Subplots highlight battle of bad as Bears meet Browns

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Bears vs Panthers 1012 c

Despite a combined 24 losses from both the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns, Sunday’s Christmas Eve matchup at Soldier Field between the two struggling franchises offers several interesting storylines.

For starters, a defeat at the hands of the hapless Browns might sweep out more than head coach John Fox and his Bears coaching staff. Pressure could mount for more substantial change at Halas Hall after a fourth consecutive double-digit loss season. It’s the ultimate no-win scenario, since the Bears are expected to take advantage of Cleveland’s propensity to make the game-changing mistake.

Scrutiny has been placed on General Manager Ryan Pace’s shoulders after another season full of injuries to key players, lack of depth at several positions, namely wide receiver, and zero Pro Bowlers, as the Bears were shut out again in the annual all-star game selections. Pace’s drafts have been inconsistent and his free agent signings largely unimpressive. While many observers expect him to remain in charge, an embarrassing loss to Cleveland could change the thinking.

Meanwhile, rookie QB Mitch Trubisky is fresh from his first 300-yard passing game in last week’s defeat at Detroit, but several of those yards came late in the game when the Lions lead big and were willing to concede yardage.  Trubisky also tossed three interceptions, mostly the result of poor decision making. A Ohio native raised just outside Cleveland, Trubisky needs to display continual progress to offer both Bears brass and fans that he is the real deal moving forward.  He’ll be chased Sunday by Myles Garrett, the Browns DE who was chosen number one in last April’s NFL Draft, one spot before Trubisky was taken by the Bears.

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Defensively, it’s expected that Chicago Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio will depart for other opportunities after the season. Fangio has managed to keep the Bears attack unit afloat and improve statistically despite missing several starters this season. Unless he’s tabbed as Fox’s successor, which seems highly unlikely, Fangio won’t be sticking around the Windy City.

Across the field, Cleveland’s Hue Jackson remains in limbo even though new Browns General Manager John Dorsey has publically been complimentary toward Jackson. Even so, should the Browns remain winless it could be a tough sell to keep Jackson at the helm. The Browns are flush with two top five picks and over $100 million in salary cap space, so possible head coaching candidates could be intrigued by the situation, thereby complicated a Bears head coaching search.

The other angle to watch during Sunday’s contest is the attendance and no-shows at Soldier Field. The only stronger emotion for Bears fans to display than anger is apathy. Christmas festivities and possible inclement weather appear likely to impact the gate already, but throw in two lousy teams and the turnout is anyone’s guess.

Bears Bits:

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LB Jonathan Anderson returned to the Bears active roster after fellow LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve.  McPhee is a prime candidate to be released in the offseason. His guaranteed money from signing three years ago is paid and his production/availability doesn’t measure up. Nagging injuries have robbed McPhee of his initial explosion and turned him into a rotational player at best…Guard Kyle Long’s neck surgery surprised many, but his recuperation from that procedure and expected operations on his shoulder and hand could extend his absence well into next summer’s training camp, if not longer.

 

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