A loss to the just-good-enough Minnesota Vikings was the last thing that the Bears needed at this point in the season. Rather than using the opportunity to build on the positive momentum generated by the Lambeau Field win against the Packers last weekend, the Bears once more find themselves fighting for respect within their division.
In his postgame press conference, head coach Lovie Smith seemed to lay much of the blame on his struggling defense, citing an abundance of missed tackles, a failure to get off of blocks or stay in gap coverage, and repeated lapses in overall execution.
"We had zero takeaways and failed to stop the run. That's not Bears football," Smith said in the Soldier Field interview room after the game. "We don't do well playing defense this way."
And while giving credit to the skills of Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson, Smith stated that he was disappointed by the loss to an NFC rival at home, a game it was clear that Smith felt the Bears should have and could have won.
Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris agreed.
"It was a team effort going down like that," Harris said after the game. "And I think that every member of this defense, every member of this team is responsible. We stepped up against Green Bay and came out on top. Here we definitely didn't get our jobs done. What should have started a positive turn to our season instead turned things around in a direction that none of us like."
Harris was generous with his praise of Peterson, believing that much of Peterson's success is due to the fact that the University of Oklahoma had a similar scheme in place when Peterson played college ball there just a year ago.
"I am very familiar with the system in Oklahoma," Harris, also a former Sooner, said, "and I can see how similar it is to what we use here with the Bears. Chicago's particular style of defense would have been something that Adrian had seen on a daily basis during his college career. He practiced [against] that every day, and I'm sure he remembers how the setup works. So it wasn't as if we were showing anything unexpected today."
RB Adrian Peterson
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
But all that aside, Harris felt that Petersen could have been stopped.
"We didn't step up, I can say that right now," Harris said. "In Green Bay, we moved up a level when that was necessary. In this game, that didn't happen. We let the Vikings go through us and over us. That's something that none of us are at all proud of and something that you can be sure we will address at the team meeting tomorrow morning."
"You can see that the Vikings had good players out there, but that will never be a good enough excuse," he said. "We should be able to beat just about anybody. The game was definitely ours to win. The fact that we did come back there near the end was some sign or hope. But then when it was all taken away, that's hard to handle."
Tillman had no definitive explanation for the defensive collapse and felt that while the team should take some of the lessons learned to heart, it was best to move on from the loss and prepare for next week's game against the Eagles.
"I can mention this thing or that thing I did or I didn't do that didn't help our cause, but that isn't very helpful right now," Tillman said. "This season moves quickly. You can let yourself get all involved in either a win or a loss, but that's counterproductive. We'll be doing everything possible this week to turn things around, I can assure you of that. But beating ourselves up over what happened is not productive. This doesn't mean we don't take what happened today as a serious sign of what and where we need to improve, just that it isn't a good idea to dwell on it."
Harris already had some suggestions for rectifying matters.
"Go back to basics, pure and simple," Harris said. "That means getting together and breaking down every single thing we do until we are all in sync and working together. Spend all week on simple things if that's necessary. Pretend we're back in camp. I don't care who is out injured and who is playing. We have the talent here to succeed if we all play with our full abilities."
The Chicago offense has been ruthlessly ridiculed so far this season, but Sunday's loss can be directly attributed to a disappointing defense – and those very same defenders were the first ones to admit it.
"We need to communicate more effectively on the line," Harris continued. "We need to work faster and more effectively. This is a team that should look out for each other. As a defense, it is our job to take some of the pressure off of our offense. We let them down today. That will not happen again."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for seven 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.