Chicago Bears Countdown to Armageddon Reaches Two Weeks

Gene ChamberlainCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2010

CHICAGO - AUGUST 28: Clark Haggans #53 of the Arizona Cardinals kneels over Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears after a sack during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Bears 14-9. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith came about as close to hitting the panic button as he'll show following Saturday night's dismal 14-9 preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

"We're not where we want to be right now," said Smith. "The plan was for us to play a lot better at home in third preseason game.

"But we have time. They're going to let us start over in a couple weeks."

This is what it has come to for the Bears.

Time is their only ally. Two weeks isn't much time though, and probably not enough to rectify what has rapidly become a nightmarish preseason.

The only positive to come from their 0-3 start to the preseason is the lack of a season-ending injury. They did incur another nagging type of injury, when five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs went out early with an ankle injury.

As is customary with the Bears in their current era of disinformation, they would not project the severity of the problem.

Ankle injuries can be tricky. Safety Craig Steltz has been out two weeks. If it's a high ankle sprain, Briggs could be out several weeks. He was wearing a boot cast after the injury.

This is a defense which can ill afford a blow as severe as losing Briggs. Saturday the first team defense experienced another night to forget by allowing two touchdowns and what would have been another had Danieal Manning not yanked the football out of Beanie Wells' hands at the six yard line.

Safety Chris Harris got abused three times on the Cardinals' second touchdown drive, one in which the Bears even made Matt Leinart look more like a quarterback than Hugh Hefner's successor.

The Bears allowed Arizona an abysmal eight-of-15 third down conversions (53 percent) after stressing this particular aspect of defense all week. The previous week the first team had given up first downs on third-and-eight, third-and-9, third-and-10 and third-and-17.

Against Arizona, they allowed two third-and-eights and a third-and-seven to be converted on the first TD drive.

"We've got to be better in that area. That's one of the things that's definitely got to get corrected. That's the biggest down -- third down," said defensive end Julius Peppers.

Peppers has probably been the only bright spot of the entire preseason, as he looked dominant again with a sack, quarterback hurry, tackle for loss and disrupted an end- around that resulted in another loss.

That was the end of the good news from Saturday night.

The rest of the news involved Mike Martz's offense, one which increasingly resembles the attack former coordinator Terry Shea put together in 2004 before being fired after one season.

Quarterback Jay Cutler had calls misheard in the huddle, or misspoke. It was never clear which. He threw two interceptions and generally looked out of sync with wide receivers en route to a 10-for-20, 129 yard effort.

"It was just up and down, it was a roller coaster. ...We wanted to get rid of that coming into the third preseason game," Cutler said.

Not all the offensive news was bad. After all, Cutler only got sacked four times. That's one less than the previous week.

Keep in mind his total playing time for both games averaged just a little more than a half.

Just consider what the offensive line is capable of if Cutler is exposed to a full pass rush  for an entire game.  The Bears have allowed 16 quarterback sacks in preseason.

Does anyone have a body bag?

"We never really got any consistency with our offense. ... Jay is under too much pressure. It's as simple as that," Smith said.

The one overriding theme in the Bears' locker room and interview room after Saturday's game was that they have more time. It was almost like they were looking at clocks on the wall as they spoke.

“Obviously we had some problems early on, sometimes missed reads, sometimes we broke huddle and we spoke to the line wrong," said Cutler. "We had some nice plays, there’s still some time, we have to go back and watch the film and hopefully straighten it up."

Defensive players and Smith echoed the time theme as well. They also trotted out the tired old theory that they aren't really scheming an opponent in preseason, and it will look different when the regular season arrives.

For instance, Cutler admitted the offense hadn't prepared for the possibility the Cardinals would use single safety coverages. So they didn't really have anything to throw at them in this limited game plan.

Then again, the opponents don't game plan any more than the Bears in preseason and they've come away with three wins in three tries.

Admittedly, wins and losses mean nothing in preseason, but when players repeatedly miss tackles and blow coverages, when pass blockers fail to pick up a single rusher coming off the edge in a man-to-man situation, when the quarterback leads a receiver right into the coverage for two poor interceptions, time seems to be anything but an ally.

It will take more than two weeks to fix those problems.