- Melissa Isaacson, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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The theme in the Chicago Bears' locker room was as unmistakable as it was unconvincing, like a bad corporate outing where a buzzword rattles around emptily and without conviction.
"We have to believe," they said, mostly because there was little else to say after still another horrendous Sunday, this time a 41-21 trouncing by the Arizona Cardinals that actually trumped the embarrassment of the Bears' 35-point loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago for several reasons.
They were at home. They began the game at full strength. And the Cincinnati loss was supposed to be one of those wake-up calls we so often hear about. They were better than that, the Bears told us, and while last week's victory against Cleveland did little to convince us of that, this loss hit us like a Tommie Harris punch to the face.
They were not better than that. They are not better than this. And until the Bears show us they can play a football game without being humiliated on one side of the ball, they are not a team in which we should believe.
"I think we have to be together before we can fall apart," Bears defensive end Alex Brown said in about as candid and sad a postgame analysis as you're going to hear. "You've got to believe that you're going to win."
And obviously they don't. Something is wrong with the Bears this season -- organically, schematically and physically. And thankfully, Arizona safety Matt Ware spared us any hesitation in reaching that conclusion.
His interception of a Jay Cutler pass with seven minutes remaining killed any possibility that maybe the Bears would make this abomination of a game into, well, even a semblance of one. Four plays later, Kurt Warner flicked his fifth touchdown pass of the afternoon to Steve Breaston and any illusion that this was not another humiliating blowout for the Bears was put to rest.
"Our entire play throughout was bad," Bears coach Lovie Smith said candidly, adding that his players have a lot of soul-searching to do and that they can still accomplish their goals.
Offensively, things were a little better than last week, which is not saying a whole lot. Then again, when the defense knows you're going to throw the ball, knows you have to throw the ball, it tilts the ol' playing field a bit.
"We have to change up the game plan to catch up," Bears receiver Devin Hester explained, though he didn't have to.
As a result, Hester and Earl Bennett combined for 13 catches for 187 yards, a career-high 93 yards for Bennett, as well as 74 yards on six catches by Matt Forte. And tight end Greg Olsen caught touchdown passes of 33, 3 and 20 yards, the final two in the fourth quarter mini-momentum swing, which was the most by a Bears player since Marty Booker caught three TD passes in 2001. It was also the most by a Bears tight end since Greg Latta caught three in 1975.
But celebrating Olsen's feat, though encouraging for the Bears' offense, is getting just a tad carried away.
"It's good to see [and is] hopefully something we can build on," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "We played better. I thought we did some good things. But when you don't win, you didn't play well enough to win."
Cutler, who completed 29 of 47 passes for 369 yards, also was sacked four times, and the line committed their fair share of the Bears' nine penalties for 89 yards. But, Cutler said, "it could be worse. We could be in a bigger hole than that."
Yes, 4-4 is actually an encouraging record for a team playing as badly as the Bears right now. But the fact that they have another game in four days (at the San Francisco 49ers) after giving up 27 first downs and 438 yards of total offense is just plain scary.
And the fact that the defense will have Harris back at tackle after his idiotic ejection on the fourth play of the game is not all that reassuring.
"We've just got to believe; we've got to believe," Danieal Manning said, reciting the team mantra. "Somewhere, somebody's just got to step up and be that leader, and that's the way we have to have it."
Obviously, no one is filling that role adequately, but the rah-rah stuff isn't going to help at this point.
"If I did know [how to fix things], I would do it," said Brown, a veteran leader. "I'm not scared to talk to anybody. I'm not scared to tell anybody that you're not being accountable. I'm holding myself accountable. I didn't do much out there either.
"Everybody that doesn't feel badly about that shouldn't be here. We stunk up the place. We played pretty bad. I don't really know what to do, but we have another game Thursday. We keep saying, 'Go home and soul-search,' but there might be something more. It might be a little more than that."
If only they knew.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
1hEthan Sherwood Strauss