Having spent time with Bears coaches and players, one of the TV announcers for Sunday’s game marveled on air, “This is perhaps one of the most confident 2-6 teams I’ve ever talked to.’’ That is so Bears. It is so like them to be selling something that should be thrown out.
And shame on us for buying it. Again. One nice victory over the Vikings shouldn’t have wiped out what came before, but here in Bearland, it did. All it takes is one thin shaft of sunlight for people to put on their swimsuits and do cannonballs in the pool.
The Bears came off their bye week looking beyond pathetic in a 36-10 loss to the Buccaneers. John Fox must have forgotten to coach up his players while he was telling everyone how good his 2-6 team was. The message that the Bears had sent out heading into Sunday’s game was that they were finally healthy, that many of the players who had been missing would now be ready to kick some Tampa Bay butt.
You mean the players who had inspired all those 6-10, 7-9 and 8-8 predictions for the season? I can’t decide if we purposely ignore what’s staring us in the face when it comes to the Bears or if there’s a poppy field we run 40-yard dashes through. Whatever, the team is 2-7 for a reason: It’s not good and never was going to be good this season.
But that didn’t stop the Bears from trotting out all their default storylines last week, the best being the oldest one, that Jay Cutler is a leader. We heard it from his teammates. We heard it from offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. And we passed it on to you, once again. Doesn’t a player have to be good to be a leader?
Cutler was brutal Sunday. He threw two bad interceptions, the second returned for a touchdown by former Bears safety Chris Conte, who was basically laughed out of Chicago. Cutler also lost a fumble. Another of his fumbles became a safety. Fifty of his 182 passing yards came on a successful Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half that cut the Bucs’ lead to 17-10. Yay.
If the Bears are still wondering whether to bring him back next season, they shouldn’t be after Sunday’s loss. The one condition, the eternal condition, is that these are the Bears. That means Cutler is, as we speak, probably being fitted for new team-approved shoulder pads for 2017.
This was a complete loss, more a totaled car than a football game. If Fox can’t get his team prepared after a big victory and a two-week break, when can he? The Bears looked as semi-retired as their head coach Sunday. The defense came up with some good plays but not enough to beat a very beatable team. When Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was able to avoid the Bears’ rush, he found his receivers in the middle of the field over and over again.
Tampa Bay had not won a home game this season. And then Sunday came. If I had told you before the game that Winston would be on the sideline late in the fourth quarter, you probably would have thought it was because the Bears had either hurt him or embarrassed him. Um, no. He was out because his team was up 36-10.
How do you try to get as high a pick in the 2017 draft as possible without losing integrity? I wouldn’t worry about it. The Bears are going to lose games without tanking, probably enough for a top-five pick. As has been said ad nauseam here, they need to find a quarterback to replace Cutler.
Everything is on the table now, including whether it makes sense to have faith in general manager Ryan Pace to find talent and Fox to coach. One and half seasons in, the answer would seem to be no. With their healthy players back and with the theme out of Halas Hall being that the real Bears would finally appear, the team flopped in Tampa.
Jordan Howard was the one bright spot on offense for the Bears, but after he lost a fumble in the second quarter, Fox went away from the running game. So even if you were looking to watch young players develop, well, never mind.
The really bad news for the Bears is that the Cubs’ season is over. There are no World Series games to distract the city, no parade or rally to divert attention to whatever it is the Bears are trying to doing. In the middle of autumn, a nasty winter has arrived.