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SportsMonday: Bears Not Totally Awful

One game does not a season make. Yeah, it was the Packers, and yeah, it was at home, but let's work within the context of this season, shall we? This Bears season is a little more promising after Sunday's 31-23 loss.

Believe me when I tell you that I was sorely tempted to start today's effort with something along the lines of: "What have we done to deserve year after year of Aaron Rodgers kicking Bears ass not long after year after year of Brett Favre kicking Bears ass?"

I used to think the worst stretch of Chicago North Side sports fandom was 2003 to 2006, when not only did we watch the Cubs gag but were treated to the Red Sox winning it all in '04 (and ending a real curse, The Curse of the Bambino), the White Sox doing the same in '05 and Tony LaRussa leading an 83-win Cardinal team to another title the following season.

But this thing with Rodgers, come on. And our guy Jay has now led the Bears to a nightmarish 12 losses in his 13 games versus the Packers as the local signal-caller. Congratulations, Bears, on not being totally embarrassed this time around but of course a loss is just a loss.

On the other hand, the team is one game into the season and a fan can already tell that this coaching staff is far better than previous models. Speaking of the coaching staff, here is why we need to play every season to win, version 18.0. Does anyone think Adam Gase will still be an offensive coordinator in 2016?

The answer is no. The Bears offense played better, smarter football in the first half on Sunday than they did in any first half last year. The Packers knew the Bears would do everything they could to establish the running game, adjusted their defensive scheme accordingly, and then the Bears still found ways to move the football. Also, Gase got his calls into Cutler early all day and had him up at the line of scrimmage with plenty of time to assess situations play after play. Anyone see Ravens-Broncos later Sunday? Gase's former team struggled mightily without him at the helm.

In the coming offseason, someone will hire this guy as their head coach. So the Bears sure as hell better play their one season with Gase at the helm of the offense with urgency. And while I was initially irritated that the Bears gave up a 2017 sixth-round draft choice for a tight end prospect (Khari Lee in a trade with the Texans late in the preseason), I have come around to believing that at least a few measures to improve this year at the expense of a little bit of future team-building capability is OK.

All of that being said, it was sure hard to understand the Bears passing the ball three straight times from the two-yard-line midway through the fourth quarter with a chance to score a touchdown and a game-tying two-point conversion. Coach John Fox made the right call to go for it on that fourth down in part because a field goal wasn't going to help and in part because when the Bears didn't make it, the Packers were still buried inside their own 10.

Sure enough, the defense held and the Bears had another shot to go down and tie it with under six minutes to go. And they started a potential drive with yet another slick third down play. On the day, the Bears converted an impressive 11-for-17 third downs.

But as Bears fans have seen a million times before, if Cutler throws a certain number of passes in a row, he gets overconfident. He was lucky his ill-advised pass on second down of the series at the goal line wasn't picked off and then he threw the inevitable pick. Clay Matthews returned it a ways, the Packers went down and scored again and the game was essentially over.

The interception itself was more a result of Packer defensive coordinator Dom Capers' smart scheme (sending Matthews across to pick up the tight end in coverage in rarely seen fashion) and Matthews' execution than it was a failure on Cutler's part. But it was still a failure and given the way Cutler talked about it afterward it seemed he was not completely surprised by the maneuver.

Woe is us, Bears fans. But whoa with the ultra-gloomy forecasts for this season. This team has a shot to be decent and in an NFL that is once again riven with parity, decent will at least be entertaining for a good long while this fall.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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