Rozner: Where, when will the Bears find playmakers?

  • Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) is brought down by Detroit Lions defenders in the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016.

    Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) is brought down by Detroit Lions defenders in the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/11/2016 8:25 PM

It's all very sweet, really.

The Bears continue to play hard despite their record and knowing they've been out of the playoff race for three months.

 

That's been the narrative since the Bears defeated the hapless Niners last week, and it will continue to be the story after the Bears lost Sunday in Detroit.

The reality is the Bears have lost so many veterans to injury or suspension that young players -- some of them off the street or late-round picks -- are getting a chance to play, and of course they're going to play hard as the coaches evaluate them for 2017.

That's assuming the coaches are back, aren't fighting with one another or want to return.

When GM Ryan Pace emerges from witness protection, we'll probably get a better idea.

"These guys have fought their tails off all season," said head coach John Fox. "We haven't had the most good fortune when it comes to injuries. It's not excuses, but it's given young guys opportunities.

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"Eventually, this is gonna help us and this experience will help those individual players."

In the meantime, yes, the Bears (3-10) competed with the Lions (9-4) on the road Sunday, but the question from the end of 2015 remains the same at the end of 2016.

Who are the Bears' playmakers, true difference-makers, and how many more do they need before they can actually compete for a postseason berth again?

Who can step up and make a huge play on offense when the Bears have the ball on the final drive of the game?

Who on defense can take the ball away to change a game, and which player can get his hands on the football in the final minutes of the fourth quarter when the opposing quarterback is driving for the winning touchdown?

Alshon Jeffery is a fine player, but is he a big-play guy who can separate from defensive backs? You can't go over the top with him and he might not be back next season anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cameron Meredith has been as good as any Bears receiver since the start of training camp, and now that he's getting a chance he's showing signs of being a player, so maybe he develops into one of those playmakers.

Maybe.

Of course, the Bears don't even know who the quarterback will be in 2017 and that's a relatively important position.

This doesn't, however, take into account the offensive line, which is essential to winning and a huge question mark, committing horrific penalties down the stretch Sunday.

In the secondary, is there a single, consistent playmaker? There might not even be a legitimate NFL starter on what you would hope would someday be a playoff team.

If you think of it along the lines of a team trying to reach the Super Bowl, which player in the secondary is the guy who gets the ball for you when you really need it?

Leonard Floyd has come on strong and might just be one of those guys who can make a huge play for you when you need it most, but it's pretty early to make a call like that.

At least Floyd is on the right track, but there's not many on either side of the ball who would get you excited about the future.

As for when the future arrives, the Bears are nearly done with two years of Pace and Fox -- now 9-20 -- guaranteed to finish worse than Marc Trestman's 13-19 that was apparently so humiliating for Bears ownership that the head coach was essentially done midway through his second season.

But the Bears are playing hard, which is what we'll hear for the next few weeks as the 2016 season comes to a merciful conclusion.

Guess that -- and dreams of a high draft pick -- will have to do for now.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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