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For Bears, a defense is a terrible thing to waste

The expiration date on the great defense is drawing nearer while the unit is being held back by an offense that might be the worst in the league.

Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown is stopped by the Bears’ defense Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.
Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown is stopped by the Bears’ defense Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Back in the day, there was a public-service slogan: ‘‘A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.’’

Apologies to ad agency Young & Rubicam, but here’s how we change it for the Bears: ‘‘A Defense Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.’’

Bears fans know what I’m talking about because they see it each week.

The Bears’ defense is a stellar force that game after game gets wasted by an offense that is so bad you shudder when it takes the field.

Why do you shudder? Because you don’t know whether the offense will score points or give up points. A no-harm/no-foul lay-down is often the best hope.

In an ugly 24-17 loss Sunday to the Titans, the offense was minus-7 in the third quarter, thanks to a fumble by David Montgomery that was returned for a touchdown by the Titans and no touchdowns scored by the Bears.

I’ll digress for just a moment here and talk about third quarters. They are, in certain respects, like the start of a second game. Coaches — including all assistants — make adjustments at halftime, trying to stop plays that worked against them in the first half and to create plays that will work for them in the second.

There’s a cat-and-mouse technique to it, with chess moves pulled from the hip pocket and X’s and O’s scribbled fast on dryboards. It’s called coaching.

Good teams explode in the third quarter; the Bears implode.

Consider that in their nine games they have scored seven points total in the third quarter. If the third quarter were the norm, they would be averaging 3.1 points per game.

Actually, subtract that returned Montgomery fumble for a score, and they’re averaging zero points in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the Bears’ defense — built around outstanding players such as Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson and the man who is starting to soar off the page, Roquan Smith — are agape on the sideline, wondering what in the world is happening.

The offense is lacking a good quarterback, good play-calling, a good offensive line and good karma.

The Bears almost NEVER have a decent offense. Go back for decades, and ugliness abounds. You can see it in the endless list of quarterbacks who have tried and failed in Chicago.

At some point, you have to see the offensive badness not as a trend, an aberration or bad luck but as the philosophical underpinning of an entire organization. It’s who they are.

The Bears wouldn’t know what to do if Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Tua Tagovailoa showed up en masse at Halas Hall, empty gruel bowls in front of them, and said: ‘‘Please, sir, may we have an opportunity?’’

It hurts the defense after a while when one half of the team can’t hold up its end of the deal.

‘‘There’s not just one person right now with this offense,’’ coach Matt Nagy said. ‘‘There’s a lot of different things. There’s a multitude of issues that we’re having.’’

Nobody’s disagreeing.

So the expiration date on the great defense — a date all teams have because of injuries, contracts, free agency, etc. — is drawing nearer while being held back by an offense that might be the worst in the league.

To think of the Bears — once 5-1 but now 5-4 — finishing the season around .500 and not making the playoffs is to think of waste, pure and simple.

We saw something similar in 2006, when the Bears’ superb defense drove the team all the way to the Super Bowl, where the weak offense finally collapsed for good in the Miami rain.

I look at this defense and see the aforementioned Smith soaring into absolute stardom. Against the Titans, he blitzed on one play, reversed field when he saw the ball leave quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s hand, raced downfield at full tilt and tackled the receiver 15 yards away.

The announcers made no mention of the play, lost in aimless blather as they were. But I ran it again and again on my TV, just to make sure I actually saw what I saw. And I did. Good Lord.

To waste a talent like that would be a pity. Hell, the Bears even seem to have a high-quality kicker in Cairo Santos. Waste that skill? After the pain of the recent double-doink?

The offense is 29th in yards per game and 32nd — last — in rushing. But it’s worse than that.

It’s No. 1 in breaking our heart.