Monday Morning Quarterback: Bears-Bengals (10.25.09)

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I spent about a half hour this morning trying to think of a good lede for this column, but nothing came to mind. The Bears’ 45-10 loss to the Bengals was a demoralizing loss, simply put. The problem with such a loss is that not only does it damage the outlook for the current season, but it changes that of the future.

Once again, for the second straight week, all three phases of the Bears failed. Jay Cutler has been given a pass because he’s one of only two great players the Bears have — Lance Briggs being the other — but even his play is moving beyond reckless. I guess you can say his three interceptions came after the Bengals game was already out of reach, but you can’t ignore his 10 interceptions, second-most in the league this season. What’s also curious is that he had trouble handling a couple shotgun snaps. Do you blame Olin Kreutz for the low snaps? Or Cutler for not concentrating? Both, probably.

The Bears’ offensive line continues to perform as one of the worst in the NFL. Perhaps the only line worse is the Packers’, who have gotten Aaron Rodgers sacked a league-high 25 times. The only reason Cutler has been sacked just 11 times is because he’s mobile in the pocket and will get rid of the ball quicker. But I’m sure Cutler has faced as much, if not more pressure than Rodgers has.

As a result of a poor offensive line, Matt Forte continues to have a terrible season. What makes that more disheartening is that the running back the Bears gave up on, Cedric Benson, racked up 189 yards on the ground. And he had a good time while doing it, flashing a smile and dancing the whole day. Ironically, he had to be restrained by Chad Ochocinco — of all people — from celebrating on the sideline.

Not only is Greg Olsen not transforming into that Pro Bowl tight end that many — myself included — thought he’d be, but he’s been a serious liability in the run game. He spent more time on the sideline against the Bengals, yielding playing time to Desmond Clark, who is a bit better blocker but also has his deficiencies.

For as bad as the offense played, the defense was far worse. It’s bad enough that the players — specifically those in the secondary — just aren’t good enough, but they looked lost and confused like they didn’t know what they were doing out there. That’s a direct indictment of the coaching staff, and Lovie accepted the blame after the game for not having his players prepared.

The Bears went a second straight game without recording a sack, or even generating much of a pass rush. It’s no coincidence that they didn’t win or defend well in either of those two games. You have to put pressure on the quarterback to win, especially when the two quarterbacks you face are Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer.

It was good to see Hunter Hillenmeyer back in action, because God knows how bad the defense would have been with Jamar Williams in the lineup instead. But for as intelligent as Hillenmeyer is, he’s just not a very good football player.

I’m not going to discuss the secondary any more than I need to. Safety and cornerback are two of the worst position groups on this team. Not even Charles Tillman, who has been a reliable player throughout his career in Chicago, could stop the Bengals in this game. Zack Bowman looked bad; he got burned for the opening touchdown. Kevin Payne was bad. Rookie Al Afalava isn’t good enough yet. The Bears even tried Nathan Vasher at safety. Bad.

And how about the special teams, specifically the punt return unit? They only got on the field once against the Bengals, and yet for the second straight week, they got penalized and gave the opponent an automatic first down.

I know there are a lot of staunch defenders of Lovie Smith and I also know there are much more pointing the finger at him for this team’s demise. I used to be the former but have slowly trended toward the latter. It was bad enough last week that the Bears came out after their bye week and were unprepared for the Falcons. To get blown out 45-10 by an opponent that is better but not by that much is inexcusable. It’s not as if the Bears are that decimated by injuries that they have inexperienced players forced into action. The Bears have most of their defensive starters on the field and they don’t know what they’re doing. Why do they not know what they’re doing?

I made a joke about this at the end of my postgame thoughts that if the Bears play like they did against the Bengals against the Browns this week, they’ll lose. This is no joking matter, though. The Browns may be a bad football team, but they can beat the Bears if they’re not prepared.

It’s going to be a long wait for the opportunity to get this bad taste out of my mouth. The week after a loss seems so much longer than that after a win. Let’s just hope Lovie has his guys better prepared against the Browns.

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