All Alex Brown could do after Sunday's unexpected 16-7 home loss to the Lions was stand next to his locker and shake his head. Usually one of the more outspoken members of the Bears defense, even Brown seemed at a loss for words. Finally, as he packed his gear, Brown had something to say.
"Give the fans who were here today their money back," he said. "This wasn't a Bears game that they saw today. It surely wasn't what they paid to see, and I'm embarrassed about that."
Brown probably wasn't alone in his embarrassment as the Lions netted 365 total yards against a defense that only last year was ranked near the top of the league.
"I don't get it," Danieal Manning said later. "It's not as if we aren't trying out there. We're giving it everything we have. An effort like that usually produces positive results for us, but recently nothing has been going our way."
Using a defensive strategy that hinges on turnovers and takeaways has always been quite effective for this team, that is until recently. While the Bears offense seemed eager to hand the ball over to Detroit, the defense had considerable trouble returning the favor.
"That has been the key ingredient in our success," Charles Tillman said. "We get in there and grab the ball any way we can. Today, I think there was one turnover that I was involved in. But it didn't really make much of a difference overall, so I take no satisfaction in that."
Another factor puzzling the players is the sudden lack of home field advantage.
"I don't understand the dynamics going on there," Brown said. "Maybe it's that our opponents are able to come in and do something immediately that takes our fans out of the game. Historically, the Bears were feared on their own field. Now, not only have the Lions beaten us at their house, but they've done the same thing at our house as well. That hurts more than I can say."
CB Charles Tillman
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Manning is looking forward to the upcoming bye week as a time to regroup and rethink the entire situation.
"I can't speak for the other players," Manning said, "but I'm pretty sure they all feel right now exactly as I do. We have to dig deep right now and make things good again. How do we do this? The same thing we've said in the past few weeks: Go back to basics and start all over again. We can take nothing for granted in any aspect of our play."
While captain Brian Urlacher refused to comment, suggesting that the media go to his website for his views instead, Tillman was considerably more forthcoming, He now sees the bye week as a time to rest physically and reorganize mentally in order to succeed the remainder of the season.
"A little time off now is exactly the right thing for us," he said. "It isn't too late to turn things around. I'd hoped to spend this time thinking back on all the good games we'd had, but that clearly isn't going to happen. It isn't that we are suddenly a bad team, but for some reason we aren't getting things done right here at home. It was really hard mentally to have those big road wins in Green Bay and Philadelphia then follow them with losses here against the Vikings and Detroit."
And what about the man overseeing the defense? Any ideas for turning things around? Defensive coordinator Bob Babich wanted to wait and review game film before offering his thoughts.
"I don't want to make any remarks right now," Babich said when asked about some of the defense's near misses. "I didn't see what evidently you media guys saw today when you ask me about blown tackles and other defensive mistakes. I didn't feel that the guys played poorly at all. But, of course, I can see more of the details when I get back and watch the game review play by play."
With a season record of 3-5, it would seem that more than a review of game film is necessary to fix the problems that are running rampant rampant at home right now. However, Brown remained optimistic.
"I can only see this season turning in a positive direction for us, and sooner rather than later," Brown said. "This is a good team of hardworking players. I can't allow myself to think otherwise."
And if Brown's prediction doesn't turn out to be true, there may be some fans more than ready to take him up on his ticket-refund offer. Or at least set to join the 2,830 no-shows who failed to appear at Soldier Field on Sunday.
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.
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- Getting to know LB Jamar Williams
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