Some teams find a way to win. Some teams, in the face of all adversity, power through the slog and persevere. After a beyond disheartening, but not unbelievable 15-14 loss to the 49ers, John Fox's Bears do not fit either description. They are the reflective opposite of a team still playing hard.
They have instead given up: a sure sign of the times.
Every time you think these Bears can't dive any deeper into the abyss of futility, there they come along with a new standard of imperfection and embarrassment.
You thought the Bears' lack of preparation and discipline would stop after Mike Glennon was benched following a forgetful blowout loss in Green Bay way back in Week 4? How naive.
Or that the nightmare would soon end a little over a month later when Chicago - who had a bye week - fell to a Packers squad on a short week at home without Aaron Rodgers? That's an enviable innocence.
Surely, this long standing death spiral would reach a conclusion when Fox entrusted tying the game on a kicker with a 68-percent make rate in Connor Barth against Detroit? Barth, of course, egregiously shanked said kick at the end of regulation. Now clear blind optimism in hindsight.
Perhaps, the Bears would climb their way out after never belonging on the same field as the NFC's best team in the Eagles? A measure of pride potentially kicking in. Nope. Don't stick your head in the sand for much longer.
No, no. At this juncture, Fox's Bears were built for delicious irony being spat back in their face with gumption. For consistently making NFL doormats and contenders alike look like paper tigers and unstoppable juggernauts without much effort. They are a model of futility and complete discomposure.
Only these Bears could effectively lose to the NFL's second worst team in the 49ers at home with their all-time leading scorer in Robbie Gould scoring all of San Francisco's points. Only they could be out-possessed, out-gained, and thoroughly out-classed by a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo making his first start for the franchise as well as team that theoretically should be much farther back in it's own rebuild.
This is on everyone, including general manager Ryan Pace, but considering he won't speak until January, the focus is on the coach and staff for now.
Only they, meaning Fox and company, could be indignantly publicly defiant that everything is fine at Halas Hall. That with a merciless four games left, hope still springs eternal. They're doing things the right way, apparently, and soon results will change for the better.
"I think the guys’ mindsets are good, and they are working at it. It is just that we haven’t been able to finish on those close games," said Fox, elaborating on what he told the Bears in the post-game. "We’ve had our share of them, and today was another example. We’re going back to work with our heads down, and we will continue to work."
"We're going back to work" sounds eerily similar to "we had a good week of practice" made infamous by the much-maligned Marc Trestman. That's because both phrases inspire no confidence. And because, given the results on the field, they're words reflecting empty action. Both, in the end, offer an ideal of a team not pulling itself out of a permanent funk any time soon.
How else do you explain the Bears actually gaining less yards (147) against the NFL's 28th ranked defense in the 49ers, than against the NFL's best unit in Philadelphia (149)?
Or, Chicago allowing a better defensive third and fourth down conversion rate against the bottom-feeding San Francisco (55 percent) in comparison to the Eagles (50 percent)?
The only reason the 49ers won by one point was because they couldn't score in the red zone. Aside from that, they looked as if they were playing on a higher plane of football than a team with more rostered talent.
What's abundantly clear is that it doesn't matter who steps onto the field against the Bears the rest of this miserable abomination of a season. They aren't prepared to compete. They aren't cohesive. This team is maxed out. They have mailed it in, giving up all necessary aspirations for a meaningless final four-game stretch.
The days of the almost-win in the early year are over. Now it's about how much Chicago will sit back and let opponents take wide open body shots. About how many more haymakers the Bears will stomach before completely collapsing on the canvas.
The answer? Way too many to count.
With the shameful defeat to San Francisco, Fox now has the worst losing percentage in Bears history for a head coach. He still needs two wins to avoid being safely enshrined with that mark for awhile. It's clear as ever he will survive until Black Monday to at least have a shot for some small redemption. Somewhere, Abe Gibron is readying a bottle of champagne.
For the second straight year, the Bears sit at 3-9 after 12 games. In 2016, they lost out and effectively surrendered in two season-ending blowouts to the Redskins and Vikings. It seemed impossible a month ago, but this team could finish with another 3-13 record, another franchise worst season in back-to-back years.
The Bears have the Bengals, Lions, Browns, and Vikings left on their schedule. Aside from the game against Cleveland in front of what will no doubt be more than a half-empty stadium at home on Christmas Eve, the other three contests are on the road. Seeing how Chicago has already waved the white flag, is there any tangible reason to think the Bears win even one remaining game to avoid these less than stellar marks? Or stay "competitive"?
If you believe that then there's definitely a wonderful time share opportunity somewhere.
So, for now, it's fitting that Gould gets his revenge against a franchise that cut him on a whim without any replacement plan. A franchise of a hollow tradition that operates on no concrete plan whatsoever. The veteran kicker and Bears' all-time leading scorer waxed poetically all week about how revenge means little to him.
But that's what you say when you have no legs to stand on. When the revenge isn't being freshly served on a platter.
When Gould delivered the final fateful dagger on a fifth last second field goal against Chicago on Sunday, you knew this meant everything to him. The emotion on his face while staring down and screaming at the Bears' sideline in his fateful return to Soldier Field. The desire to have the Bears deeply regret their decision, if even for only a week, of ever considering they no longer needed his services. He espoused as much after the game, shifting from the humility shown previously and deservedly so.
"To come in here get a win like that and kick a game winner, I don’t think I could have written it any better to be honest with you," said Gould. "That one was pretty special for me."
All the Bears could do was look on helplessly, plunging ever deeper into a bottomless pit of irrelevant darkness.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can find him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.