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SportsMonday: Bearly There

Who decided that under no circumstances should starters play in the final NFL exhibition games? And who made that guy king?

This is another instance of dim-witted groupthink among American sports media. It has become an ironclad assumption: Football teams must not allow their starters to play in the fourth exhibition game.

If ever a team needed to think for itself, it is the 2016 Bears. Who could possibly surmise that this team's offense is so ready for the regular season that it shouldn't have its starters play at least several series' at Cleveland on Thursday night? That would be their best opportunity to practice against a foe that is trying to do damage. We don't really think that happens during intrasquad practices, do we?

And it isn't as though the Bears defense is much better. Somehow the Bears convinced themselves that because Adrian Amos hadn't been terrible last season, he would be the anchor of the safety corps and they would just fill in with scrubs around him and everything would be fine.

Except Amos played all year last year without making any damn plays - no interceptions, no fumbles forced, no big hits, nothing.

Surely no one was surprised that Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith was able to complete a pass to a tight end whenever he wanted on Saturday. The vast majority of those completions came against over-matched safeties. The Bears' secondary has suffered some injuries, especially the cornerbacks led by Kyle Fuller. But the projected starting safeties were out there in force Saturday afternoon.

The lowlight was analyst Jim Miller telling us what a difference it would have made if defensive back Bryce Callahan hadn't been sidelined. He did that despite the fact that it was only two weeks prior that we watched Callahan get torched by Denver's Demaryius Thomas for the easiest deep touchdown you will ever see. Come on!

Meanwhile, I don't think Jay Cutler even targeted a tight end during any of the first-string (we think) offense's woeful six possessions against the Chiefs. Yes, Zach Miller is out due to a concussion, but if there is any single position on a football roster where a team must have depth, it is at tight end. No players are more exposed to big hits and expected to make more wrenching, physical blocks.

And yet, the Bears gave away their best tight end for a draft pick before the season started. And another thing: Hey Jay, it sure wasn't a shocker to watch you make sure all onlookers knew that last incompletion in the vicinity of Kevin White was Kevin White's fault.

It will take exactly, what, a quarter, for Bad Jay to return if the offense struggles out of the gate when the real games start. And Cutler already has to be experiencing flashbacks to the times when Lovie Smith tried to convince him that Devin Hester could be a No. 1 receiver. While Bears brass was trying to pump up Hester's receiving skills, Cutler was watching him screw up routes and quickly determining that he couldn't be trusted. Let's hope he has a little more patience with White.

Cutler's gestures making it clear to everyone that White had run the wrong route were especially disappointing because, earlier in the game, it had been Cutler's lousy passes that had stopped more drives than receivers' miscues.

Actually, the single worst play of the day had to be the Alshon Jeffery second-quarter drop of the deep crossing pass that hit him in both hands and, given how open he was, could have resulted in a huge gain that would have put the Bears in scoring positon just when they needed to be. A few more of those and Jeffery might have to reconsider wearing those Mickey Mouse gloves that he loves so much.

After the Patriots exhibition game, I admitted to the tiniest bit of optimism and actually allowed myself to believe that the Bears might win more than four games this regular season. After the Chiefs debacle, I'm headed in the other direction along with a huge portion of Bears fandom.


Jim "Coach" Coffman appears here (almost) every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

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