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Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop calls them "what-ifs" and "if-onlys" and says if you can win with them, you're doing something pretty special.
Well, so to speak.
Actually, there is nothing special about dropping passes, missing receivers and failing to convert on third-and-short-yardage situations. But you get his point, which is, "If you think we're pretty impressive at 2-0, just wait how good we are when we eliminate those mistakes."
In reality, the Bears are repeating some of the most glaring offensive shortcomings of last seasonnamely, poor first halves that have them thanking the heavens and their defense that they are not out of the game by halftime.
The Falcons held a fairly whopping 18:30-11:30 advantage in possession at intermission Sunday, as the Bears had three three-and-outs, an interception on another drive and one 10-play, 86-yard scoring drive.
"Our identity has to be that somehow, some way, we convert those suckers," Shoop said of the third-down opportunities.
This was especially troubling since they went into the game with two primary offensive objectivesone, to try to expose right corner Juran Bolden, Ray Buchanan's replacement, and the other to keep Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick off the field as much as possible.
But the running game faltered, Bolden did an impressive Buchanan imitation, and when Bears receivers did have a chance to break the game openas Dez White did on a fingertip attempt that may well have iced the victory early in the fourth quarterthey failed.
"We're almost there but almost there isn't good enough," Bears quarterback Jim Miller said. "We've got to do it right all the time. I'm not always going to make the perfect throw and those guys [still] make plays.
"And sometimes I'll make a good throw and they've got to make it. We'll just keep on working and getting better and I have all the confidence in the world in those guys."
"After that," said White of one of his two drops, "you feel you put your team in a tough situation because really I did. But there's nothing you can do about it except when you get the opportunity again, try to make the play. It's frustrating, but at the same time, you have to use it as motivation."
The Bears' tight ends contributed two big plays for gainsa 37-yarder off the short slant to John Davis during the first scoring drive and a diving 7-yard grab on a third down by Fred Baxter to sustain a drive in the fourth quarter.
But the Bears did not sustain enough drives to keep Vick on the sideline and it very nearly cost them. "We were on the field a lot in the first half and guys were breathing pretty hard," safety Mike Brown said.
The Bears, who pride themselves on wearing down the defense with a relentless running game, finished with 106 yards rushing as a team led by Anthony Thomas' 84 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. But they converted just 4-of-13 third downs, Miller was only able to complete 12-of-24 passes and the offense crossed midfield just three times without the defense's help.
"We didn't complete the passes, we didn't catch the balls, we didn't block them," Shoop said. "The Atlanta Falcons were winning the first 25 minutes. But our defense hung in there, got some turnovers. We didn't even convert some of the turnovers, but somehow we found a way to win. There's no excuse. We didn't execute.
"It was like a golfer that's not real good and is not playing his best but is somehow managing to stay in the round. We weren't hitting many birdies."
One of the other rare bright spots was David Terrell's 14-yard touchdown catch to put the Bears ahead in the third quarter, his second score in two weeks on the sort of jump-ball plays he needs to make.
"You all can criticize me," said Terrell, who took some abuse for excessively celebrating last week and toned it down a bit this time, "but I'm going to rise to the top anyway.
"I always have. I did it at Michigan, why can't I do it here?"