This looks all too familiar for the Chicago Bears, doesn't it.
It isn't uncommon for the team to get off to a hot start under head coach Lovie Smith, only to taper off at the end of the year to the point where the team is no longer in the playoff picture.
The 2012-13 season doesn't seem any different. The Bears started of 7-1 as their defense looked like the most special unit the league had ever seen. They went on runs of not only stopping their opponents, but outscoring them.
Now, they're struggling to even take the ball away. Sure, they still lead the league with 35 takeaways, but have just seven over the course of their past five games. They've also been a poor tackling team of late, allowing 204 yards after contact in their two most recent losses — the defense allowed a total of 692 yards after contact in Weeks 1-12.
Current personnel may be the issue, as Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings have been inactive of late, but injuries are never an excuse in the NFL. Smith is a defensive minded coach, so any fault in the defense falls on him. Yes, Rod Marinelli is the team's defensive coordinator, but Smith oversees what the unit as a whole is doing.
They're losing because they aren't playing situational football, an issue that falls to Smith.
The recent situations came in the losses to Seattle and Minnesota. Against the Seahawks, the defense allowed rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to go 97 yards for a touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter, before allowing him to lead the game-winning touchdown drive to begin the overtime session. Against Minnesota, it was no secret Adrian Peterson was going to run the rock, yet Chicago allowed him to run for more than 100 yards in the first quarter. There is something wrong with the defense. If they don't play like the Chicago Bears' defense, this team won't make the playoffs.
Another reason it's beginning to look like last year in Chicago is because of the team's inefficient offense. Matt Forte hasn't been Matt Forte after signing his contract extension, and Jay Cutler has been beaten to a pulp behind an offensive line that seems to always let someone loose.
This team is built on a solid running game, and the play-action pass. The problem is when you average 3.0 yards per carry, teams don't need to respect the run. That leaves the deep receivers covered on play-action passes and nowhere for Cutler to go with the football. As a result, he's taken some shots trying to make a play and has left two games early this year as a result.
Lastly, the Bears haven't been overly impressive this season. Yes, they're 8-5. Yes, they've beaten up on a bunch of teams. Yes, if they beat the Green Bay Packers this weekend we'll eat our words. However, en route to an 8-5 record, they've beaten just one team destined for the playoffs. That team was the Indianapolis Colts, in Andrew Luck's first career professional start.
Luck has since grown, and would probably give Chicago much more of a challenge the second time around given the chance.
Because the expectations coming into the year, then after the 7-1 start were a Super Bowl parade in Chicago, Lovie Smith will likely lose his job if the team fails to make the playoffs. Last season's collapse cost GM Jerry Angelo his job. This one will be on Lovie.
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