CHICAGO – I didn’t see this one coming.
It’s not that I didn’t think the Bears were capable of losing, 23-16, to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Soldier Field.
In fact, the Bears had no business being favored by 5½ or 6 points over anyone in the NFL, and in particular a team with such a huge edge on offense with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones so much better at the offensive skill positions than the Bears, who might win the running back matchup but didn’t belong in a receivers comparison.
What I couldn’t imagine was that the Packers team I saw Monday night at Lambeau Field against the Lions was ready to beat anyone.
That was why this shouldn’t have happened – and yet it did – keeping the Packers’ season on life support and leaving Bears Nation to try to survive the 90-degree drop on the roller coaster this season has been through the first 10 weeks.
Good teams with solid coaching take advantage of their bye, heal up, self-scout, make corrections and come out better prepared to win.
The Bears came out of their bye even more banged up than they were going into New Orleans two weeks ago, with a reshuffled offensive line with Cody Whitehair at right guard, Hroniss Grasu at center and Kyle Long in a baseball cap on the sideline. The line had its worst game of the season, allowing Mitch Trubisky to be sacked five times, and what we thought was an ascending defense looked like it had forgotten all it had learned the first half of the season.
Trubisky tried to take the blame, saying, “It was just me being careful with the ball and holding it. They did a great job confusing us.”
“Some of them were coverage sacks, but I thought our offensive line did a great job up front today. Yeah, just me holding onto the ball, I have to get it out quicker.”
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews backed Trubisky to a point before getting to the real issue.
“Obviously, his pocket presence will come along. You have to take advantage of that. That’s exactly what we did.
“That’s what you expect to do when a team is so one-dimensional. You force them at times to take a few shots. You got to take advantage of that.”
What was Matthews getting at? Through three quarters, on 12 first-down plays not including the two-minute drive at the end of the first half, the Bears ran the ball nine times.
While the Bears ended the game passing 35 times and running only 17, they were as predictable as the sun setting in the West and confirmed again they are an offense without any semblance of an identity.
Asked why his club was so sloppy coming off the bye, coach John Fox responded, “Everyone has their own interpretation. But we had an opportunity to win that game. Like some of the games before, not necessarily coming out of or into a bye, we just came up short.”
Sadly, that isn’t true.
There is only one interpretation of what happened to the Bears on Sunday. They were sloppy, without focus and at no point was there any indication they were capable of beating a Green Bay team every bit as banged up as they were.
The Packers, on the other hand, who we actually expected to perform as the Bears ultimately did, coming off a short week with a quarterback who actually had less game experience than Trubisky, were excellently prepared, had a far better game plan and played like a team that knows how to win, not one that the coach apparently thinks should show up hoping to have a chance.
After four weeks of teasing us into believing their arrow was finally pointing up, the Bears took a giant step backward Sunday, and it’s fair to question whether it was one Fox and his staff will be able to survive.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.