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SportsMonday: Does That Bears Game Matter?

It may not have mattered in general, but it mattered to the Titans.

Most years, at about this time in the NFL preseason, we remind ourselves that It Just Doesn't Matter. What happens in the Bears preseason has so little to do with what happens once the real games start in another two weeks.

The "IJDM" mantra is always true, even after a game in which two Bears quarterbacks performed well. Two! So many more than usual. I refer of course to the Bears' 19-7 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Sunday.

And yes, one of those quarterbacks nailed down his starting job by playing well early in this specific game and the other reminded us of his sizable potential later on. Mike Glennon was a little better than Mitch Trubisky but he was most better when the best receiver was still in the lineup.

And here we come to the massive exception to the IJDM. That of course would be the injury list.

Last year one of these stupid, meaningless games reached out and bit the Packers. Star wide receiver Jordy Nelson suffered a knee injury and was out for the season. This year, one of these moronic games reached out and bit the Bears. Cam Meredith, the Bears' leading returning receiver, is almost certainly out for the season after suffering a gruesome knee injury on the final play of the first quarter.

Here is a line you don't hear very often: I hope Meredith's injury is only a torn ACL (which would mean he is out for the year). When it happened, I feared it might be even worse - the sort of injury that also includes damage to the patellar tendon and which, even in this era of amazing sports medicine, puts careers at serious risk. That was the sort of injury quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered with the Vikings last year in the preseason(!).

Bridgewater still isn't back more than a year after he went down. At the very least, the incredibly profitable NFL ought to cut its number of annual exhibition games from four to two.

We wish Meredith well. This was going to be a contract year for him with potentially very profitable restricted free agency coming at the end - if he continued to perform the way he had last year and in training camp so far this time around. Meredith attended high school at west suburban St. Joseph. He excelled in the NFL at receiver despite wasting his college years playing a position that doesn't exist in the league: running quarterback. But that is a story for another day.

So to take this all the way back to the start, while the overall importance of these games is miniscule, it was apparent that this game meant something to the Titans and that the Bears' performance caused them substantial frustration.

Titans head coach Mike Mularkey exposed his offensive starters to the risk of injury until the beginning of the fourth quarter in pursuit of the one touchdown that he apparently thought would redeem his team's effort on the day. The fact that the score came against the Bears' backups apparently didn't matter to the slightly unhinged coach.

So against a Titans team desperate to score even once at home, the Bears' defense barred the door for three quarters. Not bad. The line seems to be populated by multiple playmakers this time around with Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman looking especially good in the middle. Lamarr Houston and Willie Young also made big plays from the outside.

The Bears were able to generate enough pass rush to get to quarterback Marcus Mariota. Under pressure, he overthrew several passes early and never did settle into a good rhythm. Cornerback Prince Amukamara suffered an early injury (doh!), but the Bears front seven was good enough that Mariota was able to only occasionally exploit the teams' weaknesses in the secondary.

On offense, it looks like there is reason for actual optimism about the line. The fivesome of Bobby Massie, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Hroniss Grasu and Charles Leno protected the passer well and opened holes for the running game. The line looked good enough that one wonders where exactly Kyle Long is going to go if he ever completely bounces back from the serious ankle injury he had last year.

If the Bears put Long at guard, it probably means Whitehair moves over to center, disrupting two positions. My guess is Long opens the season on the bench no matter how healthy he is. Remember, he still has a shoulder injury that was not addressed in the offseason.

We conclude by evoking IJDM one final time. There is room for a little optimism with this team at this point. But if they stink it up against a brutal schedule to start the season - still the by-far most likely outcome - we will think of the good feelings that came out of Sunday's performance with irritation at ourselves for being gullible again.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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