And that's a wrap
If you weren't convinced already, this latest loss proves Bears are broken franchise
CHICAGO -- Standing on the muddy home sideline long after the Bears' fanciful dreams of a winning season were finally, mercifully extinguished, I thought this was a field worthy of its inhabitants.
A sloppy turf for a sloppy team.
In a game that defined a season, Jay Cutler threw two costly interceptions, the Bears racked up 13 penalties -- three by left tackle Chris Williams -- and Lovie Smith used two timeouts on one play in the fourth quarter. The Bears had a chance, sure, but it slipped casually out of their grasp, like one of Smith's red challenge flags.
And let's not forget the missed reads and blown assignments on Ryan Grant's 61-yard touchdown run on the Green Bay Packers' first snap of the game. That was kind of important too. A harbinger for the day, if you will.
"We've never been the team to get hit in the mouth and [have to] go hit someone back," Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris said in a deserted locker room. "We always hit them first. It seems like these last couple games, it takes someone to make us mad to play up to our caliber."
Those are weighty words from Harris. So are these, from Aaron Rodgers.
"The way we started, I felt like we were going to blow them out by two or three touchdowns," Rodgers said. "But we have to give them credit."
There you go, Bears. The quarterback of your biggest rival is giving you credit, because you "did a nice job" and "stayed with the game plan," and didn't get torched by 30 points. Maybe he'll send some ribbons for you to pin in your lockers.
Green Bay swept the season series for the first time in the Lovie Smith era with a 21-14 win that dropped the Bears to 5-8. The Maudlins of the Midway had a chance to tie it on their last possession, but let's be honest, there wasn't a sober person in the house who really thought Cutler was going to march his team down the field. Not with 22 interceptions and an offense more offensive than the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore."
The Bears' defense allowed a big day from Grant (137 yards), but mostly held Rodgers in check (180 yards), with him coughing up one of the team's two lost fumbles. Aside from that big play, the Packers didn't get much else.
No, this one is on the offense, and it's further proof that big changes are needed at Halas Hall. The Bears look too undisciplined and too out-of-sorts for this late in the season.
The Bears have to win out to avoid a losing record. The Cubs have a better chance of trading Milton Bradley for Roy Halladay. Rod Blagojevich has a better chance of being the second straight Chicagoan to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Cutler has a better chance of taking his postgame monologue to the main stage at Second City.
This is a 6-10 team, plain and simple. They play like a losing team, they're coached like a losing team, and they're constructed as a losing team. Hope and optimism left the building a long time ago. Now all that's left is acceptance and recrimination on a season lost.
"I think it's a surprise to everybody," Cutler said. "It's a disappointment. I'm disappointed. The team's disappointed, the organization, the city of Chicago."
Cutler had a new target in little-used Devin Aromashodu, who had two catches coming in, but finished with a team-high eight for 76 yards, including a nifty 10-yard touchdown.
With Devin Hester sidelined, the Bears' backup Devin started and combined with Johnny Knox (five catches, 83 yards, one touchdown) for a few highlight plays. But Cutler (23-of-36, 209 yards) was underthrowing guys all day, even if some of his errant passes looked like they could have been his receivers' fault.
Both of his picks led to scores. The final drive was a four-and-out microcosm on the failures of the offense. Two 7-yard passes, a sack, a penalty, an incompletion. Ballgame. Cutler jogging off the field with his sad-sack gait is the lingering image of his first year in Chicago.
His biggest mistake came in the fourth quarter, and it cost the Bears the game. On third-and-5, free safety Nick Collins easily snagged an underthrown Cutler pass toward Knox and ran 32 yards to the Bears' 11-yard line.
Grant scored from 1 yard out, and Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a two-point conversion to give the Packers a seven-point lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The Packers faked a corner blitz on the interception, Knox slipped a bit, and Cutler gifted another interception.
"It looked like the corner was coming, but he didn't," Knox said. "He trailed behind me and just made a good play on the ball. I thought it was a two-man, so I tried to make a different adjustment, but we weren't able to hook up. It's frustrating when you and your quarterback aren't on the same page, because you want to be."
Cutler took full blame for the pick, saying, "I just have to throw it out of bounds or let it go sooner."
"It's the same story," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said of the offense's penchant for turnovers and penalties. "It's kind of been the theme for the year. We do some good things, and then we hurt ourselves."
At this point, it's almost difficult to get worked up over another Bears loss. Sure, you could point at a guy like Williams, a first-round pick who plays like a UFL reject, and wonder how he's your left tackle, but what's the upside in that? OK, there's some value in venting, because whatever you do, there's a good chance you do it better than Williams played tackle Sunday.
He's the epitome of a bad offensive line, but he's hardly the only offender. On the Bears' second possession, guard Frank Omiyale had a false start and a holding call, on first and third down, respectively, leading to a punt.
In the second quarter, Williams had a false start on first down, as did Greg Olsen later in the drive.
At the end of the third quarter, with the Bears nursing a 14-13 lead, Williams had an illegal use of hands penalty, making it first-and-20. Three plays later, Cutler was picked off by Collins, and the Packers took the lead.
Two series later, Williams got a 15-yard penalty for pulling A.J. Hawk to the ground by his facemask, negating a 16-yard play. That set up Smith's much-debated two-timeouts-on-one-play (thanks to a lost challenge) fiasco.
"Three penalties is inexcusable on my part, and it cost us the game," Williams said. "It's not in my job description. My job is to not get penalties."
And the Bears' collective job is to win, but they're not doing that, either.
Smith's timeout usage will get a lot of scrutiny, even if the Bears didn't give themselves a chance to need them at the end. After the disputed play, a deep pass to Olsen up the middle, the Bears were slow getting to the line and Smith had to burn one.
"For the first timeout, things just weren't right, and we needed to call a timeout to take care of some things," Smith said.
Smith then got word to challenge the call, so he did, and he lost another timeout. He didn't elaborate on what wasn't working to cause the first timeout, but Cutler said it was pretty mundane.
"Any time there's a big play, something downfield that's up for grabs, there's a lot of pushing and shoving, and guys getting off the pile," Cutler said. "We're trying to figure out what happened and the whole time, the clock is running. Those things are going to happen no matter who you are."
Especially if you're the Bears, a disjointed operation from top to bottom these days. And by all measures, a losing franchise. This will be the third straight season they missed the playoffs and with no picks in the first two rounds and a lot of dead weight on their roster, it will be interesting to see how they reload in the offseason.
While this game made it official, the Bears' chances at a winning season were over when they lost to Philadelphia. Or maybe it was a week before, when they lost at San Francisco. It's tough to keep track. This loss was memorable only for its sloppiness.
All that remains is a three-game season with little to nothing at stake. The only question that remains is who will take the fall. It's time to throw the red flag, McCaskey family, on the leaders of this team.
It's too late to challenge this season, but it's not too soon to think about the future.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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