The Bears' offense fell apart Sunday night against the Giants at the Meadowlands, and now it must be put back together in time for Sunday's game against the Panthers in Charlotte.
That might appear to be too ambitious of a project for six days. But on Monday, after watching the horror flick that was the game film, coach Lovie Smith warned against overreacting to one bad outing, even if it was world-class bad.
"We've played four games, and we've lost one," Smith said. "Let's not panic around here. Let's look at reality. We're 3-1, and our offense has done a lot of good things. [Sunday] night, we didn't get it done. It's no more than that."
But the numbers paint a horrific picture, and it goes way beyond the NFL-record nine sacks the Bears allowed in the first half. The offense had just 110 total yards, the third straight week in which their production diminished. Unable to protect the quarterback or make inroads in the run games, the Bears had just six first downs.
They were 0 for 13 on third down and gained just 22 yards on 29 plays in the first half and a total of 39 yards on their first 36 snaps plays. The Bears didn't run a play in Giants territory until midway through the third quarter.
"The NFL is a humbling business," said center Olin Kreutz. "It always has been. Those guys are great players across the way. Sometimes you get your [butt] kicked, and we did."
Kreutz suggested the Bears adopt the mindset that seemed to work for the Giants a week after they were roughed up by the Titans in a 29-10 defeat.
"Teams get desperate," Kreutz said. "Tennessee got real physical with the Giants, so we knew coming in that they [would] get real physical with us, and we didn't answer the bell. They played desperate. It meant more to them, it seemed like, than it meant to us. Next time we have to step up to that challenge."
The Bears also have to get healthier.
It's too early to tell if Jay Cutler will be able to bounce back from the concussion that knocked him out of the Giants game at halftime. There's a good chance he'll miss at least one game, meaning a decision will have to be made to go with Todd Collins or Caleb Hanie.
Given the state of the offensive line and the way it was manhandled by the Giants, the younger, more athletic and more mobile Hanie might be the wiser choice, even though he's currently the No. 3. Collins said the neck stinger he suffered against the Giants shouldn't keep him out of the Panthers game. Presenting the threat of a run game would make everyone's job easier. It's easy to criticize the Bears' average gain of 3.3 yards on running plays. But they've made no commitment to the ground game, calling just 53 run plays in three games.
For the first three weeks of the season, it seemed they didn't need a running game, but Sunday night's debacle has changed that way of thinking.
"We do need to get the running game going," Smith said, "but we need to get them both going. You've got to be able to do both in the league to win."
That might be difficult until the offensive line gets healthier.
Left tackle Chris Williams hasn't played since suffering a hamstring injury on the opening possession of Game 2, right guard Lance Louis did not play in the second half vs. the Giants because of a knee injury and left guard Roberto Garza is playing on a bad knee.
The Bears had masked the loss of Williams the past two weeks with solid play from Frank Omiyale, who moved from right tackle to left tackle, and Kevin Shaffer, who stepped in for Omiyale. But both players were exposed Sunday night.
"Going into the season, we had him penciled in as our starting left tackle," Smith said. "So it's got to be a positive once we get him back. He's making progress. Hamstrings take time. We will welcome him back with open arms."
But Williams isn't expected back for the Panthers. Louis appears doubtful since he was unable to return Sunday, and Garza's health couldn't have improved under the Giants' onslaught.
It may take more than one week to put the Bears' offense back together again.
NOTES AND QUOTES
"He's feeling OK, as he also was [Sunday] night after the game," said Smith, who was vague about the procedure used to determine if the quarterback was concussed and what tests he would have to pass before he was cleared for a return to the field.
"We have a process we go through if a player gets injured during the course of the game," Smith said. "Jay went through that process. We determined at halftime that he wasn't ready to go back in, and we kept him out. We'll monitor, and we'll continue to evaluate, still, with it."
Since Cutler spent most of the first half getting whacked around like a piñata, it was hard to pinpoint when he suffered the concussion.
"I don't know exactly when," Smith said. "We saw symptoms the last sack before the half, and we went in at halftime and of course made that decision."
Cutler did not speak with the media Monday, but he was at Halas Hall.
"It seems like he's in pretty good shape right now," Smith said. "There are no visual signs or anything that I can tell. I leave it to our [medical] people, but he seems like he's OK." ...
Smith took offense when it was suggested that Cutler could have prevented some of the nine first-half sacks by demonstrating better pocket presence and throwing the ball away before being engulfed.
"He could have. We could have blocked better, we could have tackled better, a lot of things," Smith said. "We could have done a better job of coaching. There's a lot of things we could have done better [Sunday] night. Jay is a part of that. And we all will do a better job, similar to the way we did in those three wins we had. [Sunday] night, it didn't work." ...
Bowman forced a fumble that he also recovered, but Smith wasn't handing out any awards Monday.
"None of us responded the way [I wanted], so you can start with that blanket statement," Smith said. "I thought [Bowman] was trying to play hard, trying to make plays like all the guys were, but we're not giving out any game balls. [It was] good to get [Harris] back in the mix. He practiced hard last week and was willing [Sunday] night but didn't make a whole lot of plays." ...
Defensive end Julius Peppers, who has two of the Bears' four sacks said, despite Sunday night's loss, the team is in good shape as it prepares to play his former team, the Panthers, on Sunday.
"That's a good start," Peppers said. "That's the goal in the first quarter [of the season] is to get three wins. We did that. You want to try to win all of them, but that's a little bit unrealistic. We're not satisfied with it, but I think we're happy with where we're at."
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