The state of the Bears was chronicled all too eloquently by coach Lovie Smith amid the aftershocks of the loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Smith had run through the problems of the day, then he paused and changed direction toward the real fallout issues facing his team.
Of course, Im just kind of telling what happened, Smith said. Im not giving you a lot of solutions for the problems we have going on right now, which we have to find out pretty quick with a big game against Green Bay coming up.
Solutions, like the football, have eluded the Bears ever since Jay Cutler fractured is right thumb late in the win over the San Diego Chargers. And whether they have found any since Smiths assessment, beginning with new quarterback Josh McCown, is what the Bears will sort out in Lambeau Field on Sunday night.
No longer is the discussion about whether the Bears can clinch the playoffs with two or three wins, the way it was when Cutler and then Matt Forte went down.
Now it is simply winning one single game. NFL seasons usually are approached that way anyway but the Bears have been reduced to that condition, and unfortunately against the consensus one elite team in the 2011 NFL.
McCown is now the Bears starting quarterback primarily because Caleb Hanie threw nine interceptions in his four starts. If McCown does nothing else, he is tasked with ending that season-altering pattern.
Green Bay is a lowly 31st in yardage allowed in the NFL (398 yards per game), a respectable 14th (21.1 points per game) and a spectacular No. 2 in turnover ratio with a plus-20. The Packers will give up yardage -- occasionally some points -- but rarely the ball.
And they rank No. 1 in the NFL scoring 34.3 points per game, which means that any takeaway their defense manages will likely end in points.
You dont want to give the ball away, McCown said. But, especially for them, the numbers can be a little skewed, because their offense is so good, that teams are passing against them and trying to move the ball. So theyve always got big leads, so teams are going to get yards against them. But I think what youre concerned with most of all is their takeaways.
It was right there for Bears
Playoffs have not been a prominent topic of conversation since the Seattle game. With good reason. So many scenarios and contingencies exist that any attempt at precise analysis, given the Bears freefall, seems pointless.
But the Bears in fact are still a team with a chance to reach the postseason, and they cant be officially eliminated by the kickoff time Sunday. If they do lose one more, playoffs are out. With Detroit clinching its first postseason birth since 1999 by defeating San Diego on Saturday, if Atlanta wins one more, the Bears are done, but the Falcons do not play until Monday night.
The four-game losing streak was agonizing enough, with its succession of head-shaking plays: Mike Martzs call of the throw-back screen in Oakland, Roy Williams dropped TD pass and Marion Barbers formation foul-up vs. Kansas City, Barbers stay in bounds and fumble in Denver, Hanies two pick-sixes vs. Seattle and 41.8 passer rating throughout the four games.
But the sting was the more acute both because the playoffs were virtually locked up and because while the Bears were losing those four, other playoff wannabes were slipping up on or past them.
The Falcons, over whom the Bears hold a head-to-head tiebreaker, went 3-1. The Detroit Lions bumbled to a 2-2 stretch, and the New York Giants have been 1-3 while the Bears were foundering.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks were going 3-1 to reach 7-7 and the Arizona Cardinals, with surprise fill-in rookie quarterback John Skelton, were putting together a 4-0 sprint. Those two NFC Westers play each other in game 16, but theyve drawn even with the Bears, further reducing the Bears margin for errors.
Its been frustrating, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. It hasnt been hard. You know football is still football. Its still fun. Its been hard to make plays for us for some reason.
As Smith said about finding solutions, the Bears need to find reasons too.