Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books, and I needed to move beyond “Over-reaction Monday”. I needed to get past “Cash-in-the-season Tuesday”. I thought I’d be fine, but then came “When-does-hockey-start Wednesday”. Yes, it has been difficult recovering from the Bears’ Week 1 loss to the Bills. With such a front loaded schedule, this one was supposed to be the “gimme”. A new-look defense, an offense ready to take the next step after a break-out season and a quarterback finally ready to take the next step to elite. What we got was, new faces aside, the same old Bears.
So what went wrong this week? In a word, everything. It wasn’t a step back, it was something worse. It was a team showing no progress from last season. The run defense was non-existent, as were the linebackers. I mean, seriously. Did the Bears suit up any linebackers? The new defensive line couldn’t get anywhere near EJ Manuel. Jared Allen took over right where Julius Peppers left off – a shadow of his former self. This against a team that isn’t even expected to make the playoffs, and who didn’t even play that great of a game. This was absolutely unacceptable. For the first time maybe ever, this is a Bears defense without an identity. And that should concern us.
The offense started the game off great. First drive of the game Cutler looked sharp and they utilized all of their weapons on that drive leading me to think this was what we were in store for the rest of the day. But that did not end up being the case. Matt Forte, who played the best game of anyone on either side of the ball for the Bears, was a major factor in the short passing game, but they went away from him too early in the run where he was not being stopped. And then the injuries started piling up. Roberto Garza and Matt Slausen left the game early with ankle injuries, and then Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey couldn’t stay on the field. So as much as I want to just blame Cutler for everything, he did have two new linemen and question about who would be lined up at receiver every time they left the huddle. But any hope of seeing a “new” Jay Cutler was quickly wiped away. For better or for worse, this was the same old Jay Cutler. The player who showed more poise and patience in the pre-season was no longer, replaced again by the erratic quarterback who in one moment made passes few others could make, and in the next decisions so dumb you’d never think you were watching a nine year veteran.
We thought we’d be getting a more predictable team coming into this season. A high-powered offense and a quarterback finally ready to reach his potential. A defense that wasn’t going to set any records, but would at least be an upgrade from last season. So should we be genuinely concerned? Or does this team still have hope of being the championship team we all hoped just hitting an early season speed bump? Well we won’t need to wait long to find out, as they’ll be tested by one of the elite teams in the NFL this Sunday night in Santa Clara. And sure I don’t see the Bears winning on the road in prime time against the 49ers, but doing so certainly restores hope back here in Chicago. Win or lose, we need to see a better team out there on Sunday.