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The day after: 'We've got to make plays'
The Monday following their sixth straight loss, Bears players were hardly in a talking mood.
The few that were at Halas Hall to explain why everything could go so wrong in the second half of a the 19-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles repeated familiar explanations.
"It's the little things," cornerback Jerry Azumah said.
Little things would be?
"Well, we've got to make plays," Azumah said.
The Bears did make plays in the first half. The offense put together a couple of nice scoring drives behind running back Anthony Thomas. The defense held the Eagles and quarterback Donovan McNabb to seven points.
"Well, the game yesterday was clearly a story of two halves," coach Dick Jauron said. "In the first half we got done what we pretty much wanted to get done. In the second half, of course, we did not.
"It was a frustrating day."
A day made all the more frustrating by 12 penalties, nine on the defense and many in crucial spots. For example, third down.
In the first half, Phillip Daniels sacked McNabb on third and 6 but was called for a face mask that gave the Eagles a first down. On the Eagles' next possession, Reggie Austin's defensive holding penalty on third down virtually erased Byran Robinson's sack and again kept a Philadelphia drive going.
On the Eagles' lone touchdown drive in the second quarter, the Bears were called for three penalties, including the first of two pass interference infractions on R.W. McQuarters. That one put the Eagles on the 5, setting up McNabb's touchdown run. The second, in the fourth quarter, set Jauron off and he got in the face of the side judge.
Jauron refused Monday to comment on the officials.
"I have a channel that I have to follow," Jauron said. "I send the information to the league and they send the information back and none of that is public. As always there are calls I'll never agree with. That happens in every game."
Players, knowing they would draw a hefty fine from the league for complaining about the officials, backed off as well.
"That's part of our business," defensive end Keith Traylor said. "Sometimes you're going to have those. Unfortunately yesterday we had quite a few."
Shoop bashing: He's been a sports radio punching bag for as long as he's been running the offense. And now it appears some players have taken a few shots.
A local television station reported that a few defensive players during Sunday's game yelled at offensive coordinator John Shoop, who has been routinely criticized for his conservative offense. A similar incident happened last season and Jauron's reaction was the same.
Jauron was more upset with the media representatives on the sideline than any possible dissent inside the team.
"They're all very competitive people and what happens on the sideline happens between a very close group of people," Jauron said. "The way those things get out is unfortunately part of our game that there are so many people down there listening. There's lots of things said on that sideline in the course of a game that you wouldn't want people to hear. And they're not all complaints. A lot of them aren't complaints at all but you wouldn't want them out in the public."
Receiver Marcus Robinson, one who's responsible for executing Shoop's plays, downplayed the incident. He said it happens a lot between receivers and receivers coach Todd Haley.
"That's what happens on the sideline," Robinson said. "That's what happens with all teams. People get frustrated, they yell. The next play you just move on. Five minutes later you'll probably see [ the upset player] talking to that same guy. Me and Booker can be busting about a play with Todd and we can just get heated and then the next play we come back and say, 'Alright, Todd, I see this, too.' That's just part of the game."
Jauron, who was unaware that anything had even happened, did not address the incident with the players on Monday.
Defending Shoop: So what about Shoop and his play-calling? Asked about it, Marcus Robinson had this to say:
"I don't call the plays. As an offense you've got to accept the plays that he calls. That's the bottom line. No matter what you say or what you do it's still up to the offensive coordinator. And once you go talk to him on the sideline and he calls the plays he feels that are going to make us move the ball down the field, we've got to execute as an offense.
"The bottom line is that I can only run what's called. You can get frustrated, fuss and yell, it's not going to change anything. What's it going to change? That you disrespected the coach? That's something that you don't do. You've just got to do what's called. You come back to the sideline, you sit down and you say, 'Coach, I saw this on the field and they're doing this and they should've changed to this.' And you just leave it at that.
"It's up to him to make that decision to change or see what he sees differently and go from there. I'm quite sure coach Shoop has a lot of things to take into consideration: the running game, the offensive line blocking, 'Do I have this receiver who can get open in this route?' There's a lot of stuff that goes on his head.
"As a receiver I want the ball every time. But sometimes you're not able to get it. When you do get a chance to make a play, that's what you've got to do."
Robinson was critical of himself for dropping a 60-yard pass from fellow receiver Marty Booker. Booker threw the ball nearly 60 yards and Robinson jumped between two defenders, got both hands on the ball but dropped it.
"I've just got to make that play," Robinson said.
"That was a punt, though," he said referring to the length of the pass.
Miller update: Asked how Jim Miller was following Sunday's game, Jauron replied, "Very sore."
Miller had missed two weeks because of lingering tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and elbow. And Jauron admitted the injury may have contributed to Miller's lack of accuracy down the stretch against the Eagles.
Miller, who completed 19 of 36 passes, missed a number of plays on the final drive with the Bears trailing by a touchdown. He overthrew a wide-open Booker, nearly threw an interception trying to force one to tight end John Davis and then threw a final desperation pass to Robinson out of bounds.
"I know that Jim would not want to use it as an excuse and we dont want to use it as an excuse but I think the fact of the matter is that his arm is sore," Jauron said. "I think it does have some affect on throws in the course of the game and it could have some affect there."
Miller will be evaluated Wednesday but Jauron expects him to be ready for next week's game against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.