It was one of the quietest post-game locker rooms of the season so far. Most players dressed quickly and left early, hoping to avoid the media herd with the usual array of endless questions.
One of the few still standing by his locker was veteran wide receiver Marty Booker, who spoke softly and slowly.
"It was all missed opportunities today," Booker said, shaking his head. "That, to me, is one of the biggest disappointments you can have in football."
In a game when the Bears defense succeeded in shutting down one of the best running games in the league, holding the Titans to only 20 yards on the ground, the Titans defense was similarly successful in shutting down the Bears through the air.
Rex Grossman, filling in at quarterback for injured starter Kyle Orton, came away with 20 completions on 37 attempts for 173 yards and an interception, with most of the yardage coming in the second half of the game. At the same time, Titans QB Kerry Collins looked like an All-Pro with 30 completions on 41 attempts for 289 yards and two touchdowns – and a 21-14 win.
The players who spoke after the game refused to offer an opinion as far as whether or not a rusty Grossman made the difference in the Bears' lack of offensive success.
"I would never call out one of my teammates" said Rashied Davis, who himself had several drops at crucial times in the game. "Anything that went wrong with passes thrown to myself, I take full responsibility for. I could have been faster. I could have looked around more. I could have made more moves to avoid the defenders. It just didn't happen today."
In his uncomfortable press conference after the game, Grossman mentioned the frustration of "constantly stopping and starting the drives [and] not really being able to sustain things when we needed to."
"I'd certainly agree with that," Booker said. "We knew what we could do and what we should do, but it just wasn't succeeding. I think when you get the ball moving down the field, get those first downs one after another, it gives you positive momentum. When you have a lot of three-and-outs, as we did [Sunday] afternoon, things tend to stall. You are always playing from the wrong end of the field, trying to get the ball away from your own end zone instead of concentrating on moving the ball toward your opponent's goal line."
Davis cited the difference psychologically when field position is advantageous.
"When you get the ball on the 40 or maybe the 50, it's as if you are going downhill toward the end zone. Things speed up and tend to fall in your favor. When you are struggling against bad field position, it's a fight all the way. You get desperate and tend to do things you wouldn't do if you were feeling more relaxed about things."
Although Week 10's contest was a non-division game against an unbeaten team that few experts thought the Bears could best, nobody in the locker room had any doubt that they could have won.
"We don't come into our home stadium, look at the opponent and think ‘Hey, they're having a good season, we might as well give up right now,'" Davis said. "Remember that saying ‘any given Sunday'? Well, that's how we felt coming in here today. It was our game to lose. Unfortunately, we just didn't put things together in time."
While watching game film might be painful for the Bears at Halas Hall on Monday, there are lessons to be learned.
"Never squander opportunities," Booker said. "Get first downs one after another. Build positive momentum. We had sporadic success, particularly at the beginning of the game when we had that early score, then later in the fourth quarter when Grossman's run brought us within a touchdown of a tie. But that wasn't enough."
What then could the team have done differently?
"What I think we'll all see is the importance of consistency on the offense, no matter who your quarterback might be," Booker said. "Link your successes on the field. Keep the ball moving. It is up to all of us to step up and help out. Rex worked hard out there today, and I know he's feeling the pain as well. We just need to go back to work, readjust and get ready for the next game."
A week of practice may not be long enough to perfect the offensive timing, especially if Orton remains on the sideline with his injured right ankle.
"We'll be ready," Davis said. "The next game is against Green Bay. Believe me when I tell you that we'll be ready."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for eight 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.
Offense Can't Find Any Rhythm
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