Commentary: Chicago Bears face huge questions at season’s midpoint

It’s another one of those years for the Chicago Bears.

Nothing comes easy for Chicago’s favorite football team and 2013 is no different. After Sunday’s critical gut-wrenching loss to the Detroit Lions, the Bears sit at 5-4 with more questions than answers in a division that looks far different than the one that pundits believed would take shape early in the year.

Start with the obvious: this iteration of the Chicago Bears looks nothing like what fans have come to expect over the last decade. Marc Trestman’s squad ranks 23rd in the NFL in total defense, a total departure from the days of old when you could depend on a talented group of players to get stops at critical times.

In addition, the Bears have emerged as something of a pass-first team, despite the fact that quarterback Jay Cutler has battled injuries. Backup Josh McCown has been instrumental in ensuring the Bears stay afloat in the NFC North race, but the sad fact is that the Bears are rather mediocre in almost every category save for special teams.

For the Bears, this means that the final seven games of the year will be a struggle. The only thing working in Chicago’s favor is the injury to the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, an injury that could singlehandedly change the entire complexion of the division race. But right now, the signs show that it won’t be an easy road to the playoffs.

One stat stands out-the Bears rank second in the NFC in turnover differential at plus-eight. A significantly positive turnover differential typically signifies that a team is winning much more than not, but the Bears are struggling to put wins together even with a superb turnover differential. Eventually, stats regress to the mean and if the Bears can’t continue their pace with turnovers they won’t be making the playoffs in 2013. Chicago commits silly penalties, plays inconsistently on offense, and never puts together a full 60-minute game.

Trestman has done a great job of guiding a team that is average in most areas. If not for a vastly improved offensive line, it could be assumed that the Bears would only have around three or four wins. Trestman deserves credit for keeping the team in the race despite an awful defense and injuries at quarterback.

Still, the Bears were 7-2 at this point in the year last season and couldn’t make the playoffs. They have done nothing to prove to their fans that this year will be any different.

How can the Bears sneak in? There are a few ways. First of all, they need more consistent play from their defense. This is especially true when it comes to stopping the run, where the Bears rank 29th in the NFL.

In addition, they must find their identity on offense. Chicago ranks 14th in passing offense and 13th in rushing offense; they are neither good nor bad in either department. That indicates that they are not sure what they’re good at. It impacts playcalling and tempo and until the team can figure out what it does best, it could be another disappointing season in Chicago.