Defense is cut up

SportsFootballChicago BearsNational Football ConferenceSoldier FieldDamon HuardTerrell Owens

Bears defensive backs Ricky Manning Jr. and Adam Archuleta looked at each other dumbfounded, wondering how Cowboys running back Marion Barber III had slid through them for a 10-yard third-quarter touchdown.

"I don't know, I think maybe Ricky and I hit each other,"' Archuleta said. "I just don't know."

The Bears were missing far more than tackles Sunday night at Soldier Field.

A defense thought to be one of the most dominant in the league suddenly looked breakable, allowing 431 total yards after a torrid start to the game. A quarterback expected to make progress reverted to his atrocious ways. And even Superman, return specialist Devin Hester, got blasted with a truckload of Kryptonite posing as the Dallas Cowboys' coverage team.

No matter how you broke it down, the Bears were bad news in just about every facet in a 34-10 loss to the undefeated Cowboys. The Super Bowl runners-up now literally limp into next week's game at Detroit.

Forget that the Green Bay Packers are 3-0 and atop the NFC North. The Bears (1-2) need to worry about correcting themselves first before they can think about dispensing others.

"Frustrating is a funny word,"' Archuleta said. "`It's either you did it or you didn't do it, and we didn't do it."

Amen.

If this was a showdown of teams expected to contend for the NFC title, the Bears are pretenders for at least this week. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo looked like a more mobile Tom Brady, sidestepping the intense pressure of the Bears' front line to make play after play.

He attacked the middle of the field with Terrell Owens and tight end Jason Witten. He engineered a 91-yard scoring drive in the third quarter that started with a 15-yard hookup with Witten and ended with Barber strong-arming Manning and Archuleta.

Romo completed 22 of 35 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns, with a passer rating of 100.8. That's a stark contrast from the production of the first two quarterbacks to face the Bears this season, San Diego's Philip Rivers and Kansas City's Damon Huard.

In fairness to the Bears' defense, it was depleted beyond belief. First linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Nathan Vasher went down with groin injuries. Then Tommie Harris hobbled out of the game with a sprained knee ligament. He waved off television cameras trying to film on the sideline, a disgusted look draped across his face.

Nothing was more hideous than Rex Grossman's performance. He lofted passes intended for no one in particular. Even when he made a big play, such as a 12-yard sprint that helped preserve a drive and led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Cedric Benson, Grossman would counter with a play that would make you say, "What were you thinking, man?"

Grossman's final numbers told his story: 15 of 32, 195 yards, three interceptions, three sacks, QB rating of 27.5.

Ouch.

With Benson also fumbling, the Bears have 11 turnovers through three games and just two offensive scores. If Grossman's not feeling Brian Griese breathing down his back now, someone ought to tap him on the shoulder.

"I don't know where [Grossman's confidence] is," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "I'll talk to him."

Hopefully it's an extended conversation, because Grossman needs a good lecturing.

Not even receiver Bernard Berrian could bail out Grossman. Berrian made some nice catches, but he uncharacteristically dropped passes, including one that could have gone for a touchdown - right after Dallas receiver Patrick Crayton had dropped one in the end zone on the other end. Guess Berrian wanted to make the playing field even.

On one of Grossman's interceptions, it looked as if Muhsin Muhammad could have made a play on the ball.

"I came out and the ball was already over my head in front of me,'' Muhammad said. "I didn't have a chance to really make a play on that ball.''

Muhammad, a big Grossman supporter, knows people will be calling for Grossman's head.

"It comes with the territory, man,'' Muhammad said. "I'm glad that I catch [passes] for a living and not throw them.''

The lone bright spot on offense was the play of tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen. Clark looked like a sleek receiver streaking on a 52-yard reception. And Olsen, the rookie tight end, showed little rust coming off a knee injury.

But when the stands at Soldier Field empty before the game is over, you know there are problems. Now the Bears have to look at themselves and see how to correct them.

vxmcclure@tribune.com

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