Players and coaches in the NFL are generally creatures of habit and slaves to routine. They play games on Sunday, review film on Monday, rest on Tuesday, practice and prepare for the next opponent on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, then go through a walk through and, if necessary, travel on Saturday. Then they start the cycle all over again.
There are quirks in the schedule that can sometimes throw that off, but nothing like what the Bears are going through now. The team is in the midst of back-to-back Thursday games, facing the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving and then the Dallas Cowboys this week. That is followed by a Monday night contest against the New Orleans Saints on December 15, a slate that has everyone in Halas Hall a bit thrown off.
To prepare for the Cowboys, the Bears practiced on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday leading into the Thursday night's game at Soldier Field.
"Usually after a Thursday game, you play Sunday. We are going Thursday to Thursday, so there was no rest there. We had to get up and get started on Dallas as quickly as possible," coach Marc Trestman said Monday evening on the 'Chicago Bears Coaches Show' on the Chicago Bears Radio Network. "We talked to our players about this in the offseason. We gave them the schedule to help them understand that Sunday was essentially a Wednesday, so the weekend was important for them to get their rest, hydrate and fuel themselves and get ready.
"(Our players) came back and are ready to go, and they understand the sequence of events that lead up to Thursday and the sequence of events that will lead up to the 11-day break until we play New Orleans."
The condensed schedule gave the Bears little time to reflect on the 34-17 loss to the Lions. However, the team was able to do some self-evaluating. One of the things that jumped out on the film was the first quarter play of the team. Chicago led the Lions 14-3 after the opening quarter, as both the offense and defense were playing well. Problem was, the Bears couldn't sustain that strong play, as the Lions dominated the final 45 minutes of action.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, speaking Monday afternoon on WMVP-AM 1000's 'Waddle and Silvy Show' said the team felt it was clicking early in the game. After six consecutive games of scoring no points in the first quarter, the quick start was a welcome change. Problem was the finish to the game, an issue that the Bears have had all too often this year.
"I was sitting there on the sideline saying, 'It happened,'" Marshall said of the strong first quarter play. "Defense was balling, special teams was balling, they set the tempo out of the gate. Offense, we turned those turnovers and stops into points. This is what was supposed to happen in Week 5… but then we didn't sustain."
The Bears are well aware of the problems that plagued them on Thanksgiving, in every phase of the game. Coaches have addressed it in the meeting rooms and the players have worked to correct the issues on the practice field. Come Thursday, when they face the 8-4 Cowboys, the team will look to play a complete game, overcoming the crazy schedule they are on.
"We have true professionals here, we got an obligation to perform at the highest level possible on Thursday night in front of our fans at Soldier Field," Trestman said. "We are trying to get three wins in a row at Soldier Field, trying to get back on the winning track there and stay on the winning track there. So (continuing to improve) is important to our players."