Tentativeness and Timidity, two players not listed in your Bears program, were a couple of fourth-quarter replacements Sunday for Aggressiveness and Audacity.
At least that's how coach Mike Ditka viewed those two culprits who betrayed the legacy of the five-time NFC Central Division champion Bears.
"This is probably as disappointed as I've ever been in a football team," said Ditka, following a devastating 33-28 loss to the Houston Oilers in front of a stun-baked gathering of 64,383 at Soldier Field.
"Now, I don't know if we're capable of winning another football game. I don't think we are at this point. This football team is in disarray and we are not very good. We looked at some of our key guys for leadership and I'm notsure I see it.
"Maybe we aren't as tough as I thought we were. I always thought we were pretty tough, but I don't know."
The error-prone Bears (4-2), who lost starting linebacker Jim Morrissey for the season with a lacerated kidney, had a 28-19 lead with 4 minutes 55 seconds left before the Oilers (3-3) rallied for two touchdowns, including a 12-yard touchdown run by Lorenzo White with 1:46 left.
That winning score was set up by a 60-yard scamper by Allen Pinkett to the Bears' 19.
"Anybody who is disgruntled or disgusted with the way we played, should be," said Ditka, whose club has lost two straight for the first time since 1987 and has fallen into a first-place tie with Minnesota. "It's a little bit embarrassing week after week to have the same things happen."
There was enough blame in Sunday's defeat to pass around to the offense and defense. The Bears' offense turned the ball over six times (four interceptions and two fumbles). The defense yielded 457 total yards. But the players say they are determined to refrain from internal bickering.
"This is a football team. This isn't an offense and defense and special teams," said offensive tackle Jim Covert. "We had that (dissension) a couple of years ago and we don't want that anymore."
The defensive line, minus injured starters Dan Hampton and Trace Armstrong and with a hobbled Richard Dent, was ineffective on the pass rush. They failed to sack or even consistently pressure quarterback Warren Moon, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted twice.
"Some guys will have taken one step closer to the Hall of Fame because they played against the Bears today," Ditka groused.
"You can't really win a game with six turnovers, that was the biggest part of the problem. But we had the game won with six turnovers."
Mike Tomczak completed 20 of 29 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns. But his four interceptions were most painful.
"We're just not playing aggressive football," said Ditka. "We look like we're scared out there. When we have an opportunity on offense to scramble with the ball, we fall down. We don't scramble. Yet their guy (Moon) scrambles for 25 yards.
"We have opportunities on defense to make plays; we don't make them. Then we get caught in the middle of referees who don't know what they are doing. It gets to be a problem.
"Am I aggravated? Yes, I'm aggravated, because I don't remember feeling this bad in 1982 when I knew we couldn't play football," said Ditka, whose Bears were 3-6 in that strike year, his first as head coach.
The Bears opened the scoring on a 6-yard pass from Tomczak to Neal Anderson before Tony Zendejas converted a 27-yard field goal. Drew Hill then outsprinted Bears cornerback Vestee Jackson on a 42-yard TD pass to give Houston a 10-7 lead.
Anderson's 1-yard run that finished off a 57-yard drive gave the Bears the 14-10 lead with 37 seconds left until intermission.
The Oilers pulled to within 14-13 on a 19-yard field goal by Zendejas after the Bears stopped Houston on three tries from the 1.
A pass interference call on rookie cornerback Donnell Woolford guarding Kenny Jackson in the end zone gave the Oilers the ball at the 1. On the key third-down play, Mike Singletary stuffed Alonzo Highsmith for a yard loss.
A 79-yard pass play from Tomczak to a wide-open Dennis Gentry gave the Bears a more comfortable 21-13 advantage midway through the third period, but the Oilers, generally out of their element away from the Astrodome, failed to go quietly. Haywood Jeffires made a brilliant, diving catch of a 45-yard TD pass from Moon to pull to within 21-19 late in the third quarter, but the Oilers botched the extra point.
When Tomczak zipped a 7-yard TD pass to tight end James Thornton early in the fourth quarter, the Bears appeared safe with a 28-19 lead. However, another pass interference call on Woolford in the end zone set the Oilers upon the 1 again. This time Moon went into the end zone untouched and Zendejas converted to make it 28-26 Bears with 3:38 to go.
Ditka had to be restrained in the end zone as he argued the interference call.
Punter Maury Buford nailed the Oilers back on their own 12 with an effective 47-yard punt with no return. But Pinkett's 60-yard romp on a trap play against a Bears' blitz set Houston up at the Bears' 20. Woolford, guarding Curtis Duncan along the sideline with his back to the line of scrimmage, was unwittingly running parallel to Pinkett for about 20 yards. Finally, Lorenzo Lynch dragged Pinkett down from behind.
The Bears found it difficult to disagree with their coach's blunt postgame assessment.
"Coach probably has a point," said Tomczak. "He knows what it takes to win a National Football League championship. I'm sure we're going to regroup and re-evaluate ourselves.
"I still believe in myself. I'll be back. Let's not harp on the negative too much."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times