Some of the more obvious reasons coach John Fox isn't expected back for the final year of his contract in 2018 were underscored in the Chicago Bears' 20-10 loss to the Lions Saturday.
The Bears, under Fox, lost to the Lions for the fifth time in six games.
Fox's Bears have also lost five of six to the Packers and, unless they spring an upset in Minnesota in the season finale, they'll be 1-5 against the Vikings.
Three wins in three years against division opponents makes the playoffs an untenable dream. Percentage-wise, the 3-14 record vs. the NFC North is even worse than Fox's overall record of 13-33.
In Fox's defense, the four previous losses to the Lions before Saturday were by 3, 3, 4 and 3 points. But there were also losses of 16 and 21 points to the Packers and by 21 and 28 points to the Vikings.
Penalties have been an off-and-on problem in all three phases, showing a lack of discipline. For an inconsistent offense that often struggles to move the ball, penalties can be fatal, and that was the case on Saturday.
The Bears were able to overcome 10 penalties for 74 yards against the Bengals, but their 13 penalties for 97 yards was too much against the Lions.
"I think some of it was some new guys in because of some guys lost (to injury)," Fox said, although the facts did not back him up. Only 1 of the 13 infractions was called on a replacement player -- Hroniss Grasu, who came in at center after both starting guards were injured and starting center Cody Whitehair had to move to guard.
Three starters were flagged twice -- offensive left tackle Charles Leno (holding, false start), cornerback Prince Amukamara (holding, pass interference) and wide receiver Josh Bellamy (holding, illegal block above the waist).
"That's not an excuse, it's just reality," Fox said. "For whatever reason, we had a lot of holding penalties, which I think was partly due to some of the changes. But all in all, it wasn't good enough."
For a guy who said he wasn't making excuses, it sure sounded like Fox was making excuses.
Were it not for penalties on his teammates, running back Tarik Cohen would be having an even more impressive rookie season. He had a 90-yard kickoff return nullified vs. the Lions by a holding call on DeAndre Houston-Carson.
A week earlier he had a 15-yard touchdown catch negated by an illegal block above the waist penalty on Tom Compton. A week before that, he had a 67-yard punt return wiped out by Ben Braunecker's illegal block above the waist.
The loss to the Lions was also the latest example of the failure of Fox's teams to sustain momentum by stacking victories.
Following its 13 victories, Fox's teams are 3-10 the following week. In those three seasons, the Bears' longest winning "streak" is two.
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