The most dangerous leap known to man is from the Bears winning one game to believing they’re about to do something special.
Last we looked, they were riding a surge of momentum and optimism after winning their first game in nearly a year. Circling back Sunday, their season was in shambles.
The outlook is bleaker than ever after they lost 19-13 to the Vikings and quarterback Justin Fields left with an injured throwing hand. The Vikings had only beaten the winless Panthers, but never trailed the Bears.
Just when they made one modest step forward with a 20-point thumping of the Commanders, the Bears backslid into the same dull, meandering performance they usually deliver.
It has felt inevitable that Fields would get hurt and miss at least a little time. It could happen because of his unsteady offensive line, his risky running style or holding the ball too long in the pocket as defenders close on him. Liability lurked behind those doors since Fields’ debut.
The latter of those, his indecision as the pocket collapsed, cost him Sunday. Fields had time, but dodged and double clutched before flipping the ball out of bounds for an incomplete pass to avoid a sack as Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter wore down right tackle Darnell Wright and wrapped his arms around Fields. The hit appeared to drive Fields’ right hand into the ground.
Now the Bears sit 1-5, their worst start since 2016. Their interim quarterback is undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent. They have no pass rush. Their coach, Matt Eberflus, owns the 10th-worst record in history at 4-19.
There is no map from here to the playoffs.
The more likely destination at this point is the bottom. Again.
That might’ve been the outcome even without a Fields injury. He was crawling before he got hurt, completing 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards with an interception and a 36.7 passer rating against one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses.
That was quite a plunge from the numbers Fields racked up against the Broncos and Commanders the last two weeks, but not far off the pace of how he played before that, when he had a 67.7 passer rating over the first three games.
Wide receiver DJ Moore erupted for 230 yards and three touchdowns in the last game and was averaging over 100 yards for the season, but finished with five catches for 51 yards. Fields threw to him just twice in a little more than a half.
“We’ve got to look at that,” Eberflus said, which sounded like a heads up to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. “That’s not what we want. We want to target him and feature him.”
The loudest alarm for the offense was that it seemed unprepared for Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ variety of blitzes after talking all week about how he was the most blitz-heavy play caller in the league — and how it had been largely ineffective thus far.
When Fields left early in the third quarter, the Bears had 149 yards total yards, were 3 for 9 on third down and had managed just two Cairo Santos field goals — one from 53 yards — in six possessions.
“All the different looks, all the pressures and everything that was coming at us — it’s hard when you go out there and you think they’re going to do one thing and they do a whole multitude of things,” Moore said.
Ever notice how often the Bears get outcoached?
In Matt Nagy’s final season, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett laughed at his game plan. Two weeks ago, Broncos coach Sean Payton said of Fields, “We had him right where we wanted him.” The Chiefs didn’t need to say it.
Now their season of high expectations — by this franchise’s standards, anyway — has been trampled by mid-October. Bears fans are used to disappointment. It’s a lifestyle here. But, wow, that was fast.