ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—Details, details.
If it's the new code word for bad habits that characterize losing teams, then at least that explained why it came out of the mouth of every Bear who chose to open his after Sunday's 33-27 overtime loss to Buffalo.
When your defense allows 222 yards in total offense in the first half alone and your smash-mouth offense manages just 20 yards rushing in that same half, it would seem to be more than a case of details.
"We're starting to miss the little details and we've got to get back to that," said James Williams. "That's what got us to 13-3 last year, the details."
It's almost as bad as "We have to watch the film," as in: "Why did Anthony Thomas average just 2.1 yards per carry? Don't know, we have to watch the film."
"They all talk about it because we talk about it to them all the time," said Bears coach Dick Jauron. "You're always talking about details, and when you lose, clearly you're not as detailed as you need to be. It can be everything from technique, certainly assignments are part of it, finishing plays, study preparation, everything."
At least Dez White, who caught two passes and dropped one Sunday, seemed to understand the implications. "It's just little things, but it can get to be habitual and it can really hurt the team, so you've got to try to identify it and eliminate it as quickly as possible," he said.
If inattention to detail encompasses your subs simply being outplayed, then, yep, there were many details overlooked Sunday. If a detail includes your starting left tackle once again committing a crucial penalty, as Bernard Robertson did late in the third quarter with his false start on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 39 with the Bears trailing by three, then John Shoop did not treat it as such, yanking Robertson for rookie Marc Colombo the rest of the game.
"We'll just work harder than we have been," said Williams, acknowledging that that has not been a problem with this team. "We'll work harder because we have to."
If working harder can guarantee the return next week of Phillip Daniels and speed up the recovery of R.W. McQuarters, if it can somehow reverse the fate of Ted Washington and make Warrick Holdman's sprained knee a minor injury, then there would be reason for a little more optimism. That the Bears hung as close as they did is promising, though how they managed to do it is anyone's guess.
Shoop said the reason other teams have succeeded on the ground against the Bills this season where the Bears did not was because Thomas (48 yards on 23 carries) could not get past the Bills' stacked front. If he had been able to break a tackle or do something to get to the "second level" of defenders, an 8- or 9-yard run could become a 30- or 40-yarder.
But Shoop did admit, "There's nothing that builds morale more than running the football well because it takes everybody, all 11 players doing their job to do it efficiently.
"On one play, it may be one guy that makes a difference, and until we have that attention to detail and we finish every play and play every play like it's our last, 50 yards or so isn't good enough."
The Bears, looking ahead to two formidable opponents in Green Bay and Monday night, are suddenly one loss short of last year's total, which isn't altogether fair, considering 13-3 is a standard to which it's tough to hold any team.
And at least there's no visible fraying at the edges yet. If there is any self-flagellation to be done, then they seem to be doing it together. When Larry Whigham urged the team after the game to "Go home and look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Did you play your hardest?' no one seemed to argue.
"This is a jelled team," said Marcus Robinson, who led all receivers with just five catches for 30 yards.
If it wasn't for those pesky details ...