November 2, 2009
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Instead, like anyone else who plays the Cleveland Browns this year, the Bears have two byes. And AFC North teams have three byes.
The NFL is full of bad teams this year, and then there are the Browns. They are in a class by themselves. They were so bad Sunday that they frustrated running back Jamal Lewis into saying after the game he plans to retire.
They might be the worst team of all time. Several longtime NFL writers in the press box Sunday at Soldier Field agreed the Browns are worse than the 0-16 Detroit Lions were last year. They might have a win, but that's a mere technicality.
For this reason, it's difficult for the Bears to approach Sunday's 30-6 victory with the type of unbridled optimism a victory of this margin usually generates.
Then again, coach Lovie Smith found a way to have his glass half-full again, as always.
"A few weeks ago, we were down in the red zone three times and didn’t get any points. Today we were able to get some points when the defense got the takeaways, which was big," Smith said.
After hearing that, you get the idea if Smith had someone foreclose on his home, he'd point out that at least now he doesn't have to pay taxes on it.
The Bears might have had better productivity in the red zone this game on the scoreboard, but if you measure who it came against this was far worse than the debacle at Atlanta, when they failed to score a point three times inside the 20.
After all, this time they faced the last-ranked defense in the NFL, had the ball in the red zone three straight times in the first half, and came away with Robbie Gould field goals of 37, 29 and 32 yards before finally getting into the end zone just before halftime on Matt Forte's one-yard run.
The height of frustration occurred, however, with only 4:50 left in the game, and the verdict long since decided. They had 1st-and-Goal at the one-yard line and came away with nothing against a defense who should have been giving up the yardage and TD at that point just to go take a seat alongside their coach, the man-genius, Eric Mangini.
It shouldn't be surprising Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner was overly agitated and also overly defensive when questioned after the game about the red-zone failures and his offensive line's other problem—keeping quarterback Jay Cutler from losing blood.
"It's frustrating," Turner said about the red-zone failures. "But not a whole lot more than a lot of other things that went on.
"We’ve got to play better. We didn’t execute well enough."
Once the late John McKay, former Bucs coach, was asked by reporters what he thought about his 0-14 expansion team's execution.
"I'd be in favor of it," McKay deadpanned.
If Turner harbored such thoughts Sunday about his team, it had to start with the offensive line. They really were offensive.
Josh Beekman starting for struggling Frank Omiyale at left guard was supposed to be an improvement, though the line gave up a season-high four sacks. Again, against the worst defense in the NFL.
Worse yet, Cutler got hit repeatedly while passing, just after passing, and when scrambling to keep from getting hit.
Once 350-something-pound defensive tackle Shaun Rogers went right through Beekman's matador block to drive Cutler into the turf after a 31-yard completion to Johnny Knox.
"Shaun Rogers is a big guy, so every time he hits you that counts as two (hits)," Cutler joked when asked if it was the most times he's ever been hit in a game.
At least he kept his sense of humor, even if he couldn't keep all his blood. In the second quarter, Kamerion Wimbley hit him in the head with his helmet for a roughing-the-passer penalty after an incomplete third-down pass that led to the first Bears touchdown. It caused Cutler to bite down on his tongue and it bled, he said, until the early fourth quarter.
"We've got a lot of work to do. It's good to get a win at home, but offensively we've got to get to work," said Cutler.
What can they do at this point, one game away from the halfway point? Turner thinks they may need to dumb down the offense to benefit someone—whether it's for Cutler, the offensive line, or himself is unclear.
"I’ll look at it, see what we need to do to give us a chance to get better, and if we’re doing too much, we’ll cut back," Turner said. "Obviously we are because we’re making too many mistakes.
"Just have to figure out what we do well, and that’s what we’ll do."
After Sunday, it's apparent Cutler bleeds well and can take a hit well. And Gould can make short field goals.
Beyond that it's a matter of execution—or the offense being executed.
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