Rashaan Salaam was the lucky one. He remained pure while the rest of the Bears were dragged through the mud Monday night.
"I told the players there were two good things in this game: Salaam made some plays and he looks promising, and the fact we have three weeks left before playing Minnesota," coach Dave Wannstedt said.
"I apologize for wasting Cleveland's time tonight because there wasn't one area that made any progress. The only reason for mistakes and penalties and turnovers is lack of concentration. We weren't into it mentally."
Salaam, who ran for 60 yards on 14 carries, didn't get his hands dirty in a messy first half, when Cleveland took those numerous Bears vows in recent weeks of a Central Division championship and squeezed them to dust.
Maybe the Browns' 55-13 whipping of the Bears marks the real end of their preseason. They have to stop predicting now, imagining the good things that could happen, and start to find solutions to all the bad things that are happening, such as turnovers.
Combine the Bears' three fumbles and three interceptions Monday with their five fumbles and one interception in their opening preseason victory over Carolina and you have a very dirty dozen, indeed.
Linebacker Joe Cain is seldom at a loss for words. But he had few here.
"It's baffling," he said. "There's no explanation when you play like this."
"This wasn't the Chicago Bears," defensive end John Thierry said. "This just wasn't us."
The playoff victory over Minnesota last season may have served to cover up some Bears deficiencies that are now flashing like strobe lights.
But don't blame the kid. Salaam's innocence is safe for another week. The Heisman Trophy-winning running back looked OK in limited duty in his Bears debut.
"I'd like to show I can do it against the first-team defense rather than just the third-team defense," Salaam said.
He entered after the fact, carrying 3 yards to start the second half and following with a 6-yard reception on the next play. But two plays later, tight end Keith Jennings dropped a pass without contact and fumbled the ball away to the Browns and the Bears were back rolling downhill.
Trust us, the Bears have said, we've got two quarterbacks to lean on. Well, their offense continues to look suspect.
There are only so many times you can point to the fact that if wide receiver Michael Timpson had caught a long pass from Erik Kramer early in the game it could have made a difference.
Wannstedt inserted Steve Walsh with just under 2 minutes to play in the first half after starter Kramer had finally led the Bears to a score on the previous possession, a 15-yard pass play on which Raymont Harris used his running ability to gain the end zone.
"I wanted to be fair and have Walsh play in the first half," said Wannstedt, whose rotation system was knocked out of whack by a Browns offense that pulled off drives between 5 and 7 minutes every time they touched the ball. Their first-half possession time was 23:01.
Walsh was intercepted two plays into his first series. Linebacker Mike Caldwell stepped in front of a pass intended for Harris and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.
The Browns piled on another touchdown when Kenny Shedd fumbled away the subsequent kickoff. This time, Cleveland needed just three plays to score.
Kramer was back to start the second half. But it wasn't long before he was being intercepted, too. Safety Dana Hall looked like the intended receiver.
"I thought Erik looked pretty good until the interception," Wannstedt said.
When fullback Anthony Johnson later fumbled in the third quarter, it raised the ugly specter of a Bears team that is turnover-plagued.
Even when the Bears' offense sputters, usually the defense hangs tough. Not here.
Browns rookie quarterback Eric Zeier was phenomenal. He was 14 of 16 passing for 158 yards, all in the first half.
Kramer finished 6 of 10 for 80 yards. Walsh was 4 of 13 for 54 yards.
Leroy Hoard and Lorenzo White took Cleveland wherever it wanted to go on the ground. Hoard had 43 yards and White 42 before they were given the second half off.
"They seemed to run to our perimeter a lot in the first half," Wannstedt said, not wanting to criticize the defensive line if it didn't deserve it.
If nothing else, we've learned that these Bears shouldn't be talking division championship. They should only be talking about how they might match up with the Vikings Sept. 4 in the regular-season opener.
"I'm embarrassed because we're working our tails off. These guys are working hard," Wannstedt said, "and we know we're better than this."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times