COMMENTARY | Sometimes you need to look past the nightmare to find the reason for the dream. Trouble is, even those viewing the Sunday Night Football game through rose-colored Bear goggles had a hard time watching what transpired on Sunday night. And as the dream of locking up the division and a playoff berth devolved quickly into something sinister, Chicago Bears fans were just trying to wake up.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Green Bay Packers had fallen to the Pittsburgh Steelers in dramatic fashion and the Detroit Lions completed an epic collapse that left them out of playoff contention. In fact, the bastardization of talent in Detroit was just about the only silver lining to the dark mushroom cloud the Bears created in prime time.
The Lions' loss to the New York Giants was their 5th in 6 games and also their 9th consecutive regular-season failure in the months of December and January. It would stand to reason that Jim Schwartz will be fired for this continued display of mediocre effort, but the rest of teams the NFC North sure hope he sticks around for a while.
Not to be outdone by the ineptitude of their division rivals, the Bears went into their game with the Philadelphia Eagles knowing full well what was on the line: an NFC North title and a trip to the playoffs. A fan base that had sullied itself by cheering for the Giants, Steelers, and the Dallas Cowboys during the day was fired up to watch their Bears engage in a shoot-out with the Eagles that night.
But from the opening kick, it was evident that Chicago was firing blanks while Philly had come loaded for bear. Even repeated trips to the beer fridge didn't make the game look pretty; and thanks to Cris Collinsworth's announcing, it didn't even have a good personality.
But the Bears do still have a chance to make up for this loss. All they've got to do is beat their arch-nemesis at Soldier Field, a feat they've accomplished only twice in the last six tries. But hey, at least they've got Jay Cutler back under center; according to ESPN Stats and Info, Cutler is 1-8 with a 24.3 QBR in nine games vs. Green Bay.
So is there anything we can take away from the Eagles game? In a tweet last night, Pat Forde referred to the Bears' play as "hot garbage," a term I used in my follow-up to their stinker vs. the Washington Redskins. But the garbage is exactly where Marc Trestman needs to throw the game tape, along with any memory of this contest. Then they need to douse it with gasoline and strike a match. Heck, the resultant dumpster fire will be a pretty close approximation of Sunday's performance anyway.
And while pointing fingers isn't going to help much, it's got to be at least as cathartic as the increasingly excoriating series of tweets unleashed by myself and other, more qualified, critics. That said, I'm going to go around putting blame on the doorsteps of various guilty parties and I'm going to set it on fire. I just hope they don't put it out with their boots.
What can I say about the Bears defense that hasn't already been said about Gigli or Troll 2? While Monte Kiffin's Cowboys might beg to differ, the unit that once was the pride and joy of Illinois is now more maligned than the state's past governors. And being imprisoned might be more enjoyable than watching the moribund Monsters of the Midway these days.
I can imagine the post-season conversation between Phil Emery and Mel Tucker going a little something like this. Or perhaps this. Seriously, take a few minutes to watch the linked videos. Don't worry, I'll still be here when you get back; then again, maybe that's what you're afraid of.
The Philadelphia Eagles put up 514 yards on offense Sunday, 289 of which came on the ground. LeSean "Shady" McCoy ran roughshod all night, but even Slim Shady could have put up triple digits against this listless D. The Bears have now surrendered 2,423 rushing yards through 15 games, worst in both the NFL this year and in franchise history.
Not to be outdone, the secondary allowed Nick Foles to complete 21 of his 25 pass attempts for 230 yards and 2 TDs, for a QB rating of 131.7. He was sacked only twice and the lack of pressure enabled Foles to find seams in the threadbare defensive backfield. It appeared as though the Bears were running in sand, as they were a step slow on every play.
Sure, the Eagles scored 24 unanswered points. Sure, the Bears have the best receiving tandem in the NFL. But that still doesn't excuse the fact that Matt Forte got only 9 carries in the game. The Bears only rushed the ball 19 times total, and 8 of those attempts were by Michael Bush and Josh McCown in garbage time.
Rather than make at least a fleeting attempt to recapture control of the game, Marc Trestman chose to air it out time and again. This allowed Jay Cutler to set the Bears' all-time passing yardage record but kept the team from establishing any sort of rhythm. Chicago must be more intentional about getting Forte more touches if they are going to win next Sunday.
Once the bane of Jay Cutler's existence, the revamped offensive line had been drawing rave reviews through much of this year. Until, that is, they reverted back to turnstiles. Cutler was sacked 5 times as Philly defenders rumbled unscathed into the backfield time after time.
Matt Forte was used little, but he wasn't able to find holes in the few touches he did get. He carried 9 times for only 29 yards, and that included a 12-yard scamper. If the line can't find a way to protect Cutler and open up holes for Forte next week, the disappointment of Sunday night will pale in comparison to the feeling of losing to the Packers at home.
There are no more convoluted "if/then" scenarios, no waiting to see if another team loses. The Bears' only option is to win. Of course, they'll be trying to do that behind a QB who has been notoriously bad when facing the Packers. And then there's the possibility of Aaron Rodgers' return.
So will the Bears seize their destiny or once again fall flat in the face of expectations and pressure? Will Jay Cutler silence his critics or will he enable catcalls of "The Bears still suck" to echo ad nauseum across the Great Lakes all winter? If nothing else, the Bears need to win just so their fans won't have to live down the loss.
Evan Altman is a freelance sportswriter with a wealth of trivial pop culture knowledge. He grew up in Northwest Indiana, where the Bears reign supreme. While he now lives in the heart of Colts country, you can hear his kids singing "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" every gameday.
Nothing better to do? You can follow Evan on Twitter: @DEvanAltman
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