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Dan Wiederer: As the Chicago Bears’ latest skid drags on, players must find motivation within to maintain their focus

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Chicago Bears quarterback Trevor Siemian walks off as New York Jets linebacker C.J.

Chicago Bears quarterback Trevor Siemian walks off as New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) celebrates his interception late in the fourth quarter on Nov. 27, 2022 ,at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won, 31-10. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Last week, a day after the Chicago Bears lost their fourth consecutive game and fell to the bottom of the NFC, defensive lineman Justin Jones was asked how he and his teammates were handling the flood of losses, how players were digging deep to find the investment needed to persevere through this wayward season.

As a team captain, Jones knows his approach matters and his words must resonate. He spoke from the heart.

“Winning is an extrinsic motivation,” he said, “You have to have something in you to play this game, to go through the ups and downs and still be able to work hard and still be able to come to work with a smile on your face. There has to be some kind of intrinsic motivation to why you play this game.”

A different version of that question came knocking again Sunday after the Bears suffered their worst loss of the year, a 31-10 drubbing by the New York Jets that also included a wave of injuries to key players.

The Bears finished November without a victory and fell to 3-9. Starting quarterback Justin Fields missed the game with a shoulder injury. Among the most notable injuries to occur, wide receiver Darnell Mooney suffered a season-ending ankle injury and safety Eddie Jackson went down with a foot issue that is likely to keep him out a while.

Quite frankly, inside the Bears locker room, Sunday felt like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The mood reflected that. Yet with the NFL’s extended regular season, the Bears still had 42 days and five games remaining, needing once again to reset and dig deep.

Jones was asked where the Bears will find the requisite push and concentration level to avoid surrendering to frustration and fatigue.

“One of your morals as a man is you have to finish what you started,” he said. “Whether things are going your way or they’re not, you have to finish what you started. For every man in this room, that’s the challenge going forward. Finish what you started. Put the best tape you can on film, make as many plays as you can and have fun doing it.”

‘Have some pride’

The Bears haven’t won since Oct. 24. That was the night they registered a signature victory on “Monday Night Football,” hammering the New England Patriots 33-14 and experiencing an offensive breakthrough that created a wave of promise — for the future.

Behind Fields’ highlight-reel playmaking, the Bears surfed that exhilarating wave through defeats in Weeks 8, 9 and 10 that felt far less disconcerting than most Bears losses do. Including the win over the Patriots, the Bears averaged 31 points and 384.3 yards over four games, and a normally impatient fan base ignored the string of losses for the most part, instead choosing to embrace the hope Fields generated.

At Halas Hall, though, the weight of the losing streak grows heavier. The mental toll remains real. Tight end Cole Kmet acknowledged the drain Monday.

Kmet is in his third season with the Bears, each including a skid of at least four games. As a rookie, Kmet won five of his first six games. Since then, the Bears have lost 28 of 40, including one playoff game.

“Losing is tough, man,” Kmet said. “Losing sucks, any way you put it.”

He was asked how the Bears can remain wired to push through the grind until the season finishes. It’s worth mentioning again, that finish line is a long way off.

“You stick to your routines and figure things out along the way,” Kmet said. “Obviously losing guys (to injuries) doesn’t help. But as individuals you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do throughout the week. Stick to your routine.

“At this point, you (work to) put good stuff on tape. That’s just what it’s about. Have some pride in yourself and put some good stuff on tape. If you do that, if each individual does that, I think the outcomes will start to change.”

Duty calls

For weeks, Bears coach Matt Eberflus has been touting the character within the locker room as a steadying force, a flotation device that may be needed in December as much as ever.

The Bears — beat up and beaten down — are walking into a stretch of three demanding home games. First the Green Bay Packers come to town Sunday. After a Week 14 open date, the Bears will host the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 18 and the Buffalo Bills on Christmas Eve.

Sure, a large portion of the fan base may be fist-pumping after every loss, celebrating the Bears’ climb up the draft board and the potential talent windfall that could bring next spring. But embracing failure and squandering opportunities to grow and develop can be a dangerous proposition.

Veteran safety DeAndre Houston-Carson has learned how to compartmentalize each week and reboot accordingly.

“If you ask me how many games we’ve lost in a row, I really couldn’t tell you,” he said. “Every guy might be different. But to me, I have a job to do. Wins and losses? Those kind of come and go. But I have a job to do and I’m trying to make the most of any opportunity I get.”

Houston-Carson was once a Day 3 draft pick hoping to find a path to make the team. Now in his seventh season, he’s a respected team leader who sets a tone and an example with his work habits.

During his time in the league, the Bears have been through more than a few seasons in which December became a test of focus and resolve. When the juice of the season diminishes, it’s the ambition and passion within players that often provides the fuel.

“I don’t care how many games we’ve lost,” Houston-Carson said. “I’ve got to turn the tape on and I have to feel good — like I put a good product out there. (It’s) pride. And then another thing is just loving the game. You can’t lose that aspect of it, especially when you’re losing.

“It’s our job. But you also have to have fun. If you don’t, then you’re going to drive yourself crazy.”

With more than a month left in the season and five games to play, such internal pep talks will be needed. The Bears face a steep climb and will need all the passion and unity they can summon.

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