CHICAGO -- Maybe the Chicago Bears' rebuilding process won't be so long and arduous after all.
If Week 1 served as measuring stick to gauge how far the Bears have come under John Fox, it's a good bet they will be competitive this season -- at least more competitive than most assumed. The mere fact that Sunday's 31-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers was close in the fourth quarter is a story in itself.
"I thought we did a lot of good things," Bears right tackle Kyle Long said. "But as we all can echo, we didn't play well enough in this football game in its entirety. There was a lot of stuff left on the table. Individually and collectively, I think we played our butts off."
Green Bay has dominated the series since 2008 and embarrassed the Bears 55-14 last year at Lambeau Field. But Chicago actually led by three points at halftime Sunday and had a chance to tie the score in the fourth quarter before turning it over on downs in the red zone.
"The mentality, which I was proud of, is nobody had that stupid look on their face like before when something would happen and everyone would kind of say the game was lost already, when there’s time left," Bears tailback Matt Forte said. "So I was glad we didn’t have that and kept fighting.”
Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod added: "I've been in this locker room, and we've had losses, and I just don't want to talk to anyone. But we fought and competed, and that's all we can ask for."
That is progress. And you didn't have to look hard to find other reasons to be encouraged.
On defense, the Bears hung in there; this despite a litany of new faces playing new positions in a new defense.
This is a hardly a championship-caliber group, but there is optimism the defense can keep improving.
Meanwhie, the Bears' uptempo yet semi-conservative approach on offense kept Aaron Rodgers off the field for a significant portion of the afternoon.
Instead of asking Jay Cutler to beat Green Bay primarily with his arm, offensive coordinator Adam Gase devised a plan to feature Matt Forte, a proven veteran who is more than capable of carrying the load.
When Cutler did drop back to pass, he looked in reasonable control of the offense and even scrambled several times for sizable gains -- Cutler's athleticism outside the pocket is his most underrated trait.
Unfortunately for the Bears, Cutler still cannot put together a complete game against his NFC North rival. His costly interception to Clay Matthews late in the game essentially sealed the win for the Packers. Cutler has now thrown a pick in every start against Green Bay since he joined the Bears in 2009.
"It is frustrating," Cutler said.
The gap at quarterback is a major reason the Packers control the series. But if Cutler can be efficient against less-talented opponents, the Bears should keep everyone's attention in the 2015 season.
And that's a good start.