Biggs: Bears' problems go way beyond Harris
CHICAGO—Focusing too much on the ejection of former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris after the fourth play of Sunday’s game would only obscure one from seeing the bigger picture.
The Chicago Bears’ defense is broken.
The unpredictable Harris added another bizarre chapter to his rapidly ending career in Chicago when he threw a punch into the facemask of Arizona Cardinals right guard Deuce Lutui with referee Ed Hochuli just feet away from the action. His ejection came two weeks after he was benched for a 45-10 loss at Cincinnati so now in a span of 20 regular-season games Harris has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, benched for performance and booted from a ballgame because he couldn’t control himself. Oh yeah, general manager Jerry Angelo signed off back in March on paying Harris a $6.67 million roster bonus this season.
Now, it’s hard to tell if one of the few first-round hits for Angelo is crashing or burning, but he’s certainly programmed his GPS out of town at this point. It’s evident because after Angelo invests big in a player he likes to say “to whom much is given, much is expected,’’ and the Bears are simply not getting a return on their money.
Again, too much concentration on Harris though takes the focus off the fact that the Bears have suffered from a collapse of the system. Harris’ presence would not have prevented the 41-21 demolition that happened at Soldier Field. Not when the Bears managed to make an offense that entered historically bad running the football look like a power rushing attack. The Cardinals came into the game averaging 64.9 yards rushing, the lowest figure since the merger in 1970 according to the fine folks at Football Outsiders. Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells both surpassed that figure as the Cardinals chewed up 182 yards on 31 rushes, finding big chunks time and time again. Meanwhile, Kurt Warner became the second quarterback in three weeks to pass for five touchdowns vs. the Bears, who prior to being burned by Carson Palmer for five touchdown passes on Oct. 25 hadn’t suffered that indignity since 1995 vs. Brett Favre.
Arizona scored on its first six possessions in mounting a 34-7 lead, and the Bengals scored on their first seven possessions two weeks ago. The Bears are now 4-4 after losing three of their last four games, and they’re now an even 20-20 since losing Super Bowl XLI. It was after that game that coach Lovie Smith cleaned house on his coaching staff, running off defensive coordinator Ron Rivera while using the words “trust me.’’ The Bears haven’t returned to the postseason since and of the 20 Super Bowl losers prior to them only the 2002 Oakland Raiders and 1998 Atlanta Falcons suffered such a fall. No one wants to keep company with Al Davis these days.
“Don’t have a lot of reasons to give you why we played that way,’’ Smith said. “I know we’re a better football team than that. But of course our play didn’t say that.”
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