Perhaps Bears fans got just a bit spoiled by the team’s 3-0 start, or maybe the Kool-Aid just tasted so good that you’re in mourning now that it’s turned to vinegar?
Whatever the reason, it seems to me there’s been a tremendous overreaction around town to the Bears’ 40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions.
Relax guys, this Bears glass is absolutely still half full. Do you have any idea how hard it is to win four straight in the NFL?
I know I had them at 3-1 at this point, although I did see them losing to Cincinnati and beating Detroit. If you look at the full body of work, the offense is definitely ahead of where I thought it would be and, other than Sunday in Detroit, the defense actually has been, too.
In all reality, the Bears’ first real test is this Sunday at Soldier Field, where the 4-0 Saints easily will be the best team the Bears have faced to date. And for the first time this season, we will get to see just how they will handle a little adversity. How do they bounce back from getting their butts kicked?
Let’s start with the simple fact this Bears defense never is going to be as good as it was the past few years. There are just too many deficiencies on the defensive line, and questions continue to mount about pass coverage in the nickel.
But if they continue to generate takeaways at the rate they have, and generate points off those turnovers, they will be competitive and even win a few more games they shouldn’t.
What can’t happen is they can’t let teams run on them the way the Lions did.
“Probably the most disappointing part of watching the film is a lot of their big runs came against eight-man fronts,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “We weren’t even in Cover 2. Just missed tackles and not being in our gaps, it’s that simple.”
I asked Briggs if guys were getting pushed out of their gaps, if they didn’t know where they were supposed to be or if they were losing focus, and his answer was that it definitely can be fixed.
“You’ve just got to be disciplined. We have to be disciplined and we have to be fundamentally sound. It’s just going back to the drawing board in OTAs and in training camp, guys have to get in their gaps and do their job.”
Let’s assume Briggs is right. There still are the problems on offense and Jay Cutler’s meltdown to fix. Roberto Garza insists it’s not all on Cutler.
“It starts with all five guys up front,” Garza said. “We’ve got to stop the penetration and allow Jay to not have to scramble as much as he had to. He’s got to be able to step up in the pocket and finish his throwing motion. It falls squarely on our shoulders to protect him and get the running game established. It all comes down to technique and using our hands, and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.”
Garza and Briggs spoke after the loss because they are captains and it’s what captains do. Their explanations were reasonable and they are correct.
If the Bears are talented enough, they can fix what was wrong in Detroit, because they were physical mistakes and it is possible it was just a bad day. I have my doubts they are talented enough on the defensive line, or that they have all the weapons they need on offense to be champions.
And, of course, we once again have no idea which Jay Cutler will show up on a given Sunday.
But with a 3-1 start and first place in the division, they certainly have earned the benefit of the doubt that Detroit was a pot hole and not a crater.
How they respond against a Saints team that does look championship ready will tell us a lot more than the loss to the Lions did.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.