Storytime with Matt Eberflus: Can these Bears have a happy ending like past rebound teams?

By John Dietz

Grasping for every last straw he can find, Matt Eberflus took a stroll down memory lane Monday.

It sounded a bit like a bedtime story intended to give hope to his Bad News Bears before they prepared to slumber through another week.

Here's how that book reads in my cynical mind:

Once upon a time, I was the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. We were a sad bunch in 2018 after losing five of our six first games.Ahh, but then! Then we demolished the Buffalo Bills 37-5! Then we beat the Raiders 42-28, eked out a victory over Jacksonville, obliterated the Titans and went on to a glorious 10-6 season! Our QB, Andrew Luck, was a beast. Four receivers caught at least 53 passes! Nobody could stop T.Y. Hilton (1,270 yards!) or Eric Ebron (13 TDs!).Oh, and our defense. What a group. No huge names, but we worked as a unit and held four of our last 10 foes to 10 points or less.So see? Miracles do happen. All you have to do is work hard and believe!The End.


Eberflus' words weren't that far off Monday while talking about the Bears' 0-3 start: #8220;Our Colts team ... was 1-5, right? Everybody was looking at us like, 'Not a very good team.' You just keep doing right over and over again one play at a time, then you run off nine in a row or whatever that might be.

#8220;This team is different, but ... it's about being a group that's determined, that's focused, that has the stamina to push through adversity. But you've gotta do it together.#8221;

Another worthless word salad. That's all that's there until we see results.

It starts with a victory over Denver at Soldier Field on Sunday. Pull that off and beat Washington four days later, then we can start talking about miraculous turnarounds.


So what are some of the most impressive rebounds over the years? Here are a few of my favorites:

#8226;#8201;Might as well start with the 1977 Bears, who fell to 3-5 after the Houston Oilers handed them an embarrassing 47-0 defeat. A week later, Walter Payton scored 3 touchdowns in a 28-27 victory over the Chiefs, and Sweetness then set the NFL record with 275 rushing yards in a 10-7 victory over the Vikings. Remember, too, that Payton was extremely ill that day. Talk about a teammate who played like a superhero every week.

Four more wins followed, with the Bears qualifying for the playoffs thanks to a remarkable 12-9 OT win over the Giants at the Meadowlands.

#8226;#8201;Coach Jeff Fisher, a former Bears defensive back, guided the 2002 Titans to the playoffs after a 1-4 start. Fisher watched Steve McNair and Eddie George overpower defenses en route to 10 victories in the last 11 games. The Titans eventually fell in the AFC title game to the Raiders.

#8226;#8201;The 2004 Packers started 1-4, then won nine of 11 behind a supercharged offense led by Brett Favre and WRs Javon Walker and Donald Driver.

#8226;#8201;The 1998 Bills started 0-3 with Rob Johnson at quarterback. Johnson was knocked out in Week 6, though, and the diminutive Doug Flutie #8212; who, by the way, ruined the Bears' 1986 season #8212; led Bills to a playoff berth by winning seven of eight down the stretch.

#8226;#8201;The 2013 Panthers lurched to a 1-3 start as QB Cam Newton turned the ball over seven times. Newton settled down after that and used his arm (18 TD passes) and legs (462 rushing yards, 5 TDs) to guide Carolina to an 11-1 finish.


Newton, like Justin Fields, was in his third pro season when things began to click with a 35-10 Week 5 victory over the Vikings. The Panthers would score 30 or more points the next three games and were on their way.

It's definitely possible Fields has a similar lightbulb moment at some point.

We know he can run and we've seen the big arm. The talent's there. It's all about the execution.

Of course, easier said than done when the offensive line is a revolving door, receivers can't get open and the offensive coordinator won't establish a running game.

Even if the offense breaks out, though, there's another teenie, tiny problem known as the defense. That unit hasn't been able to control the Packers' Jordan Love (245 passing yards, 3 TDs), the Bucs' Baker Mayfield (317 yards, TD) or the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes (272 yards, 3 TDs in less than three quarters).

Now they get to face Broncos WRs Courtland Sutton (17 catches, 189 yards), Marvin Mims (7-195) and Jerry Jeudy (8-106)?

Possibly without the injured Eddie Jackson, Jaylon Johnson and Josh Blackwell?

Good luck.


Walter Payton and many of those Bears from the 1970s and '80s would have lost their minds by now. Those teams had leaders that wouldn't stand for this kind of start. They also had a decent amount of talent and at least semi-competent coaches in Jack Pardee (1975-77) and Neill Armstrong (1978-81).

Jarrett Payton echoed my thoughts about his dad on the Score on Monday, and simultaneously he wondered who is taking these players to task behind the scenes.

What we are seeing is a true team failure from top to bottom. I've hammered home many points during the first three weeks, but we need to start placing significant blame on Ryan Poles as many of the GM's decisions are starting to look pretty bad in retrospect.

He should have re-signed RB David Montgomery, never should have traded for WR Chase Claypool and failed to address the gaping hole on the defensive line.

To be sure, it's a hot mess right now at Halas Hall. The Bears are melting down in almost every area.

And that means Bears fans probably won't be living happily ever after when the book closes on this season.

Cubs rookie Crow-Armstrong knows major-leauge experience will pay dividends

Remember when Matt Eberflus was defensive coordinator for the comeback 2018 Indianapolis Colts? He suggests the team showed that happiness is possible. Associated Press, 2018
Here's a real rebound story: After the Bears suffered an embarrassing 47-0 loss, Walter Payton led an impressive comeback in 1977 with a three-touchdown performance in one game and then an NFL record 275 yards of rushing in another. ASSOCIATED PRESS, 1977
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