January 24, 2022


Hub Arkush: What can the Bears do to salvage the 2nd half of the season?

The list is 100 yards long, but not impossible

LAKE FOREST — A report Sunday by NFL.com that sources in the NFL had confirmed officials in the Bears’ 29-27 Monday night loss to the Steelers had incorrectly made at least three calls is interesting, but at this point, since the league obviously isn’t going to change the outcome or replay the game, it does nothing but twist the knife on Bears players, coaches and fans.

So without wasting any more time on it, let’s just say that when the officials incorrectly took the Jimmy Graham touchdown off the board, costing the Bears four points in a two-point loss, by itself had an outsized impact on the Bears’ second half of the season.

At 4-5, the Bears would find themselves a half-game out of a tie for the NFC’s final wild-card spot today, while the loss leaves them a game-and-a-half back with eight to play.

Instead of having only the Vikings and Falcons – both 4-5 – to jump over to get to Carolina at 5-5 in that seventh spot, they now have seven teams to jump over.

At 3-6 and with two of those wins against AFC opponents, only the 0-8-1 Lions have a bigger hill to climb in the NFC.

But forget the officiating. None of this matters if the Bears don’t go at least 5-3 the rest of the way, and it very well could take a 6-2 finish to even join the playoff conversation.

What have we seen to fantasize these Bears are capable of a run like that?

Precious little, but it is worth noting after playing the NFL’s most difficult schedule through the first nine weeks of the season, the final eight matchups are far more favorable.

Four of their seven remaining opponents – they have two left with the Vikings – Detroit, Minnesota, Seattle and the Giants currently have losing records.

They will get the Ravens this Sunday coming off a pounding from the Dolphins on Thursday night, then another mini bye after visiting the winless Lions on Thanksgiving before Arizona visits on Dec. 5, and then they’ll go to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers again.

After that, they finish with the Vikings, Seahawks, Giants and Vikings again.

Four at home, four on the road.

Realistically, if they don’t win at least three of the next four and two of three from the Ravens, Cardinals and Packers, we will know with four weeks left whether there is anything left to play for, and have a pretty good handle on the future of coach Matt Nagy.

They may have to climb Pikes Peak but at least its not Mount Everest.

What has to happen for them to even attempt the climb?

Quarterback Justin Fields must now go full speed ahead off his electric second half in Pittsburgh.

That guy can ignite a run like this, but even a small step backward likely will be the final nail in the coffin.

Nagy and Bill Lazor must continue to trust the rookie and push the ball down the field, and Fields has to continue to look for Allen Robinson and Jimmy Graham, his two most proven big-play, big-moment performers.

David Montgomery and Kahlil Herbert have to stay healthy and keep Fields out of difficult spots with consistent production on the ground, receiver Darnell Mooney has to find another gear, and the offensive line has to be more consistent.

On defense, resurgence has to start with a return to health from Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson, and defensive coordinator Sean Desai has to rediscover how to get his guys to stop the run.

You cannot beat quality teams without running the football and stopping the other guys from doing the same.

Lastly, forget all the bad calls and stop all the mind-numbing lapses in focus that consistently lead to far too many penalties the stripes are getting right.

Most important, none of this is either/or. The Bears have to do it all to salvage what is on the precipice of being a lost and hugely disappointing season.

It is the only formula that could allow this group to stay together for a chance to make another run next year, and almost certainly will decide the difference between a reboot and a rebuild.

Hub Arkush is a Shaw Media correspondent.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media