Biggs: Bears searching for answers after wreck in Cincy
CINCINNATI—Following the most embarrassing loss of the Lovie Smith era, the Chicago Bears could not catch a better break from the NFL schedule makers.
Well, not unless their December meeting with the St. Louis Rams was moved up to this week. Instead, on the heels of a 45-10 thrashing at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bears will host Ohio’s other team this week at Soldier Field. The Bears aren’t going to beat anyone playing like they did against Cincinnati—the Bengals scored on their first seven possessions—but it’s a chance for a 3-3 team stumbling after consecutive road losses to get well.
The Bears have got issues, though. They’ve failed to run the ball in consecutive weeks, all of a sudden the defensive line that was generating a quality pass rush isn’t sniffing the quarterback, and Jay Cutler suddenly looks like he has his Rex Grossman costume in time for Halloween. Moreover, the Bears appear to be at a bizarre crossroads with defensive tackle Tommie Harris, a three-time Pro Bowl performer who was held out of Sunday’s loss. Why? Well, that depends on who you talk to about Harris. General manager Jerry Angelo declared Harris healthy during a radio appearance last week. Coach Lovie Smith said Harris missed all three practices last week because of pain in his chronically bothersome left knee. Harris told the National Football Post after the game Sunday night that wasn’t the case.
“It wasn’t true,’’ Harris said when asked why his knee kept him out of the game. “You talk to them. If you came here earlier, you saw, I worked out before the game.’’
Harris was spotted on the field working out in shorts and a T-shirt but it didn’t appear to be anything overly rigorous. He was suspended for one game last season for conduct detrimental to the team, but he was not serving a suspension this week.
“I don’t know (if I will play vs. Cleveland on Sunday),’’ Harris said. “I don’t talk if I don’t play. I didn’t play today. Talk to them.’’
The Bears are searching for a new identity on offense with Cutler but have been unable to run the ball in short-yardage situations. He’s played well at times but struggled in the red zone in a loss at Atlanta and was picked off three times by the Bengals, throwing up his arms after one pick and then tossing his helmet on the sideline.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner, using a revamped line with three new starters, has come under scrutiny. Wide receiver Devin Hester set career highs with eight receptions for 101 yards vs. the Bengals, but that can happen when a defense is playing with a growing lead and is willing to give up everything underneath. Rookie wide receiver Johnny Knox has been a pleasant surprise, but tight end Greg Olsen has yet to break out like everyone predicted.
Running back Cedric Benson, run out of Chicago after two booze-related arrests in 2007, rolled to a career-high 189 yards on 37 carries. Afterward, the Bears said he was the same good player they remembered. Yeah, right. If the Bears believed for a second Benson was a dominant back, they never would have thrown him on top of the NFL's discard pile before he was cleared of all charges in Texas.
Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who spent the week leading up to the game mocking the Bears in his vast social media kingdom, dominated cornerback Charles Tillman, who had been so good the last game and a half trailing Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Atlanta’s Roddy White wherever they went. Ochocinco caught 10 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He promised a samba dance as a tribute to his soccer buddy Ronaldinho after a touchdown but barely delivered, perhaps feeling sorry for the Bears’ defense that surrendered 448 yards.
“We deserved anything,’’ linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said of the talk the players got at halftime from Smith. “He could have started kicking people in the locker room, we deserved it.’’
The Bears had some growing pains when Smith took over, losing some lopsided games with an incompetent offense and a carousel of quarterbacks not fit for the NFL. But they never lost like this, and this team fashioned plans for a deep playoff run. Now, the Bears are best not worrying about chasing the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North or wasting time thinking about the postseason.
“We suck, we sucked,’’ linebacker Lance Briggs said. “They completely dominated us.’’
That was one of the defensive leaders doing his best to channel Mike Brown. The former captain, in a candid assessment of the Bears following a 1-3 start in 2005, announced in the locker room that the Bears sucked. From there, they went on an eight-game winning streak no one could have predicted. No one is forecasting this will be a launching point to success, but it can’t get worse than this 35-point debacle.