"We got our butts kicked" was the phrase that greeted reporters as they approached Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs in the locker room after the Bears' 36-7 drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon.
And while Briggs certainly would have preferred a resounding win over Tom Brady and Co., he seemed able to take the loss in stride and offer a positive take on things.
"Are we happy we lost? Of course not," Briggs said. "But maybe this kind of a game was exactly what we needed as we are getting ready to finish out our regular-season schedule. It definitely was a wake-up call. I think most of us are going to have to face some hard facts when we watch the film [Monday]."
It was a game played in true Bears weather, with a 35-50 mph wind howling off the lake and snow swirling all over Soldier Field. The stadium was pretty much full, which was somewhat surprising given the 9-degree wind chill at kickoff. As the game progressed, however, the hardy few that remained in their seats to the bitter end were sporting Patriots colors rather than Chicago orange and blue.
"I would have left, too," said Rod Wilson, who has primarily been a special-teams contributor during his two tours of duty in the Windy City. "It was cold, and we weren't playing well at all. I was amazed so many of our fans stayed as long as they did."
Wilson, who has been seeing an increasing number of snaps at strong-side linebacker the last two weeks with starter Pisa Tinoisamoa injured, agreed with Briggs.
‘I'm not sure that I want to see this game film," Wilson said. "It was one of those games where nobody was in sync. Everything and everybody seemed a little off. But perhaps that will just give us a blueprint as far as where we can go from here. Our direction has to be up because none of us want to have a day like this one twice in a season."
Both Briggs and Wilson credited Brady and his offensive line for much of the Patriots' success. The MVP candidate was nearly flawless when looking at the final numbers: 27-of-40, 369 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 113.4 passer rating.
"At times, it seemed as if Tom could have eaten a sandwich back there while he was waiting to throw," Wilson said. "But he's just that good. His line held up well, and his receivers were right on. I don't say that as an excuse. It's just a fact. When we are faced with an opponent like that, we have to bring our A game. Clearly, that didn't happen today."
Brady led the Patriots to 27 first downs and 475 total yards. Jay Cutler's passer rating was a brutal 32.9 for the Bears, a season low. New England had the ball for 39:41, as compared to the Bears' time of possession of 20:19.
"That's the last thing you want to happen," Briggs said. "If our offense doesn't have the opportunity to be out there on the field, we just aren't going to get points on the board. It's a simple formula, but today it was difficult for us."
Brady seemed oblivious to the weather, picking the Bears apart with mostly short- and intermediate-range passes to his receivers and tight ends. But Wilson said he understood how that could happen.
"Any time you have a quarterback of Brady's quality facing you, it's necessary to raise the level of your play," he said. "Sure, it was windy and snowing, but that didn't stop the New England passing attack. In fact, I was somewhat surprised by how quickly their players were able to work through things today. There's a lesson there for us, definitely."
Wilson added that his increased time on defense has given him a brand new perspective on his game.
"I still spend most of my time on special teams," he admitted. "That's what I was drafted to do in 2005, when I first joined the Bears, and that's what I did when I was with Tampa. But filling in now at linebacker has been great for increasing my skills. I react a little differently. It's important to spot the progression of play quickly."
With Tinoisamoa and immediate backups Nick Roach (back) both battling injuries, it's fortunate for the Bears that Wilson is ready and willing to play wherever he's placed.
"Really, I don't care where the coaches want to put me as long as I'm in the game," he said. "I'm always ready to go at strong side, middle, wherever. It's not an adjustment of technique if my position changes."
The Bears have three difficult games looming on their schedule, with a Monday night game in Minnesota in Week 15, a home game against the Jets in Week 16 and then an away game against Green Bay in the Week-17 finale. Briggs felt that the timing of the loss to New England couldn't have been better.
"Maybe we were getting a little too full of ourselves," Briggs said. "You win four, five games in a row, and you believe you are invincible. We have some tough division contests coming up, and we need to be ready mentally and physically. Green Bay lost [Sunday]. We are still in this hunt. Any time you go down by a score of 36-7, it's going to hurt. But, at the same time, it's almost easier to put a blowout loss behind you and move on.
"We know now that there's work to be done starting first thing [Monday]. I think you'll see a different look from the Bears by this time next week."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.
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