The Chicago Bears do not need to panic... yet. Winning three of five games to begin the Marc Trestman era is still an encouraging start. Despite that, the Bears exhibit resurfacing issues which could cripple the team. On a short week, the winless New York Giants come to town for Thursday night football. The Bears must win this game, or suffer the insanity which would certainly accompany a loss.
Looking first at the positives, the Bears technically had fourth quarter chances to win each of their past two losses. While relying on two-point conversions and onside kicks (which seem to dumbfound Robbie Gould) is a recipe for catastrophe, the fact that the offense was able to eek back into striking distance at all is positive.
Jay Cutler needs to find a way to hold on to the ball behind the line, but otherwise he had an excellent rebound to his worst performance of the season in Detroit. The Bears must improve the run-blocking, and must generate the early-game success on offense they displayed in the wins. Albeit, there are plenty of positives for the Chicago Bears offense through the first five games of the season.
The same cannot be said for the defense.
Without the timely turnovers, the Bears defense is mediocre at best. The team did a good job initially of limiting New Orleans to field goals, but throughout the early course of 2013 the defense has failed to pressure opposing QBs. Huge chunks of yardage are surrendered in the aftermath; even Christian Ponder was able to move the ball and score through the air.
Injuries have certainly played their part, and now Nate Collins will join Henry Melton as defensman out for the season. The Bears simply need to find a way to overcome this. The defense cannot live and die by turnovers. If Julius Peppers and company cannot pressure the QB, at a minimum they must take away the opposition's running game.
Thus far, this has not happened for the Bear in 2013. A day may come when the offense will be able to singlehandedly win games on a consistent basis, but that day has not yet arrived. For any shot at playoff success this year, the Chicago Bears defense will need to play a role in winning games.
The best news is that the 0-5 New York Giants are coming up in only three days. The New York offense ranks 30th in points, 20th in total yards and last in rushing yards in the NFL. The defense is also worst in the NFL, surrendering an average of 36.4 points per game, and allow the 26th-most yards per game.
Eli Manning has thrown 12 interceptions in the five losses, completing only 53.7% of his passes in the process. The running game has been equally dismal, as the team is averaging only 56.8 yards per game, with four fumbles. The Bears need to feast on Thursday night.
Taking advantage of this reeling New York team is a necessity. Manning has been unstable, and the defense has been shredded worse than the Bears'. Good football teams win these types of games, especially at home. The consecutive losses no longer matter; the only focus has to be on dismantling the Giants the way that five teams have already done.
If the Bears lose this game, misery could easily follow. Although 3-3 would be disappointing, a .500 record this early in the season would not put the Bears out of contention. Unfortunately, this sort of logic would be overpowered. Losing to the Saints is one thing, but losing a third game in a row at the hands of the win-less Giants will bring doubt, and therein lies the danger.
Fanbases, of course, always have doubt, but such a disaster on Thursday night could easily see that plague creep into the locker room. Brandon Marshall has already voiced displeasure with his role in the offense, and losing only spreads discontent and doubt. If Trestman begins to lose his lockeroom, than the 2013 Bears are as good as done.
Beating the New York Giants cannot spring the Bears to the postseason, but it can keep them from unraveling to the bottom of the league.
Game six may sound early for such a dramatic statement, but it is a must-win for the Chicago Bears. If they fail, the remainder of this season will get very uncomfortable for everyone.