MORRISSEY: Attendance is optional for Bears, fans in loss to Lions
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Who were the smart ones — the 50,490 people who showed up at Soldier Field on Sunday and saw something approximating football? Or the 10,145 no-shows who rotated the tires on their lawn mowers, defrosted their freezers, picked up their dogs’ deposits, opted to have their appendixes removed for no apparent reason or did anything rather than see the Bears play in person?
The fans who came to the game watched mediocre masquerading as exciting. The fans who stayed away avoided being eyewitnesses to another Bears loss. The only question is whether you can get post-traumatic stress from hearing about it secondhand.
At least the no-shows can say they sent a message to Bears ownership that another losing season is not acceptable and that a coaching change needs to be made. Think about it: The Bears are starting a rookie quarterback who was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, and interest in the team is either tepid or withheld as punishment.
Some of this stems from last week’s brutal loss to the Packers, a setback that sucked the meaning out of the season for many people. But a lot of it has to do with the bigger picture of a team that is taking on serious water. This 27-24 loss stood for an entire season. It’s a season in which a finger plugs one leak only to see another leak start gushing from somewhere else.
The Bears jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, thanks to an excellent balance of passing and running. The good cop in you said that it was nice to see the team bounce back from such an awful game against Green Bay. The bad cop said, “Where was this last week?’’
But things looked rosy. Turning Mitch Trubisky into an NFL quarterback is what this season is all about. And a 50-yard Jordan Howard run in that first quarter? Excellent.
But then Lions cornerback D.J. Hayden picked up Trubisky’s fumbled snap and ran it back 27 yards for a touchdown. A geyser of a leak.
A 12-yard touchdown by Howard helped give the Bears a 17-7 lead. A leak plugged.
Then the Bears’ defense, which has been very good at times this season, decided to do an imitation of petrified wood. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw three passes to wide-open teammates on a second-quarter drive, the last to Marvin Jones Jr. for a 28-yard touchdown. More water, more listing.
Tarik Cohen, the dynamic rookie running back the Bears had forgotten, was found flying through the air on a touchdown run.
Leonard Floyd, one of the Bears’ best pass rushers, was lost with a knee injury that appeared to be serious.
Trubisky used his legs, rushing six times for 53 yards. It included a wild scramble for 19 yards on fourth-and-13 that kept a drive alive in the closing seconds of the game. Good.
And a missed 46-yard field goal by Connor Barth with three seconds left. Very, very bad.
The Bears continued to massage the message, saying they’ve been competitive most of the season. You can’t blame them. Would you rather talk about being 3-7 or about the big ones that got away? But losing close games over and over again is what bad teams do. Remember, the Bears were talking about the same dynamic last season. It’s another reason why coach John Fox’s future here is in serious doubt. There hasn’t been the kind of progress that would argue for his continued employment.
“When you have a game like this that you should win, you just have to win,’’ wide receiver Kendall Wright said.
You’ll have to excuse Wright. This is his first year with the Bears. He clearly hasn’t mastered the art of softening the blow yet.
Trubisky had his moments, but he missed badly on several passes. There hasn’t been enough growth, and that’s on the coaching staff.
“I think adversity is a great teacher,’’ Trubisky said.
Kid, you’re at the Harvard of adversity.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.