It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
On paper, it was a contest the Bears should have won going away, with most assuming they’d be able to build on a convincing Week 6 road victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Instead, the club laid a collective egg on Soldier Field and are now two games back of the Green Bay Packers – three games if you count the tie breaker – in the race for the NFC North crown.
“I feel like this year, we have the right guys in place to have an offensive and defensive team. Right now we can’t seem to click on the same day,” Kyle Long said after the game. “It’s really disappointing.”
Offensively, Chicago managed just 224 total yards – 172 through the air and 52 on the ground – while turning the ball over three times. Jay Cutler had one interception and one fumble, giving him at least two turnovers in each of the club’s four losses this season.
Not coincidentally, he has zero turnovers in the team’s three victories.
“It’s on us. We’re just not being consistent,” said Matt Forte. “There’s no one person that you can point. Our offense has 11 people that have to work on the same page at the same time for it to be consistent. When we do have consistent play, you can see it, it works. When we’re not, we’re getting penalties, we’re backing ourselves up, we’re going 3-and-out, we’re turning the ball over. To be a good offense you can’t do that. We are a much better offense than what we’re showing and it’s a shame. That’s why everybody is so frustrated about it because we’re much better than what we’re doing right now.”
That frustration carried over into the locker room, where a shouting match ensued immediately following the game.
“You should hear frustration. We’re 3-4,” said Brandon Marshall, who was at the center of the yelling. “You have to be able to play with an edge on your shoulder and it has to mean something to you. The Chicago Bears should not be 3-4 right now. Absolutely unacceptable and it starts on the offensive side of the ball.”
After a 2013 season in which the Bears finished eighth overall in offense and fifth in passing, most assumed, with the return of all 11 starters, the unit would take another step forward this season. Yet that has been anything but the case, with the offense about as reliable as a broken down 1995 Chrysler LeBaron.
“We’re in a tough spot right now,” Long said. “We can’t seem to get the formula right at home, a spot where you should be more comfortable.”
The Bears’ defense also played a role in the loss, allowing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to complete his first 13 passes, while giving up 137 yards on the ground.
“They executed and we didn’t,” Tim Jennings said. “We’ve got to find a way to execute better. That’s one of our flaws, as a team right now we have no identity. We’re good on a couple of plays and then we’re bad on some of them. We can’t be one of those teams that are up and down.”
Yet that’s exactly what the Bears are, an exceedingly frustrating up-and-down team, one that looked like the best team in the league last week in beating the Falcons and then looked the NFC version of the Jacksonville Jaguars a week later.
“I’ve just got to lead this group and try to find a way to make sure we play clean football for four quarters,” said Cutler. “After a good win in Atlanta, we wanted to come back home and get a big win here, get some momentum going into New England. Guys are really down on this one, myself included.”
This was a game in which the good Bears needed to show up. At 3-4, Chicago now has back-to-back road games against the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, two teams that are playing at a very high level.
If the Bears lose both of those contests, they drop to 3-6 and the season is, for all intents and purposes, done. Over the next three weeks – Chicago has a Week 9 bye – we’re about to find out a lot about this ball club. If they can rally and find a way to go 1-1 or 2-0 before Week 11, they will still have a shot at the playoffs. Yet if this loss snowballs and the Bears collapse against the Pats and Packers, a once-promising campaign will be flushed down the toilet.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.