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SportsMonday: The Bears Aren't Very Good Anymore

There are plenty of pundits this morning arguing that the Bears are a team that fattened up on a weak first-half schedule but of late have been exposed as frauds as the strength of the average foe has increased.

Except the Bears aren't even that good. Their last two losses, setbacks during which their star quarterback has played all the meaningful minutes (the last four of Sunday's 21-14 loss at the Vikings did not qualify), have happened against mediocre teams who were 6-5 and 6-6 coming in.

The Bears can't beat average teams at this point because nothing they do is above average any more.

What the hell happened?

I suppose the offense piled up an above-average number of total net yards on Sunday (438 to 248 for the Vikings), but a variety of factors ensured those yards didn't turn into points. The biggest of those was the fact that the Bears committed a grim 10 penalties for a total of 80 yards.

As for the defense, well, does anyone think any of the position groups (line, linebackers, defensive backs) are above average any more? They certainly weren't on that brutal opening drive that ensured the Bears would play from behind right from the get-go.

We've come a long way in a short time since this defense was the greatest thing since sliced breast, to use radio commentator Doug Buffone's latest malapropism.

Do these guys understand that they are playing for their coach's job? Last I checked a big reason for keeping Lovie Smith around was that players supposedly play harder for him than they would for someone else. That certainly wasn't the case Sunday.

The lowlights . . .

1. Robbie Gould strains his calf muscle in warm-ups.

2. Adrian Peterson begins his shredding of the Bears defense by ripping off a 51-yard run off right tackle on the first play of the game. He scores five plays later.

3. Five plays into the Bears' first drive, Alshon Jeffery stumbles coming out of his break and Jay Cutler's pass ends up in Josh Robinson's hands. Robinson runs returns the ball 44 yards before he is tackled by . . . Cutler. Jeffery later drops a bomb in the end zone.

4. The absolute killer, though, happens after Devin Hester returns a 56-yard punt 21 yards to set up the Bears on their own 31 with seven minutes left in the third quarter. Two running plays make it third-and-a-long-yard. Manageable, right?

The Bears line up in the shotgun, meaning play-action is off the table, and insert third-string running back Armando Allen in the backfield, apparently because Michael Bush has banged-up ribs, meaning there is virtually know way the coming play is anything other than a pass.

So the Vikings line rushes with abandon while the Vikings linebackers drop into zone coverage. The consequences? Cutler is under pressure while needing to get his throw over the dropping linebackers. The result? Cutler's overthrown pass is intercepted. Give Mike Tice half the credit for that one.

And to cap it all off, for the second time in three quarters the Bears' offensive players fail to prevent a big return. Harrison Smith takes it to the house/a>, the Vikings lead by two touchdowns and the Bears are done.

Upon Further Review
*
Did The Bears Quit?.

* Cutler Flops In Clutch.

* Peterson And Marshall Exchange Jerseys.

* This All Looks Familiar For Bears.

* Urlacher's Career Could Be Over.

* Up Next: Packers.

Smith's tenure as head coach of the Bears began with him taking the podium for his first news conference and parroting what some McCaskey had told him about the specialness of the Packers rivalry.

Everyone in the Bears ownership family remembered failed former coach Dave Wannstedt's insistence that a Packers game was just another game and wanted to make sure Lovie didn't make the same mistake.

I mean the only guy who took the Bears' rivalry with the Packers more seriously than Mike Ditka was old man George Halas himself.

Now Smith's future seems to absolutely hinge on this Sunday's game against those pesky arch-rivals from the north.

-

Our very own Jim "Coach" Coffman talks Bears every Monday with Rick Kogan on WBEZ's Afternoon Shift. He welcomes your comments.

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