True or false: The resurgence of the Chicago Bears defense will help Matt Eberflus save his job

The Chicago Bears took the good vibes from a 12-10 last-minute win over the Minnesota Vikings into their bye week, hoping the confidence and momentum from that triumph can fuel them down the stretch of the season.

With four games in December and an early January finale against the Green Bay Packers, the Bears still have significant tests ahead and are showing more reasons to feel encouraged by their improvements. But they are still well outside the playoff picture in a very ordinary NFC and will have to be sharp this weekend to have any chance at upsetting the division-leading Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

The Lions rallied from 12 points down late in the fourth quarter three weeks ago to stun the Bears 31-26 and added another exciting victory to their resume Sunday, downing the New Orleans Saints 33-28. So what’s next for the 4-8 Bears as they try to create direction? What’s the sense of how coach Matt Eberflus is doing? And what else deserves mention as the team returns to work for Week 14?

Tribune writers Colleen Kane and Dan Wiederer take the pulse of the Bears in “true or false” format.

True or false? If the Bears defense continues on its upswing, it could help Matt Eberflus’ case for keeping his job.

Kane: True. There’s a lot for Bears President Kevin Warren and general manager Ryan Poles to consider as they map the future of the team at head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback. So I don’t know if the defense continuing to get better will mean Eberfus keeps his job. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

The Bears are tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the top run defense in the NFL, allowing just 79 rushing yards per game. For most of the season, the Bears have been short on takeaways and sacks. But they have seven interceptions in the last two games against Jared Goff and Josh Dobbs, plus a special teams fumble recovery.

And while they collapsed in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions in Week 11, they held the Minnesota Vikings to just 10 points in Week 12.

There’s still much to improve on. The Bears rank 30th in third-down percentage and last in red zone percentage. But if the Bears can continue to make strides, that will reflect well on Eberflus, who has been the defensive coordinator since Alan Williams resigned.

However, that obviously isn’t the entire evaluation of Eberflus as a head coach. Poles must examine Eberflus’ leadership as a whole. And as you pointed out, the Bears have to consider how Eberflus and his staff will fit with what they want to do next at quarterback.

Wiederer: Right. Eberflus’ work with the defense is important. And that unit has made undeniable and meaningful improvements this season, particularly over the past two months. But there are big-picture considerations that need to be made as the organization plots its journey for 2024 and beyond. And if the Bears ultimately decide they need to pivot in a new direction at quarterback, it’s hard to imagine bringing Eberflus back for what would have to be a “prove-it” season while also starting anew with the most important position on the roster. Wouldn’t that just be repeating the mistakes of 2021 when the Bears gave Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy the authority to draft a quarterback in the first round less than nine months before firing both men?

As Eberflus noted Monday, he has to keep himself focused on the present challenges. And that means continuing to guide the defense in the direction of success with an intriguing rematch against the Detroit Lions on tap this week. Everything the Bears do from now until the end of the season should factor into the evaluation of their coaching staff and the man leading it. But a long view is also critical.

True or false? A rematch with the first-place Lions is exactly what the Bears need coming out of their bye.

Wiederer: True. Sign me up. This should be fun.

Two weeks ago, the Bears went to Ford Field and controlled the first-place Lions for 56 minutes. They had a 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter and, seemingly, a clear path to their most meaningful victory of the Eberflus era. Then it all came apart. The Lions scored 17 unanswered points in the final four minutes and stole a victory.

For the Bears, the result was dispiriting. And that was reflected in the mood inside that postgame locker room. But Bears players also came away from that performance believing they are far more equipped to compete with the best teams in the league than they have been in some time. And that confidence means something. The best way to test it? Against those same Lions, of course. The Bears are well rested coming out of their bye week and have momentum from their Week 12 prime-time win in Minnesota, a triumph that required some final-drive magic from Justin Fields and the offense.

With five games remaining, we will all continue measuring the Bears’ improvement and assessing their flaws. What better way to continue that process than Sunday’s home game against the NFC North front-runners?

Kane: I have so many questions about what the last two games truly have meant — and therefore how this one will play out.

Can this Bears defense, which has forced seven turnovers in the last two games, keep up the pace?

After a good showing against the Lions, until the end, and then a winning drive against the Vikings, is Fields ready to put together a full-game, head-turning performance Sunday in his third game back from a dislocated right thumb?

What was the value of finally finishing against the Vikings? Is that something the Bears will build on?

Did the Lions look past the Bears in the first meeting? And if so, will we see a different Detroit team show up from the start Sunday?

I’m genuinely intrigued to see how this game unfolds, and that’s not always an easy thing to say about a 4-8 team in December.

True or false? The Bears should be concerned about the way the Green Bay Packers are playing.

Kane: True. When I say that, I’m not talking about the Bears players or even coaches at the moment. They have enough issues to solve before they face the Packers again in Week 18.

But should the Bears team leaders and fan base be concerned that the Packers have won their last three games against the Los Angeles Chargers, Lions and Kansas City Chiefs — the same Chiefs that beat the Bears 41-10?

Should they be worried that quarterback Jordan Love has thrown for 857 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions with a 116.9 passer rating in those games?

Should they be wearily eyeing the receiving stats of first- and second-year players Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed and Christian Watson?

Should their stomachs have dropped a few times as they watched Love make pretty throws to Doubs and Watson on Sunday night against the Chiefs?

Yep. I’m not saying three games are a predictor of the future. But is it enough for concern for the Bears, who thought they might finally be able to turn the tide in the rivalry? Sorry, but yes.

Wiederer: OK. Let me answer your questions in order. No. No. No and no. Respectively. And with all due respect.

I know where you’re coming from. And certainly, a hot streak like the one the Packers are on right now would send Bears fans into a state of delirium from which many would never recover. The Packers are clearly improving. Their quarterback is playing really well. Many of their young playmakers are producing. And Sunday’s statement win over the Chiefs in prime time was certainly attention-grabbing and — through a Bears lens — a bit dispiriting as so many other ordinary teams around the league have put together convincing winning streaks.

But the concerns at Halas Hall need to be centrally focused on the grounds at Halas Hall — on the last-place team that has struggled to play well with any consistency; on the leaders charged with creating a turnaround; on the five games remaining this season that can allow the Bears to write an encouraging end to a roller coaster season. Until the Bears can perform and produce in a manner that allows them to be consistently competitive with quality opponents and then regularly beat them, worrying about other teams in the division is pointless.

True or false? Linebacker T.J. Edwards deserves serious consideration for Pro Bowl honors.

Wiederer: True. Edwards continues to provide timely contributions for a rapidly improving Bears defense. And he was terrific in last week’s win over the Vikings. Remember that clutch open-field tackle he had on a swing pass to running back Ty Chandler? Teach tape stuff right there.

And what about the interception he made on the next play, knifing into position to snatch a pass that cornerback Jaylon Johnson deflected?

Edwards also had the third-down tackle-for-loss on a pass to K.J. Osborn that forced the Vikings to punt in the final minutes, getting the ball back to Fields and the offense for their game-saving drive.

Coming out of that victory, Edwards was the NFL leader in tackles. He has two interceptions, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

In the NFC, Seattle’s Bobby Wagner, San Francisco’s Fred Warner and Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David are among the usual suspects for postseason accolades. Edwards, though, is having a productive year and deserves credit.

Kane: You’re right that he deserves credit. A year after leading the Philadelphia Eagles with 159 tackles on their run to the Super Bowl, Edwards is on pace for a career-high with 127 tackles and five games to play. Edwards, the Lake Villa and Wisconsin product who joined the Bears on a three-year, $19.5 million contract this offseason, has made a number of eye-catching, momentum-building plays, many of which you mentioned.

When asked about the uptick in such plays Monday, Edwards credited increased comfort within the Bears defense and the attitude on the defense as a whole to not hold anything back.

“As linebackers you always want to be around the ball no matter where it is,” Edwards said. “Whether it’s near the sideline or in the middle of the field or run-pass, you always want to get to the ball. And I think that’s something I pride myself on.”

The result has been Edwards emerging as a player the Bears can be excited about beyond this season.