Bears get dose of reality
From kick to Cutler's throat to three injuries, Chicago's ego took a beating at Dome
NEW ORLEANS -- Jay Cutler's typically mellifluous voice was noticeably croaky after the game.
It wasn't from yelling at his linemen and tight ends to, y'know, pick up a blitz now and again.
The Chicago Bears' horse wasn't hoarse from screaming at his receivers or from yelling at his coaches for keeping him in as a Crash Test Cutty during a fourth quarter as he got pummeled, New Meadowlands-in-2010 style.
Presumably he wasn't yelling for beads on Bourbon Street on Saturday night. Nope, Cutler's problem was that he got kicked in the throat.
And that's a tidy description of how the Bears' day went inside the Superdome, as they fell 30-13 to the New Orleans Saints. It was a good ol' fashioned throat kicking combined with a carpet-burning sensation known as a reality check.
As the Bears found out, pain isn't just French bread in the Big Easy.
A lot of people expected this kind of result -- Gregg Williams' blitz-happy defense, at home, against the Bears' tenuous Bears offensive line. But the Bears, fresh off a win over Atlanta, have different goals for themselves than the national media and the Twitterverse do for them.
"[This was] a team we had in our book as a must-win," said Devin Hester, who is already thinking about playoff seeding.
The Bears better hope they get home-field advantage again. The Superdome was super-loud and inhospitable to Chicago visitors.
The Bears went bust trying to go 2-0. They looked like the disjointed team that got no respect during the preseason. They looked like the team that frustrated fans en masse last season, even as they made their NFC championship run. It was a return to form, and it starts with the quarterback.
With Saints marching on their pride -- Saints cornerback Jabari Greer said it was "one of those games where just had pure joy and a lot of fun" -- the quarterback was in disarray.
He got sacked six times, five in the fourth quarter alone. He was hit 10 times as the Saints sent waves of pass rushers from all over the field. Hey, at least he proved to his naysayers that he's tough, right?
Most likely, any critics would come to terms with the fact that Cutler needs better talent to maximize his abilities.
"It was a long day out there," Cutler said. "I don't know how many sacks I took, but I had to throw a lot of balls away before I wanted to."
I've seen this movie before, right?
"This was a team loss," coach Lovie Smith said.
A team beat-down is more like it. The Bears got dealt a Floyd Mayweather KO. But that kind of analysis is obviously in the eye of the beholder. Johnny Knox and a few of his teammates took umbrage at a reporter's assertion the Bears got "manhandled."
"Manhandled?" Knox said. "That's way too strong. It's football. There's going to be injuries. We've got guys step in for each other. Other than that, we didn't get manhandled."
"Is that what it looked like?" injured lineman Lance Louis said.
Only if you watched the second half, Lance. Or much of the first. It wasn't just the kill shots the Saints were enforcing, but rather a lingering sense that the Bears were getting outclassed after shocking the football world in Week 1.
The Bears came into the game missing important players such as Chris Harris, Roy Williams, Louis and Marion Barber. It got worse. Earl Bennett got knocked out with a chest injury from a Harper helmet shot, right tackle Gabe Carimi left with a knee injury and safety Major Wright suffered a head injury trying to tackle Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
The Bears aren't deep enough to ride this kind of injury wave. If Carimi is out, the Bears are going to have a problem so acute you might as well rip up those playoff parking passes. Sorry Frank Omiyale, but it's true.
Cutler, always the headliner, had a dreadful game, going 19-for-45 for 244 yards, also losing a key fumble on a Turk McBride sack. Blame that one on tight end Kellen Davis, who got, well, manhandled, on the blocking assignment. Five plays later the Saints scored to make it 23-13.
Forte caught 10 passes and turned them into 117 yards, continuing his strong start to the season in his contract year. Cutler tried a few shots downfield, but he was off-kilter for most of the game. The Bears needed quick-hit plays, but even Cutler got it out quick, the Bears receivers weren't always sure-handed.
"They were blitzing a lot," said Knox, who caught two passes and was targeted six times. "When they're blitzing you got to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands real quick. But other than that, we just gotta adjust better."
Naturally, offensive coordinator Mike Martz didn't see a need to mix in the run in the second half, despite a close score. Forte had nine carries in the first half and just one in the second. Forty-two of his 49 rushing yards came on one run in the first quarter. It makes sense they gave up the run in the third quarter. They were down six points and later three.
Maybe Forte will get paid like a diva receiver, since the Bears don't want to throw money at a disposable running back.
The Bears trailed by 10 going into the fourth and with the Bears "forced" to pass every down, Williams' defense smelled blood.
"When the defense brings one more than you can block, there's nothing you can do," said Omiyale, who replaced Carimi. "That was a couple of the situations. Other than that, we had a bunch of one-on-one battles we had to win. We'll be able to tell who did their job when we watch the film."
Sounds like appointment viewing to me. I hope there's enough blame to be passed around.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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