Is the effort lacking amongst Bears?

The Bears are tied for the NFC North lead with the Packers and the Vikings (Chicago's next opponent), but the defense has been an inconsistent letdown with injuries and unproductive play creeping into the equation.

The Bears could be 6-0 but are instead 3-3, and it's not because of bad breaks, injuries or squib kicks gone awry.

They are a .500 team and deserve no better because they have earned their mediocrity through inconsistent effort, commitment and production.

Maybe the Bears would be 6-0 if everyone, especially on defense, showed up every week and contributed 100 percent effort. Maybe then the Bears wouldn't be 27th in passing yards allowed and sacks, despite the fact that they consider their well-compensated defensive line to be a team strength.

The loss Sunday was another example of an unacceptable performance against an inferior team. And make no mistake about it, the Falcons are not a quality football team, regardless of their 4-2 record, which has been achieved at the expense of bottom-feeders like the Lions and Chiefs and underachievers like the Bears.

For the second time this season, the Bears failed to get a single sack.

"We're not going to get a sack every game, I guess," defensive end Alex Brown said. "We want to, but we're not going to, and that's room for improvement."

Brown leads the team with three sacks. No one else has more than two. Adewale Ogunleye, supposedly the team's best pass rusher, has 1 1/2, which puts him on pace for a season total of four.

And, while Brown has supplied pass-rush pressure, he has just 14 tackles this season, far behind last year's pace, when he had 58. In the four previous years, Brown finished with at least 71 tackles every season.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who had seven sacks in the first eight games last season, has none so far. In fact, he had more sacks at this point last year (4) than he has tackles this year (3). Harris has already sat out one game with a mysterious knee injury, was suspended for another game because of chronic tardiness and then returned last week to get his usual one tackle. Harris, and his mental and physical maladies, real or imagined, may be the poster child for this year's erratic, unproductive performances.

The secondary has been without cornerback Nate Vasher for the past two weeks, even though he practiced all week leading up to the Falcons game. Maybe if Vasher and his five-year, $28 million contract were on the field in the final 11 seconds Sunday, the Falcons wouldn't have completed a desperation 26-yard pass to set up the winning field goal. But maybe they would have anyway, since Vasher has just one interception and one pass breakup this season. By comparison, consider that Charles Tillman, the other corner, has two picks, eight pass breakups and two forced fumbles, and he played with a painful shoulder injury last week.

Or maybe if Harris had gotten to rookie quarterback Matt Ryan just before he launched the miracle throw, instead of just after, the Bears would at least be 4-2 and all alone in first place in the pedestrian NFC North, rather than tied with the Vikings and Packers.

Sunday's showdown against the Vikings at Soldier Field could go a long way toward determining the division champion.

Hopefully that's enough for all the Bears to show up and give an honest effort for 60 minutes.

NOTES

  • QB Kyle Orton has not been intercepted and has been sacked a total of just twice in the past two games. He has not thrown an interception in four of six games.

  • RB Matt Forte rushed for 76 yards on 20 carries, his most productive rushing game in three weeks, and he caught five passes for 34 yards. He has at least three receptions in every game and at least four catches in four games.

  • TE Greg Olsen caught three passes for 41 yards and has had at least three catches in three straight games.

  • WR Rashied Davis caught four passes for 41 yards, including what should have been the game-winning 17-yard TD with 11 seconds left, but the Bears were unable to hold the lead.

  • WR Devin Hester had six catches for 87 yards, giving him 11 for 153 over the past two weeks. He had five catches for 40 yards in the first four weeks.

  • CB Corey Graham, starting in place of injured Nate Vasher (hand), led the Bears in tackles for the second straight week with 12.

  • SS Kevin Payne had 10 tackles in Week 6 and leads the Bears with 45 tackles on the season, one more than Lance Briggs and three more than Brian Urlacher.

  • DT Tommie Harris, a Pro Bowler in each of the past three seasons, had one tackle vs. the Falcons and has just three tackles all season.

  • TE Desmond Clark had season highs of five catches and 50 yards in Week 6.

  • PK Robbie Gould has connected on 11 of 12 field goals this season, with his only miss coming from 49 yards. He has yet to hit from 50 yards or further in his three-year career.


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