Leap of faith
Lovie Smith wants his team to believe, but believe in what?
So far had the Bears' morale fallen, apparently, that their head coach felt it necessary to give them a one-word, pregame pep talk, Thursday night.
"Believe," Lovie Smith told his charges, according to team flagship, WBBM (780-AM), hammering home the message of the week.
But believe what, exactly?
That the Bears could actually beat another NFL team, one that had lost its last four games?
That suddenly, magically, they would become smarter and more disciplined?
That Jay Cutler would not get dragged down even further into the morass of this season, this offense, this team, this organization?
That the Bears, as Smith said once again, are somehow better than their fourth loss in the last five games, a 10-6 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers that laid open many of their frailties while exposing still others.
"There's a lot of football left," said Smith.
And this is what, a good thing?
Surely, no one of sound mind would mean there's enough time for the 4-5 Bears to get themselves into playoff position, though Smith, backed into a corner like a wounded football coach, was apparently left with little choice.
"Sure we can make the playoffs," he said. "Five losses won't keep you out of the playoffs ... but we have to finish a game and get a win as much as anything."
Finish a game? That implies that had Cutler not thrown his fifth interception of the night and 17th of the season with time elapsed, and the Bears had beaten the 49ers, that this would somehow have made them a good football team capable of competing with Philadelphia and Minnesota in the next two weeks.
Good football teams do not get penalized 10 times for 75 yards, do not line up in the neutral zone multiple times, do not get called for delay of game twice.
On a night when the defensive line regained its footing after giving up 92 points over the last three games, the offense took its turn with the dunce cap.
Cutler apologized to his teammates after Thursday night's game and his career-high five interceptions, all in 49ers' territory. And indeed, poor decision making entered in on his first and last picks in particular, with barely a glimmer of white jersey showing. On his last attempt to Greg Olsen in the end zone, the ball would have had to go around at least one defender and then taken a left turn to have any chance, while Cutler instead had a clear path to run to the goal line.
But blame Devin Hester for interceptions No. 2 (he slipped) and No. 3 (he cut short his route). On interception No. 4, Cutler dropped the snap and 49ers' safety Mark Roman simply stepped in front of tight end Kellen Davis.
"I think he was making good decisions, I don't think he was forcing the issue," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said of Cutler, who became the first Bears' quarterback since Bill Wade in 1962 to have two four-interception games in the same season.
The offense was so inept that Turner and his offensive coaches brought back demoted guard Frank Omiyale and benched his replacement Josh Beekman late in the game, but it was too little, too late and too bad that was the best they could come up with.
Matt Forte had eight receptions for a career-high 120 yards, mostly on screen passes. But he rushed for just 41 yards on 20 carries and still can't seem to find what few holes actually do present themselves.
As usual, Bears' players were making little sense afterward.
"We have to stay positive and believe in what we're doing," Cutler said. "With the high character guys we've got, I think we're going to bounce back just fine, Lovie will have us ready to go. It's not going to be a problem."
As usual, Tommie Harris blamed the media for the negativity. And then he spouted more nonsense.
"What we want people to say about us, regardless of our record, is that we have pride," Harris told Comcast SportsNet Chicago. "If you come in and beat us, that this is the hardest win you're going to get. This is what we're playing for right now and hopefully that will carry into the playoffs."
Surely somewhere in his head, a little voice was telling him to "Believe."
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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