Big letdown in the Big D

IRVING, TEXAS _ By any form of measurement, the Bears are an incomplete team. <P> On Thanksgiving Day, they showed a national television audience what happens to a National Football League team with absolutely no passing attack in a 21-7 loss to the miserable Dallas Cowboys.

"We just haven't been strong in the completion area," said quarterback Jonathan Quinn, who played 2 1/2 quarters in relief after Craig Krenzel suffered a sprained right ankle.

"Haven't been strong... " was being nice.

It got to the point that coach Lovie Smith jokingly asked one inquiring mind in the post-game press conference whether he could pass the football.

It's up in the air now whether it will be Quinn or Krenzel -- or even Chad Hutchinson -- starting against Minnesota in a week and a half. The real question, with the Bears at 4-7 now, is does it really matter?

"The good thing about having a little bit of time is we have a little bit of time to analyze that situation at the quarterback position and see exactly who we want to go with," coach Lovie Smith said.

Neither Krenzel (5-of-10, 46 yards) nor Quinn (10-of-21, 86 yards, two interceptions) looked worthy against a Dallas defense that had been giving up touchdowns in bunches.

Their combined passer rating was 33.5 on 15-of-31 for 132 yards with two interceptions. They took six sacks. Krenzel lost away a fumbled snap and Quinn fumbled twice, but the Bears retained both of those.

"The quarterback position didn't play well, but the other positions didn't either," Smith said. "I don't think we protected him well enough."

The end result of no passing game was a running game that also went nowhere.

The Bears' offense had no drives longer than 29 yards. Their only scoring chance was Paul Edinger's missed 48-yard field goal in the third quarter with a chance to break a 7-7 tie. Other than that field goal try, they never got past the Dallas 45-yard line.

"When you don't have a balanced offense, it's either going to be hard for the receivers and quarterbacks or it's going to be hard for the running back," running back Thomas Jones said.

It was hard for the running back, as Jones was held to 46 yards on 14 carries and the Bears gained only 49 yards on 20 tries. They had a season-low 140 net yards of offense and have scored only one offensive touchdown in their last three games -- and that was a mop-up TD in the last two minutes of a 41-10 blowout loss to Indianapolis.

"The defensive side of the football, they kept us in it for a while," Smith said. "We didn't start off well (on defense). They fought back and got us in position."

Julius Jones had given Dallas a 7-0 lead on their first possession with a 33-yard touchdown run up the middle. But R.W. McQuarters in the second quarter anticipated a Drew Henson pass to Quincy Morgan and intercepted it in the open field, taking it back 46 yards for a touchdown -- the fifth Bears' defensive touchdown this season.

Then two things occurred which changed the tone of the contest.

McQuarters made another big play and wiped it out with a bad one, and Cowboys coach Bill Parcells decided he needed a different quarterback.

Parcells benched Henson at halftime of his first career start after he'd completed 4-of-12 for 31 yards. He turned to 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde, who started finding Keyshawn Johnson with regularity.

"I felt that Vinny gave us the best chance to win," Parcells said. "That's a tough situation. People (in Dallas) were clamoring for Drew. People were booing (Testaverde). I don't care.

"I've got other people's interests to think about. I've got to do what I feel is best for the team."

Johnson made five of his six catches in the second half. The balance started to free up more room for Julius Jones, who had 150 yards on 33 carries.

The combination of Testaverde to Johnson, and Jones' running put the Cowboys at the Bears' 5-yard line and an eight-play, 61-yard drive ended then with Testaverde's 5-yard TD pass to Darian Barnes with 11:15 left in the game.

"We gave them a chance to breathe," McQuarters said. "I thought we let them breathe too much. We gave them life, we gave them hope, we gave them confidence defensively."

Quinn then needed only one more play to tee up the Cowboys (4-7) for the clinching score. He threw for David Terrell and Terence Newman intercepted at the Dallas 47, returning to the Bears' 42.

Seven plays later, Jones burst up the middle for a 4-yard TD.

The Bears had one other golden opportunity that their offense didn't squander -- instead, their defense did.

McQuarters made his second interception of the game early in the third quarter on a pass by Testaverde at the Bears' 31. He returned it 40 yards and then fumbled it in the open field. Dallas recovered at its own 29.

"I don't know how the ball came out," McQuarters said. "I don't know if somebody hit me from behind. I don't know what happened."

The Bears' defense is in no position to squander scoring chances these days considering its offense's ineptness.

"That swing where they got the turnover back, that hurt us," Smith said. "Missing the field goal hurt us also.

"We had some chances in the second half even with the performance that we weren't satisfied with."

It was the type of performance -- especially on offense -- which stamps the label of pretender on a team.


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