Brian Urlacher could have rattled off a list of excuses to explain why the Bears, touted as the best team in the NFC entering the season, are 1-3 and buried deep beneath 4-0 division foe Green Bay.
He could have looked at the injuries that kept four Bears defensive starters from playing Sunday. He could have blamed the offense for turning the ball over in the red zone, running in place and suffering from an epidemic of the "dropsies."
Instead of spinning why his ballclub gave up an NFL-record 34 fourth-quarter points in a 37-27 loss to the Lions, Urlacher gave a sensible explanation for the collapse.
"We're a bad team right now," he said. "We're definitely not playing to our potential right now—that's not a bold statement, obviously. We've just got to get it fixed, man. ... We stink right now."
Detroit didn't exactly play the smartest of games, running the ball a lot more (25 times) than the league's top-rated passing offense should. But the Lions eventually decided to go after a depleted Bears secondary through the air—when the Bears weren't beating themselves, of course.
New starter Brian Griese looked a lot like the guy he replaced, going 34-for-52 with two fumbles and three interceptions while getting sacked six times. Two of his picks were in the red zone, at the Lions' 10 and 6. The other was returned 64 yards by cornerback Keith Smith for a Lions touchdown. Despite Devin Hester's 97-yard touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff, the Bears never recovered from Smith's play.
Now the question is, Can the Bears recover?
Sure, it's early in the season. But next Sunday night's trip to Green Bay isn't exactly an ideal assignment for the struggling and banged-up Bears.
"We don't plan on being 1-4," guard Ruben Brown said.
The Bears also didn't plan on being in the NFC North cellar alongside the Vikings, but who knew so much drama would unfold in the first quarter of the season? Benching Rex Grossman in favor of Griese was supposed to ignite a sputtering offense. Well, Griese wasn't the answer, at least in this game.
Cedric Benson teased us with a 100-yard rushing game against the Chiefs. But his disappearing act continued Sunday, with 50 yards on 15 rushes against a defense that had allowed 129.3 rushing yards per game. Benson even got benched for a few series after fumbling a ball out of bounds, his third in four games. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said the plan was to give Garrett Wolfe action, but Benson's ball-security issue expedited the process.
"Obviously," Turner said, "[Benson] has to hold on to the ball."
The same message needs to be plastered on Bernard Berrian's locker. For the second consecutive game, he had a series of drops. He attributed it to a lack of concentration. That's not a good enough explanation for a player of his caliber.
And the offensive line continues to have its problems, compounded by a right ankle injury to left tackle John Tait.
For all the bad things they did, the Bears did show a tremendous amount of resolve on defense, given the situation. Cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher, linebacker Lance Briggs and strong safety Adam Archuleta all were out with injuries, and first-time starter Kevin Payne was knocked out of the game early with an arm injury. The defensive front, led by Mark Anderson's explosive first step, put tremendous pressure on Lions quarterback Jon Kitna most of the afternoon.
The Bears started the game with five defensive backs, but Payne's departure kept them from running their nickel package. Even running their base defense, the Bears had success, until Kitna engineered a four-play, 70-yard scoring drive near the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who played despite spraining his left knee last week, said the defense wore down again. Defensive back Ricky Manning Jr. struggled to pinpoint what started Sunday's demise.
"I don't know what was going on; it just didn't seem real," Manning said. "I just felt like we were playing conservative. We were trying to get up out of there, and we weren't hungry.
"Injuries, they definitely hurt us. A lot of our game plan got cut out because of [Payne's] injury. We couldn't run a lot of things. It was tough on us."
Brett Favre and the Packers won't make life any easier.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times