There is no such thing as a turning point when there are seven of them.
No credible big-play alibi when the other team has five.
No real excuse for leading 20-9 only to lose 30-27. Not when you're supposed to be a team with a legitimate playoff agenda.
Oh, certainly, good teams have been victimized by Minnesota receiver Randy Moss and running back Robert Smith before. Good teams also have occasionally lost sure interceptions and surer loose balls, committed foolish penalties and failed to take advantage of their opponents' mistakes.
But good teams don't generally do all these things in one half of football. And even the best of teams don't generally come back and win.
The dilemma for the Bears is how to digest Sunday's season-opening defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings in the brain-jarring clamor of the Metrodome.
Do they, as quarterback Cade McNown remarked, take solace in the positives? "We played hard and didn't quit and kept moving," he offered.
Or rather, do you look at it from Blake Brockermeyer's perspective? "We did some good things today," said the Bears offensive tackle, "but when you lose, those things aren't nearly as good as you think they are."
Of course, this comes from one of several Bears who will be squirming in their seats come Monday's film session. "A loss is always frustrating no matter what happens," center Olin Kreutz said. "It's just real frustrating losing your first game, and especially when you feel you can beat that team."
Throw in the fact that "that team's" tenderfoot quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, shredded the Bears' defense for three rushing touchdowns and gained 24 and 21 yards in his first two carries and it's that much more frustrating.
Otherwise, the Bears' first 34 minutes 50 seconds were something on which to build. The new-look secondary featuring free-agent cornerback Thomas Smith and veteran Walt Harris had Moss and Cris Carter covered so well that only Moss managed to catch a pass in the first half, for 9 yards.
The Bears' offense was converting third downs at a 63 percent clip (5-of-8) while the defense was holding the Vikings to 1-of-6 for 17 percent in the first half.
New placekicker Paul Edinger easily converted field goals of 29 and 49 yards.
And through their first possession of the third quarter, the Bears appeared to be well on their way to a rout after Marcus Robinson easily outleaped linebacker Kailee Wong at the Vikings' 20, then beat safety Orlando Thomas to the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown and a 20-9 lead.
To that point, McNown, who finished with 290 yards passing for two touchdowns and 87 yards rushing for one score, had been running the ball at a Culpepper clip. "All quarterback draw calls," said offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, disputing the notion that McNown was trying to keep up with Culpepper.
But McNown also had moments of uncertainty, throwing behind receivers, often just as the rush descended on him. And the defense's strength exposed a weakness as solid coverage forced Culpepper to take off running.
"You'd think you'd want a quarterback just to take off running, but he's a special guy," said tackle Mike Wells of the 6-foot-4-inch, 266-pound Culpepper, who finished with 73 yards rushing and 190 passing in his first NFL start. "We'll see what he does to other teams. I'm not going to bad-mouth him. He hurt us today."
Literally. "He's big enough where he's going to take the impact," Wells said. "It's not like a little guy where you can just beat him up physically, give him a few good hits here and there, because we were pounding him. We were hitting him, thumping him, and he was taking it."
Culpepper's first of three rushing touchdowns came on a 1-yard plunge to narrow the Bears' lead to 20-16. But the Bears took over from there, inflicting the most damage to themselves.
It began innocently enough. Jerry Azumah intercepted a Culpepper pass intended for Carter to give the Bears possession at the Minnesota 48.
But the Bears then moved only 5 yards in a series that included a false-start penalty and a sack for a 9-yard loss.
And rather than take advantage of the fact that at least they had pinned the Vikings to their own 7 on the ensuing punt, the subtle unraveling took shape.
First, rookie starting safety Mike Brown failed to fall on a fumble by Moss and caused by Azumah at the Vikings' 21, instead knocking it out of bounds. "I just needed to take my time," Brown said.
"You see the ball out there, and I was going to get it and just misplayed it. Those are the bounces of the game. If I would've been able to make that play, we probably would've won the game."
Not only did the Bears not have the opportunity to score that a turnover would have given them, but two plays later, Smith mistimed his leap on a deep route to Moss and the Pro Bowler made him pay with a 66-yard gain to the Bears' 7. Culpepper ran it in on the next play, and the Vikings took the lead for the first time--and to stay--23-20.
The Bears' self-imposed decline continued on their next possession, when, on a first-and-10 at the 50, Brockermeyer wiped out what would have been a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on Vikings end Talance Sawyer and a 14-yard pass completion to Alonzo Mayes with his retaliation on Sawyer. The result was an unnecessary-roughness call on Brockermeyer, which offset Sawyer's hit and kept the Bears at midfield rather than putting them at Minnesota 21.
"I saw Cade on the ground, and we've always talked as an O-line that we're not going to let people get away with that kind of stuff," Brockermeyer said. "It wasn't the smartest play I've ever done in my life, but at least we sent a message."
The Vikings will have to remember that when they play in Soldier Field on Oct. 15. Sunday, they were too busy ignoring the message and pouncing on opportunity, this time with a 59-yard scamper off scrimmage by Robert Smith on the next possession to set up a Culpepper 4-yard touchdown run that gave them a 30-20 margin.
The Bears' 80-yard scoring drive that followed, culminating in a nifty 8-yard run by McNown, left just 1:25 in regulation and served only to make the final score look better in retrospect.
Except that retrospect is not necessarily something the Bears are interested in at the moment.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times