Notebook: Bears 'needed a spark,' and a decision to make at TE during a season not beyond saving

John Mullin

The Bears 20-13 win over the Detroit Lions did not by any means save their 2019 season, although a fifth straight loss would've effectively ended it.

As it is, "only" nine teams now stand ahead of the Bears with fewer than five losses (last week that number was 10, so it was indeed a good weekend). And since four of those likely figure to be division winners, which the Bears clearly won't be, that loosely translates into the Bears needing to playing roughly well enough to just slip by four other teams to squeeze into the second wild-card slot.

How's that for creative accounting?

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None of which really means much unless can play significantly better than they did in barely getting past a depleted bottom-feeder in the Lions without quarterback Matthew Stafford and other starters. Sunday's performance pointed to several significant factors in bringing that to pass.

Matt Nagy's bold go-for-it on fourth-and-one at the Chicago 29 worked and might've been something of a turning point, maybe for more than just the Detroit game. But something is disturbing that, in the midst of a season on the brink, in a division game, trailing and within sight of a fifth straight loss, Nagy felt, "we needed it. We needed a spark. We needed a spark."

The organization – front office plus coaches – need to set aside any ego or face-saving thoughts and make a change at tight end. Actually, more like settling in with the one they did make Sunday, designating under-achieving Adam Shaheen as an inactive and folding Ben Braunecker into the offense.

Shaheen was a reach as a second-round pick in 2017, so demoting him can't make GM Ryan Pace's Sunday. But the Bears did invest some guaranteed money in their two-year, $2.7 million extension with Braunecker last offseason, making him unofficially a dramatically better call over not only Shaheen, but also Trey Burton, a largely non-factor in the second year of his four-year deal topping out at $32 million.

Braunecker is arguably a better receiver than Shaheen and a better/bigger blocker than Burton. For an offense desperate for production from a key position, like Braunecker's TD catch on Sunday, switching left guard (Cody Whitehair) and center (James Daniels) is likely not the last change.

Lady Bad Luck could scarcely have picked three more critical Bears to take down than Akiem Hicks, Kyle Long and now Danny Trevathan. The three are team emotional linchpins besides being the best players in their position groups, when healthy, which they aren't, and it's perhaps no coincidence that the season began unraveling roughly about the time Long first, then Hicks went down.

Think the Bears have quarterback issues?

The Rams haven't been as visible locally but while attention around here was on the Bears losing four of their last six, the Super Bowl runner-up Rams were busy doing the same thing, with franchise quarterback Jared Goff struggling even more than buddy Mitch Trubisky. 

Goff, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft, has put up five straight games with completion rates below 60 percent; Trubisky has at least topped 60 in four of his last five. But Goff's season passer rating is a pedestrian 82.7 while Trubisky's is a slightly less middling 85.2. And Goff has thrown 11 TD passes vs. nine interceptions; Trubisky's three vs. Detroit put him at 8/3, with a serviceable interception rate of 1.3 percent, barely half of Goff's 2.5 percent.

And the Bears didn't give their quarterback a four-year extension topping out at $134 million, with $110 million guaranteed. Based on Trubisky's recent play, whether they ever do is problematic.

The Bears did not put completely to rest their kicking concerns when they decided on Eddy Pineiro out of a cast of seeming thousands. Pineiro missed a PAT on Sunday, leaving the scoreboard within reach of the Lions on Detroit's final possession, and has converted just 12 of 15 field goals (80 percent, T-16th), including the missed 43 yarder vs. the Chargers with the game on the line.

And this is before the weather really turns surly.

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Notebook: Bears 'needed a spark,' and a decision to make at TE during a season not beyond saving originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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