Commentary

Nothing to be proud of

Aromashodu's highlights meaningless as Bears wrap up non-winning season

Updated: December 14, 2009, 11:05 AM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

Devin Aromashodu.

With all due respect to the Bears' leading receiver Sunday, a guy on his fifth different team and sixth separate stop in four years was a highlight for the Bears' offense.

It's a storyline quarterback Jay Cutler has been pushing for all season, and with a win over the Green Bay Packers, maybe Aromashodu's career-high eight catches for 76 yards and first career touchdown would have made a compelling tale.

As Bears safety Danieal Manning said, "The story would have been great."

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJay Cutler had been campaigning for Devin Aromashodu to play more, and Cutler showed why by hitting him with the receiver's first touchdown catch.
Of course, to say the team has significantly lowered its expectations, as those of us who watch them on a regular basis have lowered our own, is putting it rather mildly.

Winding down their third straight season without a postseason appearance since reaching the Super Bowl, the Bears are no longer justified in using that occasion to reference anything other than how far they have fallen.

"It doesn't feel like a distant memory," said defensive tackle Tommie Harris, "but it's not even in my thought process. The process now is just to win games. You don't really see the bigger picture. It's now moved down to just beat your man and win the game …"

At 5-8 and guaranteed a non-winning season, at least we shouldn't be left with unrealistic expectations for the Bears next year, though it hasn't stopped us in the past. At face value, Sunday's 21-14 loss looks like a game upon which the Bears might even pathetically hang some hope.

But this is not a team that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with the Packers, a group not without its own flaws. Down 13-7 at halftime, the Bears had to be thrilled. This was about as good as it gets for them, and they still found a way to muck it up. "It's the same story," said Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner. "It's kind of been the theme for this year. We do some good things and we hurt ourselves." Without his No. 1 receiver Devin Hester, who sat out with a calf injury, Cutler looked to Aromashodu early and often. That is, when he wasn't looking to the officials to see how the next Bears penalty would set him back.

In all, the Bears were hit with 13 infractions for 109 yards.

Left guard Frank Omiyale was called for two penalties for 15 yards on the Bears' second series alone, his holding penalty nullifying a 21-yard scamper by Cutler that would have given the Bears a first down in Packers territory.

Not to be outdone, Chris Williams -- playing left tackle for the second straight week in place of the inactive Orlando Pace (no pun intended) -- drew three penalties for 30 yards, including a face mask that nearly twisted Clay Matthews' head off in the fourth quarter.

But Cutler -- who hasn't gone two straight games this season without an interception -- threw Nos. 21 and 22 and got away with several other underthrown balls, including his 10-yard third-quarter touchdown to Aromashodu, who made a nice adjustment on the pass and on Charles Woodson.

"We'd been working on the back shoulder all week," Aromashodu offered generously.

Cutler, with his unique brand of smirks and grunts and uncomfortable pauses, has all but screamed all season that Aromashodu is a preferred receiver. In still another debatable personnel decision, the Bears' brain trust has not seen things the same way, and on Sunday, Cutler was going to make up for lost time.

"It definitely helps going out there knowing the starting quarterback's in my corner, and if I get the chance he'll throw me some balls," Aromashodu said. "So it makes me feel good and gives me confidence."

At 6-foot-2, he's the Bears' biggest receiver, and he can hang onto the ball, no question. But fifth-round draft pick Johnny Knox, with five catches for 83 yards and the Bears' other touchdown -- a 19-yard beauty in the second quarter -- is the team's real revelation at receiver this season, and Cutler has been lucky to have him.

"We got some different looks at the beginning of the season but it kind of slowed down in the middle," Knox said. "Some games I'm going to get the ball and some games I'm not."

He didn't on Cutler's second interception, when the QB underthrew Knox on the first possession of the fourth quarter and made it easy for Packers free safety Nick Collins, who streaked 31 yards down the right sideline to set up the Packers' go-ahead touchdown.

"It seems like every time we got something going, something bad happened," Cutler said by way of explanation. "This is something that has happened all year to us. It's hard to be a good offensive team when that happens."

It's hard to be a good offensive team when a lot of things happen. Like rushing for 59 yards. Like burning two timeouts at a critical point down the stretch, one on a fruitless challenge and one just because.

"That was separate," explained Bears coach Lovie Smith.

Separate, too, was the Bears-Packers rivalry and any relation to the stink of the Bears' season, even though the small handful of players remaining in the losers' dressing room afterward tried to talk a good game.

"I'm going to tell you the truth," Manning said, "there was a lot on this game. We won last week to get us going and we had a shot at the playoffs. And it's Green Bay. It was a lot to take, and the guys aren't happy."

"It's tough," Smith said after the first season sweep by the Packers in his six-year tenure as Bears coach. "It's tough in the locker room when you have an opportunity to keep our dream alive."

At least now there's no question it's a nightmare.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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