The old football adage bears repeating, even if the Bears do a good enough job of repeating it often themselves.
It all starts up front.
With the regular season starting Sunday against Detroit, the entire Bears season rides on this trite old cliche.
From the start of May minicamp through June organized team activities, to Bourbonnais training camp, and through four miserable preseason games, this has been obvious and unchanging.
On defense, the Bears have shown very little improvement in their pass coverage over last year’s 13 interceptions (22nd in the NFL) and 41 percent third-down conversion rate allowed (27th in the NFL).
In fact, they’ve given up first downs on 46 percent of their third downs in preseason, second worst in the league.
On offense, the odds looked long that they could install Mike Martz’s complicated offense in time to have it working at an acceptable level. Their 17 points in 16 legitimate first-team series proves this hasn’t happened to the desired degree.
“We definitely held some things back,” wide receiver Devin Aromashodu said. “We game-planned, but we were really didn’t game-plan.”
The Bears claim they have both withheld plays and what they are capable of doing to particular defenses.
“We were still putting in an offense because it is a large offense with a lot of different things we could do,” Aromashodu said. So we were still kind of putting it in trying to make sure that we have ourselves right rather than worrying about the other team.”
Aromashodu fully expects fans to be stunned by what they’ll see from the Bears against the Lions Sunday.
“We know what we can do,” he said. “We know what we’re capable of, so we won’t be surprised. But maybe fans and spectators will be.”
It would be nice to be clued in on what they are capable of doing because they showed nothing in the preseason.
Whether the Bears game-planned or not is entirely irrelevant here because their greatest problem rested in a simple fundamental area: they couldn’t block. Without that blocking, even the best game planning fails.
Chris Williams let pass rushers race around him. Frank Omiyale did the same on occasion, although it must be pointed out that Lance Louis and Omiyale provided some good run blocking on the right side of the line.
Roberto Garza seemed to be adjusting to playing left guard for the first time since 2005, but too much remains unsettled.
“I’m very pleased with the progress, particularly in the protections with that group,” Martz said.
Yet 10 sacks of Cutler in only about a full quarter of preseason action says something different.
On the defensive side, end Julius Peppers definitely looks like someone who can carry a team through a season into the playoffs, and tackle Tommie Harris has practiced every day except for a few schedule days off for the first time since his injury troubles began in 2006.
They’ll need the pass rush to dominate because the secondary has been unsettled due to injuries all training camp, and lineup change.
Danieal Manning’s move to strong safety, Chris Harris playing free safety when he had been a strong safety, and the cornerbacks switching sides all added to a slow start.
Time has run out on the Bears. Their first winless preseason since 1998 only heightens the feeling of restlessness among their fan base.
“In San Francisco, one year I think we went 4-0 or 3-1 (in preseason), and we had a 2-14 season,” nose tackle Anthony Adams said. “So I don't try to read into it too much.”
The last time the Bears went winless in a preseason, they didn’t turn it on when the regular season started, though.
In 1998 after an 0-4 preseason, they finished 4-12 and got the coach, Dave Wannstedt, fired.