They deserved every boo.
There were many of them at Soldier Field and everywhere the Bears are loved Sunday through a 41-21 loss to the Cardinals.
They were loud and long. Some were deep and throaty. Others were high and piercing.
Whether they emanated from the cheap seats or the luxury boxes, they came from the heart.
They echo through the city still.
The Bears' second pathetic performance in three weeks left us knowing exactly who they are -- and it's not who we thought they were.
The Bears are a team that is capable of being mopped around the field by a slightly above-average team. They are a team that is not close to consistent. They are a team that has not hit its stride and may never. They are a team that is sitting on the side of the road watching chances fly by like cars on an expressway.
Middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer was the last player left in a locker room that cleared out quickly and quietly. As he dressed, he still was chilled from sitting in the cold tub. His shin had scrapes on it from his knee to his ankle.
"I don't know what went wrong," he said, his teeth chattering, the color gone from his face. "I'd feel better if I knew, because then we could fix it."
On what would have been a delightful day for baseball, the Bears lost everything from their swagger to their composure.
Jay Cutler was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for mouthing off to an official. Tommie Harris was ejected from the game on the Cardinals' fourth snap for punching Arizona guard Deuce Lutui.
Too bad he couldn't have taken the rest of the defense with him to the locker room. The Bears' defense was alarmingly incapable in the first half, when Arizona built a 31-7 lead.
And by halftime, the defense was playing without its best tackle, its best cornerback ( Charles Tillman left in the second quarter with a shoulder injury) and arguably its best safety ( Al Afalava left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury). And if anyone forgot, they already were playing without two of their best three linebackers (injured Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa).
Coach Lovie Smith tried to rally the defensive troops with a sideline talk after the Cardinals went up 14-7 in the first quarter. He looked each member of the unit in the eyes. Said free safety Nate Vasher, "He told us, 'Play with pride, play hard like we know we can. Everybody has to be accountable and do their job, and we can be successful.' "
The defense responded by allowing two straight touchdown drives and four straight scoring drives.
The Bears gave up 438 yards and 27 first downs. Every time the Cardinals needed to convert a big third down, the Bears opened the door for their guests like gentlemen. They allowed a third-down conversion rate of 57 percent.
"They wanted it more," safety Danieal Manning said. "They executed and we didn't. We played hard, but we didn't play smart enough."
The Bears had no answer for the Kurt Warner-to-Larry Fitzgerald combination -- even though injured Anquan Boldin didn't even suit up to take defensive attention from Fitzgerald. Warner wound up with a 132.9 passer rating and five touchdowns. Fitzgerald caught two of the touchdown passes and had 123 receiving yards.
"They found holes that we could have been in or should have been in and made plays," Manning said. "Kurt kept the ball alive, throwing to his open guys. God, they played football. They relaxed and played football. Pitch and catch."
The offense was nowhere near as incompetent. Cutler took the team on his back and battled gamely. He wound up with 369 passing yards and only threw one late interception despite the fact he was playing catch-up from the start.
Cutler did make the boos subside for a brief time in the fourth quarter when he threw a pair of touchdown passes to Greg Olsen within less than three minutes. But the Bears still were down by 13 points, and Cutler's interception to Matt Ware with 6:41 remaining killed any hope the home team still had.
"For about five minutes during that game, we actually believed we could win," said defensive end Alex Brown, who sacked Warner and forced him to fumble during that fourth-quarter stretch. "We played like it. Why can't we do that from the first play? That's what we have to figure out."
The Bears' defense improved in the second half, allowing only a field goal and a touchdown after the Cardinals took possession on the Bears' 17. Cardinals offensive coordinator Russ Grimm said the Bears made effective defensive adjustments by sliding their linebackers and dropping their safeties.
At least something worked for the defense.
"At the end of the day, we lost by 20," said Olsen, who scored three touchdowns. "That's all that matters."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times