Ellis: 'Tank wins' are a necessary evil for Bears, but loss to Packers just felt evil


CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Losing to the Packers was part of the Bears' plan. Helplessly watching Aaron Rodgers march down the field and snatch away a win, like he has done countless times over the last two decades, was the most necessary – and evil – of all necessary evils for fans at Soldier Field on Sunday.

At 3-10 entering their (admittedly very late) bye week, the Bears have the second-worst record in the NFL. It’s music to the ears of those who have their sights set on the long-term development of quarterback Justin Fields and the rest of this young core – to many, the backbreaking loss to the Packers was just the latest example of this Bears team maximizing their ceiling, showcasing a noticeable amount of progress and still working the standings to their benefit. To many, Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ ownership doesn’t sting quite as much when he’s gifting the Bears a shot at Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter – or, like, four first-round picks – in the process. In a system that so heavily incentivizes bad teams to get worse, optimism about a "tank win" like the Bears had on Sunday makes all the sense in the world. To those in the Bears’ locker room though, it just sounds like nonsense.

“When you get on a six-game skid, you really set yourself back,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “It’s tough. I think we’ve had some common themes to why we’ve gone on this six-game skid … it definitely changes the dynamic of the season.”

There’s no doubt about it: The Bears have gotten really good at losing the right way this season. Sunday wasn’t much different – by all accounts, including his own, Fields had one of the best performances of his professional career. His 254 passing yards were a season-high, and the two late interceptions muddy what was, to that point, another transcendent showing from him. Those heavy-handed "learning how to win" arguments aren’t going anywhere for the next couple weeks, but there's undeniable progress being made. Still, Fields’ efforts aren’t yet translating to wins. Trying to forecast when that happens feels like a bit of a fool’s errand, but for the optimists among you, it sure sounds like the Bears think they’re close. They certainly looked like it for three-and-a-half quarters.

“(Winning) will be fun,” Fields said. “We haven’t had that feeling in a minute. Just winning a game would be awesome. Just seeing the guys’ faces, just the feeling of winning, there’s nothing like it … The wins are going to start coming. I thought, as an offense, we got better today. I just can’t wait until they start coming – they’re going to start rolling in here soon.”

To their credit, this Bears team seems to wear patience well. Players who frequently talk after games – like Fields, Kmet and injured safety Eddie Jackson – have all openly acknowledged the realities of this rebuilding campaign. Having to deal with another month of being one of the worst teams in the NFL isn't necessarily a huge deal for those who may be in line for contract extensions this offseason, but as Kmet pointed out, so many players on this roster won’t be around when a late-season game against the Packers matters again.

“You call this a rebuild, but some guys aren’t here for that,” Kmet said. “You got guys who are in their 10th, 11th year. They’re not here for a rebuild. They want to win. It’s tough.”

The last time the Bears got a weekend off, it did them wonders. Having lost three in a row after that hideous 12-7 setback to the Commanders on Oct. 13, the Bears regrouped, realized that Fields was actually kind of fast and turned in their most impressive performance of the season in a nationally televised game in Foxboro. Now with a week off and a losing streak twice as long, they’ll need to reconjure some of that magic for their last – and most difficult – month of the season. The Bears almost definitely have a few tank wins left in them (looking at you, Bills game), but for the sake of those who aren’t going to lead the team into Arlington Heights, not to mention everyone’s collective sanity, one or two actual wins wouldn’t hurt either.

“I’m frustrated because, at the moment, we have three wins,” Kmet said. “I don’t look at it like a rebuild or whatever. I want to win, and I want to win now. Obviously, (the fans) have their expectations, but at the end of the day, we have our expectations here in the locker room. So that’s what we hold ourselves to. Everyone here is disappointed with where we’re at. We think we could have been way better up to this point in the year … We’ve got these last four to show what we can do.”

Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.

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