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SportsMonday: The Rivalry Is Dead

We can stop calling it a rivalry.

With the arrival of Marc Trestman and a promising 2013 season that ended with a down-to the last-play showdown, it appeared the Bears-Packers thing might be revived as a legitimate battle of equals. But that died again on Sunday.

No matter what the hype-meisters would have you believe, you can't have a rivalry when one team sucks, year after year after year. Aaron Rodgers is now 10-3 versus the Bears - following Brett Favre's 22-10 run with Green Bay (and I must admit I find it hard to believe the Bears actually posted double-digit wins during that run) - after the Packers' latest, a 38-17 victory.

All of that stuff about Jay Cutler playing at Aaron Rodgers' level seems pretty silly this morning, doesn't it?


Still, we can't pin this on the Same Old Jay.

"In eight games as the Bears starter, against defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Cutler is a meager 1-7," Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel noted before the game.

"He has posted brutal passer ratings of 43.2, 74.9, 82.5, 43.5, 78.9, 28.2, 72.5 and, last year, 103.0 with 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

"Yet there is that 103.0, a sign that this is a new Cutler under head coach Marc Trestman. Cutler was not the problem in Chicago's Week 17 loss to Green Bay last year. He's been more efficient and disciplined with Trestman. In his 14 games with the Bears' second-year head coach, Cutler has completed 274 of 476 passes for 3,371 yards, 27 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. In other words, not the same-old Jay."

Except for the result. And the two interceptions - even if one appears to have been Brandon Marshall's fault.

But look, those interceptions weren't primarily to blame for the loss; you have to put it on a defense that didn't stop the Packers once. As you may have heard by now, this was only the second game in NFL history without a punt.

If the Bears' defense didn't look so hapless from the start, Trestman may not have felt it so imperative to attempt an onside kick when he did - and which the Packers were ready for.

"We knew it was a possibility just because of the situation of the game and then they line up 6 by 4," Packers special teams star Sean Richardson said about how the Bears set up their coverage team. "We were kind of aware, 'Hey, look for the onsides kick.'"

"The Bears had just scored to take a 17-14 lead in the second quarter when kicker Robbie Gould popped the ball into the air on a beautifully executed onside kick that end Cornelius Washington nearly gathered off the bounce," Tom Silverstein writes for the Journal-Sentinel.

"As it popped out of [Cornelius] Washington's grasp and past the Packers' first line of defense, four different Bears were in a position to pounce on the ball. But Richardson beat all of them to it, fell on it at the Packers' 39 and then withstood a wave of Bears pursuers trying to strip the ball out of his arms."

Four different Bears were in a position to pounce on the ball.

Another special teams failure.


That was one turning point. And another was certainly Cutler's first interception (the game was lost by the time he threw his second). But each came as the defense was being sliced and diced like so much soft cheese.

I will never understand why defensive coaches prefer slow torture to tearing the Band-Aid off quickly, i.e.. why they are willing to let star quarterbacks drop back and pick them apart rather than doing whatever they have to do to create pressure.

The Bears didn't appear to blitz a single time on Sunday.

This time David Haugh has it right: "Bears Deplorable Defense Behind This Debacle."

Hub Arkush similarly writes: "Don't Pin This One On Cutler."

"[I]t's pretty hard to fault an offense that put up 33 first downs, 496 yards, rushed for 235 and was 7 of 11 (64 percent) converting third downs," Arkush notes.

Sure, Cutler isn't Rodgers, as Arkush points out. But what the Bears put out on the field Sunday wasn't a defense, either.

And this isn't a true rivalry any more than Cubs-Cards. Geography alone isn't enough.


See also:
* Biggs disagrees: It Starts With Cutler.

* Morrissey: Cutler Could Only Keep Up With Rodgers For A Half.

* Finley: Bears Rush For Most Yards Since 1988 - And Still Lose.

* Potash: Bennett, Morgan 'Non-TDs' Prove Costly.

* Jahns: Bears' Pass-Rushers Come Up Empty, Record Zero Hits On Rodgers.


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

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