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Anyone who watched Sunday's embarrassing 51-23 Bears loss to the Patriots couldn't help but take note of the offense's shortcomings. Those first-half failings took their deserved place in the white-hot spotlight after the game.
But if the Bears' defense and special teams can't avoid utter incompetence when games go to hell like yesterday's did in the waning minutes of the second quarter, the offense has no chance.
So here we are with the season already teetering on the edge of irrelevance. If the Bears lose to the Packers when they return from their bye in two weeks, they fall to 3-6 overall and say bye-bye to any chance to contend this season. And even if they miraculously turn themselves around in prime time in Lambeau, they still will have to win six of their last seven games just to finish 10-6 - not bloody likely.
So barring that sort of miracle, here is what happens when the post-season starts: head coach Marc Trestman hangs onto his job but overmatched defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is fired along with clueless special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. In fact, hey Phil Emery, you're compiling a list of potential replacements as we speak, right?
Better yet, how about the Bears pull a Cubs and try to trade all their best assets right now! Tank this season, set up a great draft pick (hey . . . Chicago hosts the draft in 2015!) and look out world! It will be tough to post a worse record than the terrible Raiders and Jaguars (and thereby have a shot at the No. 1 pick) but Bears, you owe it to your fans to try!
And then the columnist took a few deep breaths. We know yesterday's game totally sucked, but it isn't quite the end of the world. We can see it from here but we're not there yet.
Returning now to the defense and special teams: Did you see that blitz the Patriots ran when the Bears trailed 24-7 and had 2nd-and-5 at their own 15 with about 1:40 remaining in the half? That was after return man Chris Williams' brutal decision to try to return Stephen Gostkowski's usual soaring kick-off resulted in him being buried 10 yards further back than where the Bears would have been had he just taken a knee.
The blitz involved a pair of defensive backs rushing in from Jay Cutler's left and immediately collapsing the pocket. The quarterback tried to move up but was taken down by a Patriot linebacker (who then kicked Kyle Long in the groin - when Long then grabbed the guy's leg and pulled him back along the ground about a foot, Long was flagged for unnecessary roughness - it would have been good if Long had actually committed roughness, let alone the unnecessary kind, but I suppose I'm quibbling).
That was the sort of blitz we are desperate to see from the Bears; the sort of blitz that might have made sense at some point during the long Patriot drive that was the first nail in the coffin after the Bears pulled within 17-7 in the aforementioned second quarter. But Tucker's defense never ever ever runs that sort of aggressive stunt, even when his unit is single-covering guys like tight end Rob Gronkowski. Hey Mel, if you decide your best bet is to just stick a safety on the other team's biggest threat, then at least send an extra rusher or two. This isn't that difficult.
So the Bears give the ball to Forte for about the 25th time in the first half and he gains a little yardage but is still way short of the first down. A punt ensues. And then the one guy on the Bears roster who is there because of his supposed special teams prowess, cover-man Sherrick McManis, totally blows contain on the huge Julian Edelman punt return that sets up New England's fourth touchdown.
The game was essentially over when the Bears got the ball back down 31-7 with about a minute left in the half. So it feels like overkill to crush the quarterback for what happened next. We're doing it anyway. That was just a brutal fumble! On first down Jay Cutler faced heavy pressure. At that point, 95 percent of quarterbacks would have tucked the ball into their gut and gone down. It would then have been second-and-long and the Bears probably would have run out the clock.
Instead our man Jay, with multiple guys hanging on to his legs and feet, has the ball up in his hands in an apparent effort to push out some sort of improvised pass to a back or a tight end. Instead, a Patriot rusher of course swats it loose and a Patriot linebacker of course returns it for a touchdown.
The one thing you can say about a loss like this: it was a team effort. Every unit contributed. And every unit isn't good enough for a Bears team going nowhere.
"The Bears were beaten virtually from the first snap on and in every phase of the game," John "Moon" Mullin writes. "They were not up to the intensity or preparation level of a truly elite team despite having a talent base rivaling that of the New England Patriots."
View From Patriots.Com
"There was no urgency to the Jay Cutler-led offense."
57 Seconds That Defined A Season
Pats Declaw Bears With Blitzkrieg In Second Quarter.
Hoge Nails It Again
"Plenty Of Blame To Go Around As Bears Season Continues To Slip Away."
Emblematic Play Of The Season
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.