears questions entering rivalry game against Packers
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John Fox’s Bears are favored for the first time in a calendar year.
Sad as it sounds, there’s a pressure that comes with that
“I think what’s happened to me coming into seasons before — you know, picked to win Super Bowls, picked to win the Toilet Bowl,” Fox said. “You know, you see the full gamut if you’re in this long enough. I always feel like people live up or down to expectations, optimism, whatever word you want to put on it.”
While we wonder what the Toilet Bowl MVP gets — A brush? — here are four quarters worth of Bears questions:
First quarter: Remember last year?
The Bears were 2-6 coming out of last season’s bye and were favored against the Buccaneers. They were getting healthier, and said they were ready for a strong start to the second half.
They lost by 26 and haven’t been favored since — until Sunday against the Packers.
The Bears say this year will be different.
“We got different people in the locker room — people hat want to win, people that care about winning,” left tackle Charles Leno said. “We got a tight-knit group. a lot of people care for each other. That’s how you win football games. …
“We’re all bought in. With that right there, you can win games on that.”
McPhee listed reasons why this year would be different.
“Statistics. Brotherhood. Just playing as a family and knowing that we got our backs,” he said. “We ain’t worried about the outsiders.”
Second quarter: How does Jordan Howard feel?
Howard was asked Friday the last time his body felt so good. True to form, he was brief.
“Camp,” he said.
That bye week rest bodes well for the Bears if they want to even the all-time series against the Packers. Howard does more damage as the game goes on, and he’ll be facing a team that should be tired after playing on a short week. The Packers bottled him up in September — Howard totaled 53 yards on 18 carries — but the Bears were forced to pass after getting behind early.
The key Sunday: how Howard runs behind the team’s third-, fourth- and fifth-string tight ends. The Bears run behind their tight ends an astounding 39 percent of the time; their timing can’t afford to miss a beat.
Halftime hot tip
The Packers have covered the spread in five of their last six games at Soldier Field, all as the favorite. The exception: last year.
Third quarter: He’s gotta follow that?
Poor Brett Hundley. After completing only two career passes before this season, he replaced the injured Aaron Rodgers and now has to find a way to save the Packers’ season.
Replacing the irreplaceable is impossible.
“I can’t imagine what it is like,” Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. “I think Aaron would be the one to be able to answer that question the best, with what he started, who he replaced.”
Rodgers, of course, replaced Brett Favre.
Nelson spoke with Hundley after Monday’s 30-17 loss to the Lions, to tell him it wasn’t all his fault.
“There are things up front, in the run game, all that stuff,” he said. “It’s a group effort. It’s not one person, it’s not one thing. It’s something different every play.”
After Shea McClellin broke Rodgers’ other collarbone in 2013, the Packers went 2-4-1 with backups. Rodgers returned to crush the Bears’ playoff hopes in the finale.
“What I do remember from that year is we eventually got it going — we scored some points and moved the ball,” Nelson said. “That’s something here, in week 3 or 4 with Brett as the starter … an opportunity for us to really show some gains.”
Fourth quarter: Where are the docents?
Maybe Pernell McPhee mixed his metaphors.
“We’re building a museum, and the museum is the takeaways,” the outside linebacker said. “And every time we get a takeaway we just put pictures up in the museum.”
The image is working. The Bears have forced eight turnovers in three games after taking the ball away three times in the first five.
Where, McPhee was asked, is said gallery?
“Somewhere,” he said with a smile. “It’s an imaginary museum.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley