Upon reviews, bad games and performances are rarely as bad as they seemed at the time. And the good ones are likewise seldom as good as they were on first impression.
That may be the case with the Bears’ 21-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. But how does anyone know? The 2015 preseason has become one of the most useless previews in recent recollection, regardless of wins and losses.
Apart from isolated individual good plays, it is difficult to envision mitigating details showing up on film that didn’t show up on the field of Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night.
But the real problem with assessing the state of the Bears (2-1) is the continuing flood of injuries, which have served to illustrate that some members of the depth charts are not starter-grade NFL material should they be called upon. (Special teams not so much, with that unit piling up five penalties of its own.)
But if you thought the Bears were a bad team, Saturday confirmed it. If you believe they’ll be better than people think, you have injuries as a rationale for what you saw and didn’t see in Cincinnati.
The offense? Besides the projected top four wide receivers all out with injuries, what positive there was for a No. 1 offense that failed to score a touchdown in its third and longest appearance on the field lay in Jay Cutler remaining turnover-free even with a complement of wide receivers, all of which will not be in the NFL when someone starts keeping score for real.
In fact the Bears have turned the ball over just once (an interception of Jimmy Clausen at Indianapolis) in 171 plays. After Cutler led the NFL with a personal total of 24 and the Bears averaged one turnover every 34.7 plays last season, this is at least something. The fact that the Bears haven’t done much with the ball except hang onto it is another question entirely and one that won’t get a major test in game situations until the Green Bay Packers are at Soldier Field on Sept. 13.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the [receiver] group out there [Saturday],” Cutler said. “What we asked them to do, they did well. Those guys went out there and played hard, they made some catches when I put the ball on them. We had a little bit of rhythm in that two-minute drive, and they did well. If we get guys back, great, and if not, I think all the guys we have right now did well.”
“Well” being a relative term considering the circumstances, in which Cutler clearly is grading on a curve.
The defense? The Bears lost two of their top three defensive linemen before Cincinnati had finished even one possession. The play of the secondary, which saw Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron go 12-for-12 and convert 71 percent of third downs, traces to what is or isn’t happening up in front of them.
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The defensive line, which opened with arguably its "hoped-for starters" for Week 1 – Eddie Goldman, Jarvis Jenkins, Jeremiah Ratliff – was without Goldman (concussion) and Ratliff (foot) even before the end of the first Cincinnati drive. Given that the line is the bedrock of either side of the football, critiquing the overall is an exercise in futility.
Defensive backs and linebackers didn’t tackle well; easy evaluation. But until the Bears have something close to their best front, good luck finding meaningful conclusions, good or bad, in what’s played out so far.