The Bears' five-game losing streak has elevated Ted Washington from Pro-Bowl run stuffing tackle to mythic figure.
Kind of like Buddha, but 6-5, 365 pounds with a heck of a bull rush.
Since Washington went down with a foot injury in Week 2, the Bears haven't won a game. The defense consistently hasn't stopped the run like it did last year. Detroit's Michael Bennett, who rushed for 106 yards in the Bears' latest loss, Sunday's 25-7 embarrassment in Minnesota, was the second straight opposing running back to eclipse 100 yards rushing. The defense hasn't stopped the pass either (see: AaronBrooks, Drew Bledsoe and Brett Favre.)
While Washington probably hasn't dropped back into pass coverage since middle school, everything starts and ends with the stopping run. A team stops the run and it takes away the play-action, severely limiting what an offense can do in the air.
When he was healthy, Washington would hold his ground on the interior of the line, routinely drawing double teams that freed up the linebackers to roam and fill the gaps in the line.
"We already know what the loss of Ted has done to our defense," defensive end Bryan Robinson said. "When Ted was healthy, it was just a different story. Brian Urlacher can tell you about that."
Urlacher explained recently: "If you watched me play last year, he just keeps guys off me and Rosey (Colvin) and Warrick (Holdman). When he was in there he makes all three of us better. At the same time, we've got to fend for ourselves sometimes and make our own plays."
Urlacher's numbers are consistent with those of last season, but he points out that it's his and the defense's lack of big plays this year that's been the glaring difference.
Washington is scheduled to be out another five weeks. Holdman is lost for the year and cornerback R.W. McQuarters, who has played one game since the opener, said he'll test his injured hamstring Wednesday. All three have been missed dearly. Some players attribute missing three starters to mistakes and missed assignments by the guys on the field.
"I know with Ted in there it makes my job a lot easier," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "Being able to handle my situation outside (on the line) and being able to do the things I'm capable of doing outside, but with him out of there, it has definitely put a strain on everybody. We can't do the same things.
"Now we have to worry about too much. When guys have to worry about too much, all kinds of bad things can happen. Guys miss the gap and things like that."
Robinson agreed: "Our coach tries to get us not to talk about the injuries because in this business you're going to have injuries. You've just got to play through them. But it's really taking its toll on this team right now.
"We know in our business stopping the run is the key. If you can't stop the run you aren't going to be able to stop anything. And that's been our biggest problem right now is not being able to stop the run. Play action works against us -- the long bombs -- everything is rooted off stopping the run. And we haven't been able to do that this year."
At 2-5, the season has gotten away from the Bears. It doesn't get any easier with Philadelphia, New England and St. Louis in consecutive weeks.
Coach Dick Jauron was asked if the season gets any worse, would he consider not activating Washington when he's healthy.
"I just think we'll have to deal with it when the time comes," Jauron said. "It's been five really frustrating weeks for everybody but we have not changed our goals. Our goal is to find a way to claw our way into a playoff spot. The only way we can do that is really not look any further than the next week. If he's not due back for a while then we'll just play that by ear. But we're looking forward to getting Ted back."
B-Rob back: Jauron said Robinson, who was inactive last week after his second DUI arrest in five months, will be on the roster for the Philadelphia game. The NFL has yet to announce if it will take any action against Robinson.
"B-Rob is back up with us," Jauron said. "We're not aware of any league action at this point but as far as the team is concerned he's back on the roster and hopefully ready to go."
Robinson said he watched the Minnesota game from home and felt responsible for the loss.
"We looked horrible really, just to be honest with you," Robinson said. "You always feel like you could've made a difference. And I still feel like that right now. We got Philly this week. Hopefully I'll be back up.
"It was disappointing. When I talk about the disappointment, it was brought upon myself. I felt like I let the team down. I did. What happened out there yesterday, I feel like I could've been part of something positive yesterday.
Quarterback update: Jauron admitted he thought quarterback Chris Chandler was injured more seriously than he was when he removed Chandler in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.
The hook had nothing to do with Chandler's performance -- 176 yards on 15-of-25 passing with one touchdown and one interception -- but the fact that he was getting battered. Chandler was sacked five times, the last coming right before third-stinger Henry Burris put his helmet on and joined the huddle.
Like in the preseason, Burris had a tough time. On his first possession, Burris threw the ball into the turf, tripped over his own feet and managed to throw two interceptions -- one was negated by a Minnesota penalty.
"It was a tough situation for anybody to be in," Jauron said of Burris. "I thought was more injured that it turned out than he was at the time, so we went with Henry. And Henry needs experience. He just needs to get experience. We like him as our No. 3. We'd like to go through the year and really not have to get him into a game situation like that because he doesn't have the experience. I give him a lot of credit. He's very eager to get out there. He loves to play but he needs more seasoning."
Starter Jim Miller was in New Haven, Conn., on Monday getting a second opinion on his throwing arm. He has missed two weeks with tendinitis in his shoulder and elbow.
"I'm optimistic that Jim will be OK," Jauron said. "Or as OK as he going to be and hopefully better than he was a week ago. He's gotten some rest."
On the air: Jauron cleared up the controversy over remarks he made on his radio show last week.
When a caller suggested Jauron was coaching like a "coward," host Hub Arkush jumped in and defended the coach. Jauron, in turn, said he had, "a lot better ways to spend my time."
Jauron insisted he was referring to the single caller, not everyone who calls into the show.
"The comment that people took offense to was I said, 'I have better things to do.' That was directed solely at one caller, solely at that incident. That was it. That was all it was directed at. I enjoy the show. I don't enjoy losing. But we answer all their questions.
"In the manner in which they're asked, I think that has a lot to do with it. There are a lot of other options for the callers who just want to express their displeasure or insult you. I just don't think anybody, not just a football coach, but anybody has the time to listen to those kind of things."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times