The Bears being at 2-5 heading into the middle game of their season isn't in and of itself a huge shock. No one pinned playoff expectations on this team but I do believe most fans would have thought that the team could win a couple more games to this point.
That being said, they have been in much closer games with their opponents than they have in the past two years. The Bears have been blown out only twice this year, in a week two loss to the Arizona Cardinals and then in what is now known as the Jimmy Clausen Game. In the past two weeks they've lost back-to-back games by only a field goal.
While it is frustrating to see a team play so close only to lose, it is still refreshing to see this team show resiliency and the ability to keep fighting even when things aren't going their way. The John Fox Effect some might say.
On the opposite sideline Monday will be a team with a few of the same shortcomings as the Bears.
The San Diego Chargers are surrendering 28.4 points per game, 27th in the NFL and just two spots ahead of Chicago's 28.9 PPG. Much like the Bears the Chargers too have been in a lot of close games, like the Bears their two wins came in one score games and five of their six losses have as well.
Both team's defenses are the unit that has struggled. Their rushing defenses rank 29th (Chicago) and 27th (San Diego), although the Chargers are surrendering an even 5 yards per carry and have given up eight touchdowns while Chicago allows 4.7 and 2, respectively.
The Bears hold an edge in pass defense, having the fourth-best pass yards per game allowed but that is a testament to the bad run defense (they've seen the second-fewest pass attempts against in the league) and their own ball-control offense (eighth-best time of possession per game). With so few pass attempts against them, they've still allowed 16 touchdown passes, the fifth most.
One of the other issues for the Bears has been situational football. In their last two games the team has been right in it to the very end only to let mistakes compound, execution lack and games slip away. Last week against Minnesota, Teddy Bridgewater had 106 yards passing on his final eight pass attempts after having only 81 through the first three plus quarters of the game.
Before the bye week, Matthew Stafford managed to torch the Bears late, including the Bears secondary letting Calvin Johnson get loose for the catch that led to the winning field goal.
With the lack of depth that the Bears have, these kinds of things are going to happen. They don't have an elite pass rush and they don't have a lot of experience at many of the key positions.
The Chargers boast the number one ranked pass offense in the league. Their rush offense is nearly dead last (29th; 86.4 yards per game and two TDs). So it's obvious what Philip Rivers is going to do and what the game plan is. The test for the Bears is can they slow down an obviously unbalanced offense?
In theory, the Chargers offense plays into the strengths of the Bears' defense; the Bears pass D is way better than their rush D. However, the eye test might tell you that that is not always the case because of the amount of pass TDs they've allowed and the way the secondary has given away two consecutive games.
Can the defense rise to the occasion and, if they are in a position to close out the game, actually close it out? Can a middling offense that is getting very decent play from its quarterback hang with the best passing offense in the league?
The game has shootout written all over it but more often than not those don't come to fruition in the NFL. Still, the Bears will need more than their 20 points per game average to beat San Diego. To me this is going to be another close game, with each team getting close to or over 30 points.
Historically the Bears don't fare well in those games, 4-24 when they allow 30 or more points since 2009, including losing their last 12. However, when both the Bears and their opponents score over 30 points, the script somewhat flips.
While the same size shrinks significantly (they've been in just seven of those games since 2009), they are 4-3. Since 1961 they are 16-11-1 in those games. The average margin in those 28 games was 5.1 points, in the Jay Cutler era (2009) it remains about the same, dropping slightly to 4.7 points.
If this does remain a close game, the Bears should be right in it and have as good a chance as any to win it. Cutler is 33-25 in his career in one-score games.
Whatever the margin though, the Bears face a big test Monday night and if they can't pass it, then it will be a long road to December when their schedule eases up.