You can’t sit on a three-legged stool missing two of its limbs. And you can’t win in the NFL when your defense looks NFL worthy and your offense and special teams look borderline worthless.
It’s why the Bears are sitting on their butts after a 26-0 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday. They are 0-3 because of a ruinous imbalance. Backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen can’t make the throws necessary to move an offense, and a special-teams unit that gave up a 108-yard kickoff return a week ago allowed a 105-yard return Sunday.
Give the Bears’ defense lots of credit for standing up to the defending NFC champions on the road. Seattle took a measly 6-0 lead into its locker room because the defensive line got pressure on Russell Wilson and because much-maligned cornerback Alan Ball make two big plays with the Seahawks sitting at the Chicago three-yard line.
That’s it. I’m all out of good news.
What happened next was almost inevitable. Seattle’s Tyler Lockett ran back a kickoff from his own end zone. Seattle’s offense woke up. Clausen still couldn’t generate yards or points.
Delay of games penalties. Incomplete passes. More Pat O’Donnell punts than any human should have to watch.
Come back, Jay! All is forgiven!
OK, I lied about that last part. Jay Cutler’s interceptions and fumbles are neither forgiven nor forgotten, but at least they were interesting. With the starter standing on the sideline because of a strained hamstring, the Bears were something almost worse than bad. They were boring. The coaching staff didn’t want Clausen anywhere near a forward pass on Sunday, and of course that was the prudent decision. Jimmy unchained is not something the imagination is equipped to process.
If the Bears needed 10 yards for a first down, he threw a five-yard pass. If the Bears needed three yards for a first down, he handed the ball off to Matt Forte. At one point in the first quarter, CBS announcer Jim Nantz said, “Jimmy Clausen is being extremely patient.’’ So is a fence post.
I have no idea if backup David Fales can play quarterback in the NFL. I’d like to find out next Sunday when the Raiders come to Soldier Field, assuming Cutler is still hurt.
Making matters worse in Seattle was the absence of the Bears’ best receiver, Alshon Jeffery, out with a hamstring injury. So they ran and ran, and then they ran some more. It’s what football used to look like. Some people enjoy that sort of thing. Some people also enjoy visiting recreated 18th Century villages. But most of us don’t want to live there or in three yards and a cloud of dust.
“Our focus was on running the ball against these guys,’’ said Clausen, who completed nine of 17 passes for 63 yards.
That’s fine, until you’re down by a couple touchdowns, you need points and, oh, yeah, you have to pass the football.
Clausen is 1-11 as a starter for a reason. He’s limited. The new Bears front office and coaching staff knew it and brought him back this season anyway. If you’re of the mind that the franchise was gunning for a high 2016 draft position all along, Clausen’s presence on the roster won’t ease your suspicions.
The team refuses to use the word “rebuilding.’’ NFL teams are supposed to be able to turn things around in an offseason. But this looks like more than a one-year process. It looks like a rebuild.
“We’ll get better,’’ coach John Fox said. “I think we’ll get some guys back hopefully at some point, be a little bit more whole. There’s enough guys in there that we can generate enough good football to win games.’’
It sure doesn’t look that way. Three games into the season, the Bears look woefully behind, talent-wise, even with a healthy Cutler and a healthy Jeffery. Talent talks in the NFL. Clausen studies hard and wants to be good. But that won’t make him into a good enough quarterback.
So the Bears were competitive for a half Sunday, and then they weren’t.
The idea of it was a lot more exciting than the game itself: Overmatched football team without its starting quarterback walks into the most hostile stadiums in the NFL and goes toe to toe with one of the best teams of the past three seasons.
Then reality set in. And it was everything you expected, and less.