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Friday, August 29, 2008
Black and Blue all over: Bears defense a 'mess'

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The good news? The Chicago Bears avoided a winless preseason Thursday night, slipping past the Cleveland Browns 16-10.

The rest of the news? Legitimate concern has surfaced about the Bears defense, which gave up two scoring drives to a watered-down Browns offense despite having the majority of its own starters on the field. Defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek sat out along with safety Mike Brown, but the rest of the Bears' starters allowed 123 yards on 21 plays to the Browns, who were without quarterback Derek Anderson, running back Jamal Lewis and receiver Braylon Edwards.

There weren't a lot of "Oh, it's just preseason" quotes afterward. Cornerback Charles Tillman called the situation "a mess" and said: "If I had an answer I'd tell you right now."

Coach Lovie Smith acknowledged his disappointment and wouldn't use the typically generic defensive schemes of preseason as an excuse:

''We've been vanilla the entire preseason. We are not going to use that as a reason for not playing as well as we need to. We're not going to go down that road. Yeah, we'll have a lot more stuff in [when we play the Indianapolis Colts], but that's the base stuff we do and you need to be sound fundamentally with your base stuff.''

The Bears' No. 1 defense gave up a score on seven of its final nine drives of the preseason. One of the two non-scoring drives ended in a blocked field goal. They haven't panicked yet, but changes already were under way Thursday night. Kevin Payne has leapfrogged Brandon McGowan as the starting strong safety, and defensive coordinator Bob Babich called the game from the sideline rather than his usual perch in the press box.

Chicago plays the Colts a week from Sunday. You think Peyton Manning has incentive to hurry back onto the field?

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