Reeling Bears on rival Packers: ‘We can compete against any team’
John Fox fumbled for positives Monday. When asked about quarterback Brian Hoyer, he landed on, inexplicably, the kicker.
“Bright spot (Sunday) is, I think we were 3-for-3 in field goals, made all our extra points,” the Bears coach said. “Not sure that’s happened yet this year.”
It hadn’t. That Fox had to dig so deep for optimism the day after the worst loss of his Bears tenure tells you about the state of the 1-5 Bears. That the Bears are taking solace in facing a familiar foe Thursday is another. Because while the Packers offer the comfort of a NFC North scouting report for only the second time this season, they’re in a similarly desperate spot.
Being thumped by a rival Thursday might be the only thing to take the Bears’ season from bad to worse.
The Packers will be motivated. Sunday’s 14-point loss to the Cowboys was their worst at home with quarterback Aaron Rodgers starting since the 2011 playoffs. Fans booed the team, whose three wins have come against the unimpressive Jaguars, Lions and Giants.
Rodgers’ star seems to have faded, too, at least early in the season; a decent showing Sunday moved him from last in completion percentage among qualifying quarterbacks to a whopping 25th.
Fox, though, seemed to welcome the game — particularly as an alternative to dissecting Sunday’s 17-16 debacle against the Jaguars.
“This will be our second division game this season, so I think it’s kind of exciting that we’re getting back into it on a short week coming off a day like (Sunday),” Fox said. “I’m kind of excited to get back on Thursday, a short week, against a rival.”
On the surface, they have little to be excited about. Entering Monday night, only the Browns, Jets, 49ers and Buccaneers had a worse point differential than their -42. No team in the NFL averaged fewer than the Bears’ 16.8 points. Only the Browns have won fewer games.
Searching for reasons for hope, the Bears touted their familiarity with their next two opponents, the Packers and Vikings, before a Week 9 bye.
They claim correctly — in terms of fact, but not spirit — that they’re undefeated in NFC North play, at 1-0. Players talked openly Sunday afternoon about being able to win the division, given that half their final 10 games are against NFC North opponents.
They’ve won two of their last three at Lambeau Field — “That’s a pretty cool fact,” outside linebacker Willie Young said — even though the games took remarkable turns.
In 2013, Shea McClellin broke Rodgers’ collarbone on the Packers’ first series, leaving Seneca Wallace to be sacked four times and throw one interception. The Bears’ 17-13 win last Thanksgiving ended with Rodgers throwing an incomplete pass in the end zone with 29 seconds to play, and marked the high-water mark of Fox’s tenure.
In between, of course, was 55-14 loss there in 2014.
“We know that we can compete against any team,” Young said. “It’s never a case where we haven’t had an opportunity to win. It’s just closing it out. If I recall, the last time we played them, it came down to the wire. The last second on the clock, it was that type of game.
“It’s a division game. It’s a rival game for us. It’s going to be hostile: “Thursday Night Football.”