Losing is hard enough to endure. When the losing feels like a case of playing down to the level of the competition, that takes the sting to another level entirely.
Of course, if you play often enough like a bad team, pretty good chance that you are one. That becomes your "level."
In the wake of the San Francisco game, quarterback Jay Cutler pointed out that the offense had not operated well in the Green Bay game, either. That was followed by the Washington embarrassment. The offense has scored four touchdowns just once through 13 games; the 2014 team at least accomplished that two times in arriving at its 5-8 record.
Through 13 games the Bears last year had 35 offensive touchdowns; through 13 this year, 28, and that with Cutler playing the best sustained football of his career.
The Bears’ defense has allowed 41 pass plays of 20 yards or longer this season; more than three-fourths of those (31) have been put on the Bears by teams with passing offenses ranked 21st (Washington) or lower.
“I think we’ve not done a good job of playing to our own potential, playing to our own standard of football,” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “We’ve done more playing to our competition’s level.
“We played at a great level going against Green Bay, guys were excited, and then we come out and we’re playing San Francisco and we’re playing down to their level.”
Along with the losses to San Francisco and Washington, the Bears have the added pain of knowing those losses were to teams that had not won a road game previously. The loss in Detroit was to a Lions team that hadn’t won anywhere in five games.
The 49ers followed their escape from Soldier Field with a mauling at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, who’d lost seven straight before the 49ers. Washington came to Chicago after sputtering in a loss to hapless Dallas in which Washington scored just 16 points. Washington managed nearly that (14) in their first two possessions alone against the Bears’ defense.
It was not simply losing to bad teams. It was the way a team that went toe-to-toe with the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings – all teams with eight or more wins – could play down to the level of the inept. Detroit hadn’t won anywhere in five games before handing the Bears an overtime loss.
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The worse the opponent, the worse the Bears have played. But what in fact is the Bears’ “level?”
“Once we establish the fact that we have a standard of what we play and a level that we play at,” Porter said, “and we’re not going to go down to anyone’s level – they have to come up to our level – that’s when we’ll do better at closing out these tight games, winning these close games.”