With only two games left on the schedule and the playoffs out of reach, the focus of the Bears remains simple and straightforward: improve every day. From practice and meetings during the week to their play on the field on Sundays, the team is looking to correct the mistakes that have plagued them all season long. Facing divisional foes Detroit and Minnesota over the last two weeks, the team wants to put its best foot forward to try and put a positive end to a disappointing 2014 season.
A major point of emphasis in terms of improving is cleaning up the errors that have hurt the team in recently, in every phase of the game. Talking specifically about the offense on Tuesday evening on WMVP-AM 1000's 'Football Night in Chicago', right guard Kyle Long said the problems are correctable. However Long believes something must change in the team's preparation in order to avoid the poor plays, pre-snap penalties and mental errors that have hurt the Bears time and time again this season.
"The thing we have to keep in mind is: it's a bottom-line business, a production business. If you aren't producing and doing the things you're supposed to do, people are expendable," Long said. "So I need to do a better job, the people I'm playing with need to do a better job, we need to be a better team. There's no real explanation as to why we are getting our butts kicked, but we need to figure something out. We need to change something, because obviously our formula is a little out of whack."
Versus the Saints on Monday, the offense struggled to even get out of its own way. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked a season-high seven times, as protection issues up front led to constant pressure in the backfield. The unit continues its troubling trend of false starts and other mental errors that cost the team yards. And when the play did get off and Cutler did have time to throw, the production just wasn't there, as Chicago lost 31-15.
Both touchdowns for the Bears offense came in the fourth quarter, as once again, the team started off the game slowly. It marked the fourth time this season Chicago has been held scoreless in the first half.
"Offensively, we've been consistent in one thing: starting slowly," coach Marc Trestman said Tuesday on 'The Chicago Bears Coaches Show.' "We have to take responsibility for that and we have. It's extremely disappointing.
"It's not a lack of effort, but a lack of execution on a play by play, week to week basis."
The loss to New Orleans ended a tumultuous week for the Bears. The team was surrounded in controversy after it was revealed that offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was the source in an NFL Network report that was critical of Cutler's play. Kromer apologized privately to the team and publically to the media and fan, but the message of the report still weighed over the team.
Long was one of several players last week who defended Kromer in interviews after the report surfaced. He repeated those sentiments again on the radio, saying that everybody makes mistakes, and if people didn't look past those transgressions, the second-year lineman himself wouldn't be in the NFL.
"(Criticizing a player) not the best thing you can do for a relationship with a football player and with a team, and Aaron understands that," Long said. "But the thing we have to understand as a team, and what I've relayed to Kromer, is that we love you, we're behind, you, people mess up and make stupid mistakes, but you have to keep going and focus on the task at hand."
That task this week is defeating the Detroit Lions, who beat the Bears 34-17 back on Thanksgiving. Detroit can clinch a playoff spot with a win, and the Bears would like nothing better than to play spoiler for their NFC North rivals.
To do that, the process of improving every day must hold true, for everybody on the roster and the coaching staff.
"The only thing we need to worry about is, the mistakes we've made today we need to better them tomorrow," Long said. "We need to tie up the loose ends, figure out what the heck is going on. We need to change by getting better, because you can transform into a good team. Teams have spells where they start off playing terribly and something happens and they play well. In two games left, we can get some sort of self-respect back by playing our butts off here and finishing strong."