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It cannot be helped. A team plays well and a little optimism creeps in no matter how lousy its overall prospects. And so it goes that a fan starts to hope that maybe just maybe the Bears won't be the worst team in the NFL this year.
We're not losing our minds here. The extent of this budding optimism is that this team might finish 4-12 instead of 3-13 after the Bears wrapped up the latest week of the preseason on Sunday. It was a week that featured practices and then an exhibition game against a good Indianapolis Colts team on Saturday that resulted in an 11-9 loss.
What's that you say? The Bears won 23-11! People, the score at the half is what matters.
The whole exercise is of course meaningless in terms of actually determining whether one team is better than another, but the only way to at least begin to make some sort of comparison between teams is to look at how the best players did against one another. The results of third-stringers stumbling around against one another probably shouldn't factor in, eh?
The bottom line is the Bears, and particularly defensive newcomer Pernell McPhee (outside linebacker) and quarterback Jay Cutler did more good things against the Colts than anyone anticipated. And that was nice. But it isn't exactly a revelation when people expect a team to lose a pretend-competitive half by multiple touchdowns and it only loses by a few points.
One more preseason pet peeve: Everyone needs to try harder to avoid drawing too many conclusions about a player's prospects on the basis of a single highlight play.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller was brutally bad on Andrew Luck's 45-yard completion to T.Y. Hilton in the second quarter Saturday. And then he compounded it with about as weird an "unsportsmanlike conduct - taunting" penalty as you are ever going to see. Last I checked, most athletes don't taunt after they get beat on a bomb.
Fuller explained later that he held on to Hilton considerably longer than necessary after the play because he was worried officials might rule Hilton wasn't touched down after he caught the pass. It was a weird explanation (it sure seemed as though Fuller had brought Hilton down in routine fashion a moment before he grabbed onto him) but at least it was something.
The second-year player out of Virginia Tech was disappointing last year, especially considering he cost the Bears a first-round pick. But turning oneself into a top cornerback in the NFL takes longer than a season-plus. Let's hold off on frowning upon his overall career prospects just yet.
And rookie running back Jeremy Langford had one delightfully speedy run through the middle of the line in the third quarter, one that resulted in a 46-yard gain. He did make one nice move that totally deked a safety, but the success of the play was mostly due to nice blocking, and the fact that the defensive scrubs had long since taken over.
In other words, hundreds of pro and college running backs could have made that run. And a decent number of them probably wouldn't have tripped over the yard marker (i.e. Langford's own two feet) about 35 yards in, eliminating what looked like a shot at a touchdown. The rookie out of Michigan State seems to have potential. So do at least a few other guys.
In the end I'm afraid I'm still not confident that even one Bear defender will qualify as "above average" in the coming season. And I am still totally depressed about the fact that the Bears got rid of the general manager and the overmatched head coach and the even more overmatched coordinators but still have the same freaking quarterback.
But hey, maybe they'll find a way to win the first half during the next stop of the pretend football tour, Saturday at the Bengals at 6:30.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.