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Tearing off his helmet in disgust, left tackle Qasim Mitchell exhibited the most obvious agitation among the Bears. But there was enough angst for everyone.
Wide receiver David Terrell ran straight off Soldier Field into the tunnel shaking his head. Bobby Wade slowly walked a few steps behind, dejected. They were showered with boos loudly enough for several players to glare into the stands.
Quarterback Jonathan Quinn just stared into space, looking more stunned than angry after the final play of Sunday's 19-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (4-0) that typified the frustration trapped inside the stadium.
Instead of throwing into the end zone with 14 seconds left and the ball on the Eagles' 25, Quinn settled for a 13-yard completion to Wade. It moved the Bears a little closer but ultimately achieved nothing, in many ways an apt description of Quinn's first start in place of the injured Rex Grossman.
"With Rex going down and the injuries that have been on this team, it's kind of like we just have to take these lumps right now," defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said.
Quinn figures to take his share of lumps publicly after an unsteady performance marked by inaccuracy and indecision. He had not made an NFL start since Nov. 18, 2001, and the rust showed.
Statistics show Quinn completed 26 of 43 passes for 215 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions with a quarterback rating of 81.1higher than Grossman's in two of his starts this season.
But fans did not need Grossman's picture on the cover of Sunday's game program to remind them how badly they missed their franchise quarterback. They needed only to watch the first few offensive series.
Bad overthrows by Quinn, especially in the first half, and tentative decisions all game bogged down an offense that had six series in which it went three-and-out.
"I did expect to be more accurate," Quinn said. "I missed some passes I should have hit."
The man most responsible for Quinn's presence in Chicago, offensive coordinator Terry Shea, didn't do his new quarterback any favors with a game plan that quickly and surprisingly abandoned the run. Quinn handed off just 13 times, all to Thomas Jones, and the team's 32 rushing yards was lower than any output of 2003.
Terrell caught nine passes for 116 yards, but numbers hardly told the story in a loss that dropped the Bears' record to 1-3.
"As you look at it right now, we didn't run the ball enough," coach Lovie Smith said. "We felt like we had to run, and that was the plan."
The Eagles foiled that plan by controlling the clock against an undermanned Bears defense. Philadelphia possessed the ball for 37 minutes 21 seconds compared with 22:39 for the Bears and wore down a young defensive line that grew weary chasing quarterback Donovan McNabb and lunging at running back Brian Westbrook.
McNabb showed his old Mt. Carmel teammates in attendance that he hasn't changed all that much in 10 years since high school by completing 24 of 38 for 237 yards, one touchdown and an interception. But it was Westbrook who appeared to have graduated into the upper echelon of NFC running backs with 23 carries for 115 yards and nine catches for 63 more.
Westbrook did such damage that wide receiver Terrell Owens and his eight catches for 110 yards and a touchdown were considered complementary.
The Eagles scored only once in three trips inside the red zone and used four David Akers field goals. But between the 20s they looked as unstoppable as their reputation suggested.
"Our goal every game is to keep [the opponent] to 17 points or less," said Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, playing for Brian Urlacher and one of four backups starting on defense. "I don't blame the offense. We played great red-zone defense, but they were in the red zone too much. That's not getting the job done."
A muffed punt return by R.W. McQuarters in the second quarter made that job even harder.
Down 6-0, the Bears forced the Eagles to punt. But McQuarters couldn't hold on to the ball after signaling a fair catch when rookie Nathan Vasher was blocked into him on the return. Dhani Jones recovered at the Bears' 47, and four plays later McNabb hit Owens between Vasher and free safety Todd Johnson for an 11-yard touchdown.
"We've got to look at ourselves as a defense first," said defensive end Alex Brown, who had one of the Bears' two sacks.
As much effort as the Bears' defense exerted during the game, players tried just as hard defending Quinn after it.
Shea sought to stress that Quinn hadn't fumbled or thrown an interception, and he took responsibility for some of the plays run in what he termed "a difficult game to call."
Ogunleye urged critics not to blame Quinn. Right tackle John Tait hoped any fingers would be pointed toward a group, not one individual. "I think we have enough veterans on this offense that if a backup quarterback comes in, it shouldn't change," Tait said. "It's not like we lacked a leader out there."
The Bears did lack composure at times. On the sideline in the third quarter after the Eagles had recorded two of their four sacks on successive plays, center Olin Kreutz tossed a water cup at Mitchell, whose missed assignment had led to a Hugh Douglas sack.
"It was nothing, just two high-strung guys," said Mitchell, who was joking with Kreutz a series later. "Everybody wants to move the ball, and when it's not happening, people get frustrated. Philadelphia schemed us perfectly."
The Bears' offense never found a solution. It now has ample problems to address during the well-timed week off, but none bigger than the rest, Smith said.
"I know a lot is going to be said about Jonathan Quinn and how he played," Smith said. "[But] going into the game, we really felt like we had to run the football and run it well. We weren't able to do that, and that hurt us. Jonathan played OK for someone who played for the first time. He has to get better, like a lot of us."