SEATTLE — Sometimes the absence of pain can be taken as pleasure, and a loss that could have been a humiliation somehow looks better because it wasn’t completely embarrassing. But Sunday’s 26-0 loss felt at times like a fourth preseason game, with a backup quarterback throwing to wide receivers who would start only in a fourth preseason game (Eddie Royal excepted).
Maybe some overall perspective first:
If you’re a Bears fan needing something to feel upbeat about, how do you think folks in Detroit feel about their Lions, projected to be pretty good, who are also 0-3 and that’s with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and most of the players that matter? What do the Lions have to look forward to? The Baltimore Ravens are 0-3 and they have Joe Flacco (and Marc Trestman as their offensive coordinator). The New Orleans Saints are 0-3 and they (mostly) have Drew Brees.
Injuries aren’t an excuse but in the Bears’ case, they certainly are a reason. “As I said last week, ‘We’re 0-2,’” head coach John Fox said. “We’ll get better. We will get some guys back hopefully at some point. We will be a little bit more whole. There are enough guys in there that we can generate enough good football to win games.”
One reality is that the Bears might even have played fairly well over their first three games and been 0-3. But ultimately they did not, and the loss to the Seattle Seahawks left unanswered what kind of team the Bears really are.
Or maybe it did answer that without Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery, Jeremiah Ratliff and maybe Kevin White, the Bears cannot compete in the 2015 NFL with anybody much good.
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All things considered
If there were nothing constructive in the loss at Seattle, the situation would be far, far more dire. But one of the treats on game days is standing by to do my segment of our Postgame Live show that features Lance Briggs, Dan Jiggetts and Jim Miller. And when three former NFL players with long histories of straight talk are talking about positives that they observed in Sunday’s game, then it’s a pretty sure thing that something had transpired on the plus side.
The main one Sunday night was the arrival of a pass rush without coordinator Vic Fangio needing to go into a panic mode, which he abhors anyway. Pernell McPhee played like the franchise linchpin he was signed to be (two sacks, two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits), and Jarvis Jenkins (two sacks, 10 tackles, two for losses and two quarterback hits) was the kind of impact down-lineman (for a game, at least) that Fangio had in San Francisco with Justin Smith.
“It starts with the interior. If the inside gets rush, that opens up the outside. We got good rushes in the first half and that’s when (Seattle) had to start clamping down. That’s 3-4 defense," Jenkins told CSNChicago.com. "You could see that with Vic Fangio in San Francisco with Justin Smith and those guys. It’s got to start with the D-line.”
And the D-line gets Ratliff back from suspension this week. Fox might not go in for candid public critiques of his players but neither does he usually say something is when it isn’t, and “I think we’re making headway,” he said. “I think we made headway in some phases of our defense. But we still have a long way to go.”
Not that it necessarily counts for anything, but the attitude is right. Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson followed Jenkins’ first sack with a bit of trash-yelling and 12th-man baiting of the Seattle fans in the south end zone.
“Hey, that’s what it’s all about,” McPhee said. “We gotta make up our minds that we are a defense people are going to be scared of. That’s how we have to play the rest of the year.”
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But over on offense
The results with Jimmy Clausen were about what should have been expected, maybe a little bit worse, but better quarterbacks than Clausen have struggled against the Seahawks in Seattle, and getting Oakland in Soldier Field is potentially a more manageable assignment than Sunday’s.
But the Bears cannot entertain thoughts of progress when they have 10 possessions and punt 10 times (if you want a positive, at least they went through a game without a turnover for the first time this season).
And even a bad team should be able to do better than five second-half possessions with four ending as three-and-out’s and the fifth a four-play possession. The last time the Bears were shut out was a 15-0 blanking by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the Bears also rolling out a backup quarterback — Henry Burris — who threw four interceptions among his 19 attempts. Clausen wasn’t that bad, at least.
Special teams were, however. The Bears are using starters on coverage (including linebacker Sam Acho, safety Antrel Rolle) and gave up three 60-plus-yard returns in the span of barely six quarters, including the kickoff-return touchdown Sunday in a play that clinched the outcome, given the obvious limitations and shortcomings of the Clausen-led offense.