Losing a home game hurts. Losing to a division rival sucks. But getting pantsed, having your teeth knocked out, and learning that your team isn’t good enough to win anything of significance this year is flat out demoralizing.
What we learned in Sunday’s 38-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers was so gut-wrenching that it’s hard to work up excitement to watch rest of the season. If that sentiment sounds familiar, it’s probably because we were saying and thinking the same thing the Monday after the Bears lost the season opener to the Bills.
Many of you are probably patting yourselves on the back today, claiming you aren’t the least bit surprised by the outcome of Sunday’s game.
“Same ol’ Jay Cutler.”
“Phil Emery hasn’t fixed a thing on defense.”
If you forecast a game in which neither team would punt, kudos to you. But I expected a little bit of defense from both or either team. Instead, we got an 11-on-11 training camp scrimmage, in which the Bears proved they aren’t yet in the Packers’ class.
Many of you are also pointing the finger at Jay Cutler today. You have the right to blame him for his interceptions; but to blame him for the loss is shortsighted. The Bears can — and have — won games with Cutler as their quarterback. He makes more good plays than mistakes, as evidenced by the rest of his performance on Sunday — 256 yards passing, 29 yards rushing, two touchdowns.
What the Bears cannot win with is a bad defense. And the fact that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers did almost anything they wanted to on Sunday is discouraging. So much so that I DVR’d the second half of the game, only watched the Bears while on offense and fast-forwarded when the Packers had the ball. Watching the Bears try to play defense was like watching an army take bubbles and squirt guns into a firefight. I had no desire to watch that.
I generally give coaches the benefit of the doubt. As fans and analysts, we have the benefit of no pressure and hindsight. Coaches have more weighing on their minds and more riding on their decisions. However, there are two situations I have to take Bears head coach Marc Trestman to task on.
The first was Trestman’s decision to onside kick the ball just before halftime. The kick was a good one, designed for what looked like Danny McCray to recover the ball with the rest of the right side of the line blocking (or clearing out) for him. Unfortunately, Cornelius Washington bumped the ball further down the field and it was recovered by the Packers. Yes, if the Bears had recovered the kick, Trestman would have looked like a genius. I, however, didn’t like the call. There were just three minutes left in the half, and it would have made more sense to kick it deep and make Rodgers and the Packers offense have to fight against the clock. Instead, the Bears gave Rodgers a short field to work with and the clock became a non-factor.
The second Trestman decision that bothered me was to run the ball twice just before the half. The Bears understandably were gashing the Packers on the ground — 102 rushing yards in the first quarter — but running the ball works best when you have time on your side, which the Bears did not. They chewed up too much time on those two runs, had to burn timeouts, and were left in a hurry that ultimately resulted with them ending up one yard short of the end zone and no additional points heading into the half.
In the second half, things got out of control. The defense bent over backwards, Cutler was pressing, Brandon Marshall ran the wrong route, and the team finally quit.
Sadly, I go back to the underlying issue that we learned an important and disappointing lesson from Sunday’s game: The Bears are not yet in the Packers’ class and they don’t have enough defense to win a championship — or even a divisional crown — this year. Yes, flukes can happen. Rodgers could suffer another injury. The Packers could lose enough games to other teams while the Bears pile up victories against their opponents. The Bears don’t have to play Rodgers every week this season; just once more.
But if the Bears somehow find a way to sneak into the playoffs, how are they going to muster the defense to stop some of the league’s top offenses? Can you imagine them drawing the Seahawks’ awesome defense in the postseason? How about a high-powered Eagles team that crushed them last year? Or worse yet, they could run into the Packers again and get embarrassed once more in the postseason.
It’s still too early to think about the playoff picture. For now, the Bears have to figure out a way to take down a tough Panthers team on the road next week.