Improved Bears looking for first second-half ‘bump’ since 2010

Offensive tackle Bobby Massie takes them one game at a time like every other player in the NFL is supposed to. But he couldn’t help but peek at the Bears’ second-half schedule and see opportunity.

“The games that we have lined up for us, we have the ability to potentially — if we do everything we need to do — make a playoff run,” Massie said. “It’s been awhile since Chicago’s been to the playoffs [seven seasons, to be exact], so potentially it’s there for us. We’ve got to take the steps to get that done. But that’s what I see — we’ve got an opportunity to really do something here.”

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Optimism is inherent to any team in any sport under any circumstance. In 2014, the Bears finished a 3-5 first half of the season with a dreadful 51-23 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. But the upcoming bye week gave coach Marc Trestman a buoy to hold on to.

Bears rookie safety Eddie Jackson's 76-yard interception return for a touchdown was one of three defensive scores by the defense in the first half. Marcus Cooper also had a 73-yard return of a blocked field goal that should have been a touchdown but still led to a field goal. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

“I’ve seen this happen over time after a bye week where teams find themselves,’’ Trestman said at the time. “We’ve just got to put it all together.’’

Less than two quarters into the next game, the Bears were down 42-0 to the Packers at Lambeau Field, and Trestman’s fate was all but sealed. So much for optimism. The Bears were 2-6 in the second half that season. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Last year, they were 1-7 in the second half under John Fox. They were 2-6 in the second half of Fox’s first season in 2015.

In fact, the Bears haven’t had a better record in the second half than in the first half since 2010, when they went 6-2 after a 5-3 start to finish 11-5 and win the NFC North.

After a promising 3-5 start this season, the second half will determine if the Bears have truly turned the corner under general manager Ryan Pace and Fox. And their optimism is not unfounded. Here are four reasons why this season has a chance to be different:

1. The eye test

All you have to do is watch to see this team is better, with better players, improving players and more depth.

“It’s not a magical pie-in-the-sky thing,” linebacker Sam Acho said. “I’ve seen what we’ve put on film [the last few weeks]. I’m optimistic because we’re playing well. We’ve been playing well, and we’re getting better every week.”

2. Playmakers

Last season, the Bears’ only play of more than 50 yards by the defense and special teams was a meaningless 65-yard punt-return touchdown by Eddie Royal against the Eagles. This year, the Bears already have four plays of 50-plus yards on defense and special teams, including three touchdowns — and all of them have led the way to ­victory.

3. Mitch Trubisky

While the rookie’s numbers after four starts are mediocre at best, his potential is obvious. This team believes in him.

“Trubisky was my biggest point of improvement during the last game for us,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “It seemed like he was so much more comfortable back there. I was impressed by his growth, and I look forward to more of it.”

4. The schedule

The Bears’ second-half opponents were a combined 27-36 (.429) heading into Monday night’s Lions-Packers game. Five of their opponents — the Packers, Lions (twice), 49ers, Bengals and Browns — were a combined 1-17 in the last four weeks.

“It does make a difference,” Massie said, “because the first half of our season was tough. We still have a lot of good teams on our schedule. But if we can put ourselves in position to win these games . . .”

You never know what might ­happen.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash


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