The Chicago Bears’ season disintegrated in spectacular fashion Sunday night in a 55-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Stunningly, the Bears managed to sink lower than their 51-23 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 8. They appeared totally lost coming out of a week off and a period of self-scouting.
Here are five things we learned about the Bears in an embarrassing Week 10. As coach Marc Trestman said, there's no surgarcoating it:
1. This is a total organizational failure, starting from the very top.
If you’re among the mob looking to run Trestman out of town, you can’t rationally stop there. You have to look above Trestman at the man who hired him — general manager Phil Emery — and even higher at the man who hired Emery, team president Ted Phillips.
Trestman said it well Monday when he acknowledged the team is headed in the wrong direction right now. Trestman obviously isn’t the only one steering the ship.
With the team sinking at 3-6, it’s open season on Emery’s decision making. Such is the nature of the NFL. And the results so far show that his two biggest decisions to date — hiring Trestman and guaranteeing quarterback Jay Cutler $54 million through 2016 — have failed. Cutler’s deal has become a punch line throughout the league because he leads the NFL with 15 turnovers and has not pulled the Bears forward with his play at a level commensurate with the money.
In hiring Trestman, Emery demonstrated his belief that Trestman could lead a team and also improve Cutler’s performance, resulting in multiple championships. Both appear to be miscalculations more than halfway through the second season.
And that’s to say nothing of the Emery’s two biggest free-agent signings: defensive ends Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, neither of whom has consistently made the type of impact plays Emery and his personnel staff believed them to be capable of. As the Bears’ record shows, the football personnel misevaluations outweigh the positive decisions, which include drafting Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery, Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long and cornerback Kyle Fuller.
Every NFL season has ups and downs, but this is more than a downswing. As Trestman explained, the team is off course. The body of evidence in 2014 is incomplete, obviously, so Emery and Trestman have a chance to improve the outlook. But goodness help the Bears if they can’t beat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday or — gulp — Lovie Smith’s dreadful Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 23.
Regardless, the Bears are all but mathematically assured of missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season and seventh time in the last eight years. Emery fired Smith after a 10-6 season, and now it appears Trestman would be fortunate to equal last year’s 8-8 mark. So seven weeks from now, all eyes will be on chairman George McCaskey to see how he holds upper management members accountable.
2. The Bears had a grand opportunity to demonstrate their heart, their mettle and their fight. They showed none.
This is the most “disturbing” — to use Trestman’s word — element of Sunday’s loss. The Bears had two weeks to prepare for a game against their rival with the season at stake. The result? They weren’t even remotely competitive.
In other words, there’s no shame in losing to the Packers at Lambeau. They’re a good team with a sensational quarterback. It was easy to see the Bears headed to 3-6 after losing to the Miami Dolphins just by seeing road games against the Patriots and Packers next on the schedule.
It’s how they’ve arrived at 3-6. Performances in the last two losses were totally disjointed and listless.
After a week of self-scouting, the Bears made their first bad decision on the opening kickoff. Chris Williams should not have brought the ball out of the end zone from eight yards deep, Trestman said. That was compounded by rookie Christian Jones’ blocking penalty that forced the Bears to begin the game at their 6-yard line. A bad decision and penalty on the opening kickoff — indications of a team not ready to play, and it never improved.
3. Acceptance has set in among some players.
This can be a good thing, as long as it’s not total resignation. Sometimes bad teams remain in denial, relying on misperceived talent to lift them from the doldrums. Obviously, whatever talent the roster possesses isn’t showing.
“You look at this game, and the reality of it is this is the team we have, and we have to accept it,” receiver Brandon Marshall said. “We’re just not very good right now. It’s a shame to have to say that, but sitting at 3-6, it’s tough. It’s very, very, very disappointing.”
“It’s just the reality of it. It’s how life is. You’ve just got to play the cards you're dealt, and right now we’re at 3-6. And when you look at the record, 3-6, that says not very good. So I don’t think it’s hard to understand that or realize that. So, seven games left, you’ve just got to dig deep and just continue to work hard.”
Said Jared Allen: “You get to paid to be here. It’s our job. You either show up or don’t, that’s the bottom line. We don’t need rah-rah speeches. We don’t need none of that stuff. This isn’t Pop Warner. Nothing anybody says is going to change the way anybody plays. This is your job. Take some pride in it. Show up, go to work, and let’s get better.”
4. On-field communication problems persist.
It’s difficult to pin this just on ineffective coaching or inattentive players. It’s probably a combination of the two. Regardless, it’s the hallmark of a bad team.
The Bears’ 2013 season ended after safety Chris Conte didn’t get the pre-snap defensive check and played a different coverage than his teammates on the decisive touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb in the Week 17 de facto NFC North division championship game.
A similar breakdown Sunday night resulted in cornerback Tim Jennings playing Cover-2, while the rest of the secondary appeared to play Cover-3 on Rodgers’ 73-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson. The blown coverage left Nelson wide open on third-and-11.
“I think that with any team, throughout the league, there's going to be coverage breakdowns,” Trestman said. “I remember two … that have been significant and memorable. That's disappointing, but there are a lot that are properly called, and most of them are, and we're in the right coverage in most cases if not all. On those particular instances we weren't.”
On the offensive side, quarterback Jay Cutler attempted a deep throw on Josh Morgan on the first play of the second series after Alshon Jeffery didn’t go in motion, as the play called for.
“That was disappointing because we had to get Alshon in motion,” Trestman said Monday. “He was part of the read, and he didn’t get down in motion. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the guys about what happened there. But Alshon should have been a low player. Brandon was over the top. And Josh was the clearing player. And it was more or less a throwaway as much as anything because we didn’t have the stretch without Alshon in the game.”
That's how teams lose, and as Trestman said, it's particularly disappointing because they occurred after two weeks of preparation.
5. The Bears want rookie safety Brock Vereen to play more on defense during the second half of the season.
This is an interesting decision by Bears management because Chris Conte’s contract is set to expire after the season.
Vereen replaced strong safety Ryan Mundy in the game on the aforementioned third-and-11 touchdown to Nelson.
Mundy, asked why he wasn’t in the game on that play, said: “We’re starting to infuse Brock into the game a little more, get his feet wet.”
Vereen, a fourth-round pick, has a clear goal for himself on defense over the last seven games.
“When I am out there, give for us the best effort possible and continue to learn,” he said.