After two weeks as the late afternoon feature and an evening on Americaís stage, the NFL schedule makers as well as network executives at Fox, ESPN, CBS and NBC surely must cringe when they look down the line and see another seven games with the Bears in the national limelight. At this rate Bears fans who whined about afternoon starts getting flexed into evening wonít have to worry later in the season. But donít forget that the flex cuts two ways; thereís a Bears game scheduled for a Sunday night in Seattle that NBC might consider dumping. At least itís not a home game.
Forget about home field advantage. These guys have to worry about getting over .500 before even considering a run at the playoffs.
The offensive line has gotten old before our eyes. They canít protect and thereís no consistent run blocking. The running backs dance instead of hitting the holes when theyíre there, and they put the ball on the ground like itís fertilizer. Somewhere, Thomas Jones is smiling. Wide receivers canít catch balls that hit them in their hands. Thatís nothing more than concentration. After Bernard Berrianís first drop killed the opening drive, Ron Turner called his number again on a handful of throws underneath a Wannstedt-like cornerback cushion, and then had Rex Grossman pump fake another when the Cowboys pressed. Iím not sure who the corner was, but he bit down hard on the fake. The play worked to perfection, except for Berrian dropping a sure touchdown on a pass that would have hit him between the ď8Ē and the ď0.Ē
And then thereís the quarterback. The Bearsí best one Sunday was Robbie Gould, who posted a 39.6 rating for his incomplete pass. With his three interceptions, Wrecks only managed a paltry 27.5. He started out sharp like last week, but again he lost focus when the rest of his offensive teammates couldnít get out of their own way. Thatís not a leader.
This isnít all on Grossman, though. Itís a wholesale breakdown on the offensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, Lovie Smith is mostly stuck with what he has there, but of the changes he can make the two that stick out to me are at offensive coordinator and QB. Iím still not ready to jettison Turner, because I think heís installing the game plans that Smith wants to run. My guess is that Turner would open things up if Smith would let him, assuming the so-called talent could execute. And thatís a big if.† As for QB, I donít know if Griese or Orton can be the answer behind that porous offensive line, but somethingís gotta give.
The fear now is that these Bears are going to waste what might be the best defense assembled in Chicago since the Ď80s. Barry Rozner made a chilling comparison to the early Ď80s teams that had a similarly smothering defense and nothing besides the great Walter Payton on the other side of the ball. Unfortunately, unlike those Bears, there isnít a ďskillĒ position player on this team who could crack another NFL starting lineup. At least not until they figure out how to use Greg Olsen.
Is it possible that theyíve already wasted the defense for this season? Dusty Dvoracek and Mike Brown are already gone. Lance Briggs, Nathan Vasher and Tommie Harris all got hurt yesterday. Thatís four Pro Bowlers and a rising star lost in three weeks. Consider this: the Bears have had 37 offensive possessions this season, and all but two have lasted less than five minutes. Last night only one of their 13 drives managed to crack the three minute mark. Itís no wonder the defense is gassed in the second half. Other than halftime, they never have a chance to catch their breath. Dvoracek, Brown, Vasher and Harris all went out in the third or fourth quarter. Briggs and Vasher left with groin injuries. Think maybe fatigue is playing a role?
So itís on to the treacherous Field Turf in Detroit, where a Lions team that gave up 56 points yesterday awaits. That would normally be cause for optimism, except for the fact that the Bears offense was supposed to light up a porous Cowboys D yesterday.
Nothing is going to be easy. For the Bears, itís all about survival now.