Despite losing streak, Bears see foundation taking shape

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears are losing at a rate unlike any other team in the history of the founding NFL franchise.

They also insist they have the right culture in place. They see a foundation being laid that will translate to better results in the not-too-distant future.

“Like I’ve been saying all year, no matter what’s happened the week before, everybody comes in the same, with the same energy,” quarterback Justin Fields said. “The coaches do a great job staying on us, staying on the leaders of the team to bring that energy every day in practice and just having that mindset, just getting better each and every day and just approaching each day differently and resetting after each day and just coming in getting better that day.”

The Bears (3-12) head into Sunday’s game at Detroit on an eight-game losing streak, which matches the franchise record set in 1978 and 2002. Another loss would equal the 1969 and 2016 teams for the most in a season by Chicago.

The Bears haven’t won since a Week 7 surprise at New England. The only team with a worse record than Chicago is Houston (2-12-1), a loser to the Bears in Week 3.

It’s not the way coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles envisioned the season going. But they knew they were taking on a big project when they replaced Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace, respectively.

The moves Chicago makes in the offseason will go a long way toward determining if the current regime can turn around the franchise.

The Bears could wind up with the No. 1 pick in the draft, and they have eight selections in all. They also figure to have about $125 million in cap room.

That means they’ll have plenty of opportunities to surround Fields with the playmaking receivers he lacks and fortify a shaky offensive line. They also need to boost the defense, particularly a pass rush that has produced a league-low 18 sacks.

Late-game execution has also been an issue for the offense. The Bears are 1-6 in games decided by seven or fewer points.

“I really see everything that they’re coaching is showing up on film,” defensive end Trevis Gipson said. “People can say the record isn’t what it’s supposed to be or this, this and that. But we’re getting turnovers. The sacks haven’t been there but we’re still working on that. We’re seeing finishing to the ball, less loafs.

“There’s an amount of things we’re seeing that’s growing, but with everything, it takes time.”

Fields’ development is the biggest story — and the biggest reason for hope — surrounding the Bears. He’s given fans a reason to watch games.

With 1,011 yards rushing, he is within striking distance of the NFL record of 1,206 for a quarterback set by Baltimore star Lamar Jackson in his 2019 MVP season. The only other QB to run for 1,000 yards in a season was Michael Vick.

Fields has three touchdown runs of 50 yards or more, including a 67-yarder in Week 8 against Detroit.

The Bears rank last in the NFL in passing offense.

Losing top receiver Darnell Mooney to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 12 didn’t help, nor did a knee problem that has sidelined Chase Claypool the past two games. That cut into his time to develop a rapport with Fields and adjust to the system after a trade from Pittsburgh for a second-round pick prior to the deadline. Claypool hopes to return this week.

The Bears, meanwhile, hope to keep developing their foundation over the final two games.

“How can I get better? How can I make corrections? How can I improve myself? And how can I improve the unit? And I think when guys look at performance that way I think it’s easy, or easier, when you have adversity to stay positive and the guys have done that all year,” Eberflus said.

NOTES: LG Cody Whitehair (knee) was a full participant in Thursday’s practice after being limited the previous day. He did not play last week. Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) were limited, and WR Dante Pettis (ankle) did not participate.

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