Monster’s Mash: Can the Bears figure it out at Soldier Field?

LAKE FOREST – My no means was the 2015 season one of the most forgettable in Bears history.

Many expected the team to be sub-.500 with a new coach and a rebuilt roster following the disastrous final season of the short Marc Trestman tenure. That’s about what the Bears delivered in their first season under John Fox as the were competitive but in the end a little short in most of their contests.

While a 6-10 record is not good the record is far from a disaster their home record was exactly that. In fact it was tied for the worst in franchise history.

“Nothing’s hanging over Soldier Field that we can’t win there,” said tight end Zach Miller of the team’s performance at home in 2015.

They finished with a 1-7 record – their worst in the venue since they started playing there in 1971. Only a last second victory over the Raiders kept them from finishing without a win in Chicago for the entire season.

As the Bears start off another home season on Monday night against the Eagles the questions came up as to why the team couldn’t get the job done at home last season and what they can do to remedy that in 2016.

“We didn’t play well in those specific games,” said Miller when asked about the team’s struggles at Soldier Field. “So we need to just execute better and we’ve got the chance to do that on Monday night and get the win.”

Execution is a good place to start because the 1-7 record a year ago could have been much better. Only two of the losses were by eight-or-more points with four of those losses coming by four points or less. Robbie Gould missed field goals cost the Bears in losses to the 49ers and the Redskins with a missed two-point conversion keeping the Bears from overtime against the eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos.

A good chance for a win comes tonight against the Eagles who themselves are rebuilding around rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. The last two seasons the Bears have lost their home opener and it was the sign of bad things to come. Hence Willie Young would like to make home finally be an advantage right from the start in 2016.

“It doesn’t dictate your season but it sets the tempo, you know,” said Young. “We’ve got to do everything in our power to leave the field with a win. We have to protect this house at all costs.”

RESPECT FOR THE TOP PICK

There will likely be rougher days ahead for a man taking his first-ever snaps behind center in the NFL in his first year.

But Carson Wentz made the Eagles’ decision to take him with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft look like a good one in Week 1.

Against the Browns at home the quarterback was 22-of-37 for 278 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in Philadelphia’s 29-10 win. While many could dismiss the performance as beginner’s luck against a bad team, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was quick to praise the rookie from what he saw the first game.

“They took a chance and I think they did a helluva job with it,” said Fangio of Wentz. “The guy is very impressive. He’s got a big arm, he’s athletic and mobile, he’s very poised, he doesn’t get flustered. He’s very comfortable in running their offense even though he only played a little bit in the preseason.

“So obviously the work they’ve done with him, their coaching staff, during the OTAs and training camp was time very well spent.”

O-LINE NEEDS TIME

The hits kept coming for Jay Cutler in Week 1 against the Texans. Then they kept coming, and coming, and coming over the next 60 minutes.

In all the Bears quarterback was hit 13 times in the loss in Houston – one less than he was hit the final three games of the 2015 season.

While this may seem inexcusable for a professional offensive line the Bears had some legitimate issues in that first game. The were starting a rookie at center and a guard who just joined the team six days before. Kyle Long was out for most of the preseason and only had a full week of work on game week so the line was understandably not at their best.

Hence Cutler wasn’t so angry about hitting the turf a few too many times against the Texans. In fact he gave a lot of praise to Josh Sitton for being able to play just six days after signing with the Bears following his release by Green Bay.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Cutler of Sitton’s quick turnaround. “To come into here and then turn around and have to play that quickly and play as well as he did is a testament to how good of a player he is, how hard he studies and how important it is to him.”

STAT OF THE WEEK – 11

Games under .500 the Bears are when they play on Monday Night Football. In 63 games they are 26-37 but their last appearance was a victory – a 22-19 win over the ChargersĀ on November 9, 2015.