Just as the Chicago Bears appeared poised to take control of the NFC North, they ran head-on into a pair of teams from the AFC East.
The result? Back-to-back losses that sent the Bears (3-3) careening from first to tied for worst in their division and in desperate need of a victory when they face yet another AFC East team in the visiting New York Jets on Sunday afternoon.
First-year Chicago head coach Matt Nagy is trying to ensure that his team does not overreact to the consecutive defeats, drawing on the memory of last season when he was with Kansas City. The Chiefs also started fast before losing six of seven, but they regrouped to make the playoffs.
"There was never any panic, never, and there is not going to be any panic here either," Nagy told reporters this week.
It's not as if Nagy and the Bears need to make wholesale changes. Their three losses have come by a total of 11 points and they were in position to win each of their last two games against Miami and New England.
The Dolphins kicked a field goal on the final play of overtime to outlast visiting Chicago 31-28, while a Hail Mary pass from Mitchell Trubisky was stopped at the 1-yard line in last week's 38-31 loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
"You've got to keep it real and you've got to understand that we've lost two games, prior to that winning three games," Nagy said. "I reminded everybody on our team what I'm talking about. You've got to just stay even keel."
Chicago has an outstanding chance to reclaim momentum over the next two weeks. The Jets arrive in Chicago a bruised and battered team and that game will be followed by a matchup at the Buffalo Bills, the lowest-scoring team in the NFL.
New York (3-4) was overwhelmed at home by a division rival of the Bears last weekend, falling to the Minnesota Vikings 37-17 as rookie quarterback Sam Darnold had the worst game of his brief pro career.
The No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, Darnold threw for one touchdown and ran for another, but he was intercepted three times, sacked three times and lost a fumble. For the game, he finished 17 of 42 for 205 yards and a season-low 34.4 passer rating.
"My confidence, it's fine. I'm never really shaken at all," said Darnold, who could be without his top two wide receivers and second-leading running back against the Bears.
No. 1 wideout Quincy Enunwa will sit out his second straight game due to an ankle injury while Robby Anderson was unable to practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury. The Jets were forced to sign former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews this week due to the injuries.
"It's moving parts, but that's part of the job as a coach," said Jets head coach Todd Bowles. "There are things you have to do to adjust and move people around and get some parts together and put the team out there that gives you the best chance to win. Everybody loses starters. We're losing quite a bit lately, but we have guys who can play."
New York's backfield also is in flux. Leading rusher Isaiah Crowell was hindered by a foot injury all last week and two-way back Bilal Powell suffered a neck injury that could be both season- and career-ending. Powell was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
"B.P.'s so respected in this locker room," Darnold told reporters of Powell. "He's such a great guy to have on the team. That's first and foremost. Second, as a player, he's amazing, as well. It just (stinks) in general to see that happen to anyone, but especially B.P. It hurts a little bit."
Chicago also had a major injury concern that has hampered its defense. Linebacker Khalil Mack, acquired from Oakland just before the start of the season, registered 5.0 sacks in his first four games but has been limited to three tackles the past two weeks due to a troublesome ankle that kept him out of practice Wednesday.
"It plays its part," Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. "It definitely plays its part, especially when a guy like Mack when he's out. ... I told him today we're going to put you on our back and we're going to continue to move forward."
Chicago wide receiver Allen Robinson II continues to miss practice time due to a groin strain and could sit out his second straight game.