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Bears hit by yellow bricks
His voice grew louder as he tried to drive his point across, and all around him the Bears dressing room grew just a little quieter. Bryan Cox was not issuing a challenge Sunday, he was leveling a charge, one as serious as any athlete can make, and a team's psyche as well as its season now hang in the balance.
"Heart, heart, heart, heart," Cox bellowed, leaving little question as to what he was trying to say.
A 37-6 beating by the Green Bay Packers was bad enough, and everyone in the room had at least some explanation for a defeat as thorough as any in Dave Wannstedt's four years as Bears coach. But Cox and a handful of his teammates saw more, and they made it clear that Brett Favre's bionic arm, his gifted receivers, and a punishing Packers defense was only a part of it.
"We've got to get some damned heart," Cox said. "It's a line in `The Wizard of Oz.' Some of our guys have to go see the Wizard because we don't have a lot of heart.
"Search the waiver wire. This ain't college. If people aren't doing their jobs, let's get their ass out of here and get some people who want to play."
Indeed, the Bears' loss was galling. Trailing 7-3 with 35 seconds left in the first half, the Bears, through a series of mistakes, bad judgment and just plain poor play, saw the Packers score three touchdowns in a span of 4 1/2 minutes of elapsed time, including a 90-yard kickoff return, to break the game open early in the third quarter.
"They made big plays, we didn't, and it was catchup from there," Wannstedt said.
Favre again was sensational, with four touchdown passes, including a 50-yard heave off his back foot to Antonio Freeman with three Bears defenders and two Packers in the immediate vicinity, and no time left in the first half.
"Knock the ball on the ground and get yourself together," Cox grumbled. "Inexcusable."
That score followed an interception by Packers corner Doug Evans of a lob pass thrown up for grabs by Bears quarterback Dave Krieg at midfield.
"I should have known better than that," said Krieg, who threw three interceptions. "They have an explosive offense and we paid for it."
One play before that, Favre hooked up for a 2-yard TD pass to Keith Jackson, who squirmed inside three Bears defenders to complete a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
Favre also found a wide open Robert Brooks for an 18-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, and audibled in the third quarter for a 35-yarder to Freeman, who made a brilliant catch over Kevin Miniefield.
Although Favre has 20 TD passes and is on pace to break the NFL record of 48, Alonzo Spellman, for one, isn't ready to grant Favre the status of legend.
"I've seen better quarterbacks," he said. "The way I saw that (50-yarder), he threw the ball up and tried to make a play. And if you think that was a designed play by any means . . . It was a prayer, simple as that."
It was a sign, argued Cox, the Bears are not getting the job done.
"He scrambled, got away and made the plays," he said of Favre. "Every week now, somehow, some way, someone is getting the ball off on us and we end up looking stupid. It's our inability to finish plays that's killing us right now."
The Bears could argue with the theory that they took themselves out of the game early by not capitalizing on good field position on their first two possessions.
After a good defensive series on the Packers' opening possession, the Bears got the ball back on their own 41-yard line but failed to get a first down after unsuccessfully trying to lure the Packers offside on a fourth-and-inches from the 50.
"When you get down that close, you have to put it in the end zone," Krieg said.
An interception by Marty Carter following a solid hit by Mark Carrier on the next series gave the Bears the ball on the Green Bay 45. But that drive ended on a third and 8 from the 13 following a spectacular interception by linebacker Wayne Simmons, who plucked the ball away from Ryan Wetnight on the fly in the end zone.
The Bears' best moment came in the second quarter on a fourth and 8 from the Green Bay 39, when Todd Sauerbrun faked a punt and completed a 16-yard pass to Bobby Engram. But the drive stalled at the 22 and the Bears settled for a 40-yard field goal by Jeff Jaeger, who accounted for his team's only scoring with that kick and a 41-yarder in the third.
Other than that, there was almost nothing positive to reflect on or, for that matter, to build on. The rushing game was all but non-existent, special teams had their worst performance of the season, and four more players were injured (Chris Villarrial and Kevin Miniefield with concussions; Donnell Woolford, pulled hamstring; and Steve Stenstrom, who sprained his right foot but continued playing).
But to start blaming injuries now, the Bears said, would accomplish nothing.
"We've just got to improve our play with the guys who can play," Wannstedt said.
Road games still remain with Minnesota, Denver, Kansas City and Green Bay.
"We're not the same football team we were at the beginning of the season," said linebacker Vinson Smith. "We're not playing like a professional football team right now. If we were trying our hardest, it would be different, but we definitely didn't today."
Even Wannstedt, usually the eternal optimist, admitted it will be an uphill climb.
"We've got to play better and I'm not saying one guy," he said.
"Combine lack of effort with a lack of talent," linebacker Joe Cain said in explaining the loss. "Throw it all in there. (But) we have 10 more games. Anyone ready to give up now should get the hell out of here. The season is still salvageable. We just have to play a hell of a lot better than we did today."