LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)The Chicago Bears are stuck on offense, getting pushed around on defense and in danger of fading in the NFC North race. The Los Angeles Chargers are reeling, too.
Both come into the game at Soldier Field on Sunday trying to put the brakes on skids that have left them fading after going 12-4 last season. And in Chicago, angst has replaced optimism.
”We want the same thing that everybody (in Chicago wants),” coach Matt Nagy said. ”We know we’re not there, so how do we get to that?”
Back-to-back losses to Oakland in London and NFC South-leading New Orleans have put the Bears (3-3) in a difficult spot. They trail Green Bay by 2+ games and Minnesota by 1+. And if they’re going to stay in the division race, they can’t afford to lose any more ground.
This isn’t what the Bears envisioned coming off a worst-to-first transformation. They had the same record through six games after back-to-back losses last season and went on a 9-1 tear that catapulted them into the playoffs for the first time since 2010. But there’s a different feeling in Chicago.
”We have a city that is completely ready to go the whole way and has really great expectations,” Nagy said. ”And they want the same thing that we want. Once you understand that, then you can get to the next part.”
The Bears need more from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and an offense that ranks near the bottom of the NFL. Better play from a defense that dominated in the first few weeks wouldn’t hurt, either.
The Chargers (2-5), meanwhile, are trying to regroup after losing three in a row by seven points or fewer to teams with losing records. They’re tied with Denver for last place in the AFC West – three games behind Kansas City.
”It’s been a tough three weeks. I think there’s no denying that,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said.
Los Angeles coach Anthony Lynn needed some time to get over last week’s 23-20 nail-biter at Tennessee.
The Chargers thought they scored the go-ahead touchdown twice in the final 44 seconds, only to lose both on replay reviews. They had three shots from the goal line, with Melvin Gordon having a touchdown overturned by a review and then losing a fumble after initially being ruled down.
”I’ve never had a loss like that,” Lynn said. ”It took me a day to get out of the funk on that one.”
Trubisky threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns last week after missing a game with a left shoulder injury. But most of that came after the Saints put the game away. The No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, he is averaging just 167.8 yards per game and ranks near the bottom of the league at 5.2 yards per attempt – not what he and the Bears envisioned in his second season in Nagy’s system.
The Chargers and Bears have another thing in common. They’re not getting much from the run game.
Los Angeles ranks 27th and Chicago 28th in rushing, and only two teams have fewer attempts than the Bears, who set a franchise low last week with seven.
The Chargers averaged 103.5 yards rushing in their first four games, but that is a distant memory. They have been held to 40 yards or fewer three straight weeks – a first in franchise history. And they’re the first team to do that since the 2005 Philadelphia Eagles.
Gordon is averaging just 2.3 yards per carry in three games since his return from a two-month holdout and still looks as if he is in training camp mode.
”I’m not content about being 9-7 or 8-8. I think that’s what those teams do, just throw it all around the field,” Lynn said. ”You have to be a balanced offense. When you’re balanced, you can control the tempo of the game and you can do so many other things, offensively. We have to start running the football more efficiently.”
The Bears defense has gone from dominating to dominated the past few games.
Chicago gave up a season-high 424 yards, including 151 on the ground, against New Orleans. Against Oakland two weeks earlier, the Bears allowed 169 yards rushing.
Losing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Akiem Hicks to an elbow injury against the Raiders didn’t help. He’s on injured reserve and might return late this season. But the issues go beyond his absence.
GET OFF THE FIELD
Los Angeles is ranked fifth in the league against the pass, but that’s deceiving.
The Chargers have allowed teams to complete 74.6 percent of their passes, an NFL-record pace. The numbers are even more foreboding on third downs with quarterbacks completing 21 of 24 over the past three games.
The Bears offense ranks 26th in third-down conversion rate.
AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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