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No easy answer to Bears' problems
Bears players and coaches spent the Monday after their fourth straight loss looking for an answer.
Unfortunately, it isnt easy to find a single reason why this once promising season has gone so wrong.
There have been injuries to key contributors on both sides of the ball, but Sunday's 23-20 loss to Detroit wasn't about missing players. It was about missed plays and opportunities.
"Everything's worrisome when you lose," coach Dick Jauron said Monday. "We'll look at everything."
A good place to start would be the turnovers. The Bears gave the ball away three times against Detroit, twice setting up Lions touchdowns with turnovers inside their own 20.
And there's the once dominant run-stuffing defense that allowed the Lions' James Stewart to run all over them for 172 yards.
Jauron was surprised the game was so close.
"When you turn the ball over three times and the Lions ran at us like they did yesterday, then you really don't expect to be in the football game," Jauron said. "Really at the end of that thing to have a chance to win it was a minor miracle really in a lot of ways."
Early turnovers doomed the Bears. On consecutive second-quarter possessions, Anthony Thomas fumbled on the Bears' 6-yard line and Chris Chandler was picked off at their own 16. Detroit had to drive a combined 22 yards for two touchdowns.
"When that happens in a game you really don't expect to win it and we didn't end up winning it," Jauron said. "That was pretty much the situation yesterday."
Opponents are averaging 125.7 yards rushing against the Bears, a far cry from last season's 82.1 yards per game. Then the defense ranked second in the league against the run; now its 23rd.
"It's still early," linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said. "We've just go to play. Everybody's go to do their job. I've been saying that for two weeks now, Do your job, do your job, do your job. It only goes so far.
"We're not going out and executing. [Defensive coordinator]Greg [Blache] gives us a call, it doesn't matter what the call is, you've got to go out and get the job done. And we're not doing it. We've got to make sure we go back and make sure everybody knows their assignment, knows their alignment and know the gap they need to fill and be there when it's time for you to be there."
It means nothing that next week's opponent, Minnesota, is 1-5 and a team the Bears already have beaten this season.
"Minnesota's always a dangerous team," Colvin said. "We've got to go out and prepare as if they were world champions. It's not like we're 6-0, so there's no reason why we could sit here and lick our chops and say we're going to run over this team."
Added Jauron: "I think whoever we're playing we've got to get ready to play. It's one of the fortunate parts of our business. There's no time to look backwards; you've got to look forward to the next one because the next one's going to be awfully good. ... Luckily in our business you don't have time to feel sorry for yourself or worry about anything except the next opponent."
Missing Miller: Jauron said quarterback Jim Miller is still the starter. Miller missed the Detroit game with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder.
"If Jimmy's healthy, then Jimmy will be our starter," Jauron said.
Backup Chris Chandler completed 16 of 25 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown and engineered two long drives in the middle of the game. But he threw a costly interception to Eric Davis.
"It's not full strength," Miller said of his shoulder. "There's a little pain there but if I had to play Sunday I would."
Jauron said they wouldn't evaluate the injury until Wednesday.
Other injuries: A number of players were banged up in Sunday's game, but Jauron said none were as serious as previous weeks.
Tight end John Davis injured his ribs on the first play and didn't return.
Guard Chris Villarrial hurt his thumb, but Jauron said it doesn't look as serious as the thumb injury Villarrial suffered in training camp that required surgery.
Cornerback Reggie Austin was fine after a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Tight end Fred Baxter spent the night in a Detroit hotel room after being evaluated at a hospital. Baxter took a hit to his side and the team was worried about possible kidney damage but an exam revealed nothing serious.
Return guys: Jauron wouldn't say if Ahmad Merritt will take over the full-time kickoff return duties. But if Sunday's performance is any indication, Merritt will certainly get an opportunity to win the job.
Recent signing Vinny Sutherland averaged 16.3 yards on three kicks, while Merritt fielded one and broke it for 63 yards.
"Ahmad made the most of his chance," Jauron said. "It was a nice return but in terms of personnel decisions, we won't be doing any of that until Wednesday. We'll take the full time we have until we start practicing to evaluate everything."