In all honesty, there’s only one relevant question to ask after the Chicago Bears’ 22-16 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday: When will it all end?
A game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, had the Bears come out surprisingly more competitive than most expected. Yet by the end, they were emotionally ridden, not taking any stock into moral victories and hoping for above all else - better health.
What’s increasingly become the story of this disastrous 2016 season is an injury list that seemingly never ends. A team already hampered and lacking in depth, growing shorthanded and divided in numbers, week-by-week. Wins and losses at 2-8 serve as a stark contrast to being decimated health-wise. These Bears have fallen down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos, where you click on one food or animal compilation. That of course, eventually sends you into a never ending spiral wondering where the time went.
There’s no sense of comfort here.
Just when you think you’ve figured it all out and have objectively settled in to enjoy some of this team’s bright young foundational pieces flashing for signs of hope, you then unfurl this growing injury list from a file cabinet.
Lo and behold, to your depressed dismay - it keeps on going and going and going.
The Bears that walked into New Jersey on Sunday were already without two starters on their offensive line in right guard and right tackle, Kyle Long and Bobby Massie, respectively. Star receiver, Alshon Jeffery, began his four-game PED suspension. And to top matters off, stalwart nose tackle Eddie Goldman was also inactive, one week after finally returning to the lineup.
No one would have blamed the Bears for simply laying down. Unless one’s an extremely bold betting man, you fold with those dealt cards, no holds barred. But, cliches of morale, team unity, and the otherwise overall talent level was still not down enough yet to fold against a Giants team playing well above it’s now impressive 7-3 record.
That reflected in a cohesiveness of a weird Jekyll and Hyde team. In hindsight, the Bears coming out firing to the tune of a 16-9 halftime lead, shouldn’t have been surprising. Just as it should have been easy to see them eventually blow that same advantage.
Not holding on against a team with a more full stable of talent would be one thing. But what should be normally be an afterthought for a team like Chicago you could stick a fork in, became a nightmare fully realized. The last thought any one associated with the Bears organization wants to come into mind is staggered future progress due to injury once essentially mathematically eliminated from relevance. The last aspect needed is injury multiplied stacked onto insults.
Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way in the NFL.
When it rains, it pours.
Cats and dogs living together becomes a regular occurrence, instead of just something you see on children’s television. A consistent pounding that brings into questions of sanity.
The first hit of the game was losing tight end, Zach Miller, to a broken foot late in the first half, which will sideline him the rest of the season. One of the Bears’ security blankets and reliable weapons for quarterback Jay Cutler - gone - in a blink.
The next was All-Pro caliber guard, Josh Sitton, who has been enjoying a fine season as a late offseason acquisition by general manager Ryan Pace. He injured his right ankle late in the third quarter, after being stepped on by running back, Jordan Howard. He was later seen in a walking boot in the post game. As mentioned, now the third Chicago starting offensive lineman lost to injury in as many weeks.
An offense that already ranked second-to-last in the NFL in scoring, even more severely handicapped.
Finally, a beyond tense moment in the fourth quarter, where promising outside linebacker, Leonard Floyd, went down to his knees with a neck injury after a dangerous collision with his own teammate in Akiem Hicks. Another moment of clarity in a dangerous game of roulette played from snap to snap. It’s not often you see both sidelines and an entire stadium sit in deafening silence, awaiting any sign of hope from a player seemingly tended by every doctor on hand.
Situations like this has everyone hope for the health of the young man first and foremost, beyond any football.
A sentiment easy to see in Floyd’s mentor teammates and fellow outside linebackers, Pernell McPhee and Willie Young. While Floyd is alright now, released from the hospital after precautionary tests to travel home with the team - a great sign - you’d be remiss if this initial shock didn’t move the team to it’s core. There would have to be a complete lack of empathy not to feel any kind of emotion. Young and McPhee working as emotional wrecks processing what the rookie under their wing was going through, tells you everything you need to know.
After Floyd was stabilized on a backboard, a shaken Young noted, “he even shook my hand...and that’s what eased my mind.”
While McPhee - who was seen clearly distraught and in tears in concern for Floyd - felt strongly inclined to comment as well, as the Bears’ primary emotional leader.
“I just touched him on his leg, and walked back off,” said McPhee. “All prayers go out to Leonard.”
Even while Floyd eventually returned to good condition, the two closest to him reflect a Chicago team that has to be simply hoping for “no more” at this point from anyone. Making it to the finish line without another scratch as brothers with a long-term team goal in mind. One can only imagine the queasiness Pace felt as an onlooker for both Floyd and his team’s consistently derailed progress sitting in the training room.
Who could’ve known that the since-returned wide receiver Marquess Wilson’s foot injury way back in June would’ve set off a completely unrelated, but continuing butterfly effect.
We’re almost at Thanksgiving, and the Bears sit without cornerbacks, Kyle Fuller and Deiondre’ Hall, wide receiver Kevin White, Long, Goldman, Sitton, Miller, Massie, Jeffery, and Floyd, for now.
10 starters. Almost half of the starting lineup.
That’s not even mentioning the loss of back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer, pass rushing depth in Lamarr Houston, Goldman’s backup in Will Sutton, formerly projected starting center, Hroniss Grasu, and missed time by Cutler and back-up running back Jeremy Langford, intermittently.
In the holiday spirit, the only thing this team can be thankful for is that most of these injuries don’t appear to be serious. That they won’t linger into affecting a 2017 season where this team will be expected to take a huge leap forward.
In fact, they better thank and hope it doesn’t come to that drastic cliff.
A normally vague Fox was asked about the difficulties of this lost year in the post game press conference regarding injuries in conjunction with results, and he noted, “It’s up there...definitely in the top five, sure.”
Understandably no solution offered. Just dismay, in a sinking ship barely staying afloat.
There is but one plea and answer to “When will it end?” for Fox and company.
Make it stop.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.