Commentary

Too scary to watch

Game film points to need for massive improvement by Bears

Originally Published: October 26, 2009
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST -- While Cedric Benson rested, the Bears went back to work.

A day after Benson ripped his old team for 189 yards in the 45-10 horror show, the Bears reported to Halas Hall to sift through the carnage. The Bears could have charged neighborhood kids to watch the film and called it a haunted house.

It was the "Saw VI" of film sessions, and everyone watched it together, possibly with a night-light on. Benson might have watched the film, too, adding his own laugh track as he packs for his bye week vacation.

"It was just bad," Anthony Adams said. "You keep rewinding and keep seeing the same play you made a mistake on in front of all your teammates and the coaches. It's not a good thing to go through."

Making the whole team watch film together was a classic coaching move, and, in this case, completely necessary. No one had a good game, and that includes the coaches, obviously.

Bears coach Lovie Smith didn't announce any lineup changes Monday, but he benched defensive tackle Tommie Harris before the game and said he's open to personnel changes at every position. Presumably, that doesn't include benching Jay Cutler for Caleb Hanie.

"We consider personnel changes each week," Smith said. "We look at our scheme each week, so we'll look at everything we did in the past game.What we did this last week didn't work, so of course we need to change some things up."

You could say that at least the Bears have time to rebound from hitting rock bottom. Maybe this was the proverbial wake-up call, right?

No and no. No positives here. Even Smith isn't playing that game. He said he kept it "real" with the players, reminding them that it was only one game. One awful game.

"We have to take the negative," he said. "That was a negative performance. Can you learn something from it? Yeah, you learn something every time you play. As far as firing us up, it should have. When you play like that, you want to get back on the football field and redeem yourself as soon as you can. Luckily, we have another game coming up quickly."

Luckier still, the opponent in that game is the Cleveland Browns. The Bears could win this next game 48-0, but it still won't answer any of the lingering questions about this team. The Bears haven't looked dominant, aside from their win over Detroit, and, aside from this game, they haven't looked terrible, either.

[+] EnlargeOlin Kruetz
AP Photo/Ed ReinkeThe offensive line has a lot to think about this week as the Bears prepare for the Browns.

This looks like a 9-7 team, just like last year. Not every team is designed to go to the Super Bowl, even when you trade for a franchise quarterback. Six games into the season, is anyone convinced this is a team that will matter come December? At best, the Bears will be a wild-card contender again, just like last year. This isn't a situation where you're back at square one. A three-point loss counts the same as a 35-point loss. The close loss hurts more in the short term; the blowout might say more about the quality of the team.

"When you're a 3-3 team, it's not like you're going to throw away everything we've done," Smith said. "We didn't play well that game. We didn't show up in that game. You can't look at it any farther than that. We have good football players, and we've seen all the players who played yesterday play at a high level."

Yes, but can this collection of players perform at a high level in unison again?

After Sunday's game, Carson Palmer noted, "Blowouts like this don't happen often against a good team."

A few reporters, myself included, were joking about taking this quote out of context, imagining it in a big subhead under the headline: "Palmer sez: Bears not good team."

Palmer went on to credit the Bears with a meaningless sentence that belongs on Awful PR Quotes: "Chicago is a good, physical team both offensively and defensively, and they are going to win a lot of games still and make a push for the playoffs."

Sure, it sounds true when you read it. But if you've watched the Bears this season, can you pinpoint what exactly they do well? Is there any football team that isn't physical? Before this last game, I guess you could say they kept games close, just like you'd expect with a veteran team running the Cover 2 and a fairly conservative offense.

Defensively, the Bears didn't show up, and the Bengals abused the defensive scheme. With no one jamming him at the line, Chad Ochocinco practically had free rein and picked up most of his yards in the first half. The defensive line was a nonentity against Palmer, who completed 20 of 24 passes. The Bears' defensive scheme demands pressure on the quarterback and proactive turnovers. But it's tough for Peanut Tillman to strip a receiver when he's five yards behind him all game.

The front four had its second sluggish game in a row, after a pretty good start, even with new addition Gaines Adams. Benson ran through crevasses as the Bengals' offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage.

"They didn't play well, just like our team didn't play well," Smith said. "I've been pleased with their play before that."

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe Bears offensive line did Jay Cutler no favors on Sunday. They didn't help Matt Forte, either.

Offensively, the wide receivers didn't get separation, Cutler was harried and out of sorts, forced to rely on checkdowns and short passes. The offensive line continued to underachieve.

Accordingly, Matt Forte hasn't shown any of the burst he had last year, running into human walls again and again. Most teams rely on a two-back system, but Forte is playing with no real complement. Kevin Jones has been sidelined since the preseason, and Adrian Peterson is trying to get back on the field after a knee injury. Garrett Wolfe is not the answer.

As for the line, well, as one of my friends glumly noted: Jerry Angelo pinned his career on the shoulders of Frank Omiyale.

Omiyale and the rest of the offensive line failed miserably again Sunday. Cutler was under duress from the Bengals' front seven, and Forte piled up a whopping 24 yards. Can the line be plugged up? Will Smith finally bench free-agent signee Omiyale for lesser-paid Josh Beekman? Can all these leaks be plugged? Will Chris Williams and Orlando Pace stop jumping offside?

"Yeah, they can be fixed," center Olin Kreutz said of the line's problems. "And we're working extremely hard at it. We just have to get to the point where it shows on Sundays. So, we're working every day on the things we need to get done."

Rest assured, the Bears are working all week to fix their myriad problems. Whether they will succeed is anybody's guess right now, but if I were a Bears fan, I'd be a little scared after watching Sunday's game.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He can be reached at jgreenberg@espnchicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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