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Columnist
A win and not much else
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 11/2/2009 12:01 AM

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Well at least they showed up.

Granted, it was against the Cleveland Browns, the greatest qualifier of all, but there's always the chance the Bears could have Bengaled it again.

They didn't.

So what does it really mean, the Bears' 30-6 victory Sunday at Soldier Field?

Well, they were facing the 31st-ranked offense and the 32nd-ranked defense, which - in case you're unaware - is out of 32 NFL teams.

It would have been difficult for the Bears to find a way to lose this game, yet they looked unspectacular on both sides of the ball, and worst of all allowed their quarterback to take an absolute beating from one of the worst defensive lines in pro football.

Poor Jay Cutler was sacked five times and hit hard on at least another half-dozen plays, slow to get up on three occasions.

But he did get up, and did just enough to keep the Bears from giving away a game to a truly horrible team.

"It does say a lot about him that he will sit in there (and get hit)," said Bears head coach Lovie Smith. "Jay's not gonna complain, but he took a few more licks than we would like. Some days are gonna be like that."

The best part of the Bears' offense was watching the Browns' offense hand the ball to the Bears' defense, which it did five times.

But accepting gifts from the impoverished isn't the same as dominating the wealthy, and that's something the Bears didn't do in any way Sunday.

"Offensively, we have to take a look at this and find out where we can get better and where we can make improvements," Cutler said. "We need to make more plays.

"I'm happy we got a win. The whole locker room is happy with the win, but the offense has to be better to help out the defense."

Cutler's no fool. He can look at a game like Sunday's and know the only difference between the win against Cleveland and the terrible loss a week ago at Cincinnati was the quality of the opponent.

He probably went home Sunday night thinking that if the Bears' offensive line plays this way against a genuine NFL defense, Cutler's going to get his head taken off.

He might want to consider protecting himself for the long run, because this Bears team doesn't appear to be going anywhere and Cutler's got a long and productive career ahead of him, assuming he survives this line play.

"We have a long ways to go," Smith said. "Still, we made progress."

You might get an argument from those who paid to witness the game from the stands. The first boos from the faithful took only five minutes, and the first half was like watching dry paint peel.

The two teams combined couldn't manage a first down for the first nine minutes, and the Browns couldn't fall into one until time was running out in the first quarter.

It was 16-0 Bears at the half and at that point it was a war of attrition - for the 59,493 who showed on the 10-year anniversary of Walter Payton's death.

The players wore the nontraditional orange jerseys, hardly befitting a day dedicated to Payton, but credit the fans with wearing many more No. 34 jerseys than on a regular Sunday at the lakefront.

So the fans could be proud, while the game was hardly anything to be proud of, even though it was, as Smith said, an improvement over last week.

"I'd say it's a winning performance," Smith said. "It wasn't our best offensive day, but we didn't turn it over much and we got takeaways."

Smith has two eyes so he also has to know it wasn't an NFL team the Bears faced Sunday, and despite that the Browns were able to run at will on the Bears' defense.

It's stunning when you consider that Cleveland doesn't have anything resembling an NFL quarterback.

Derek Anderson was worse than atrocious, carrying a zero QB rating into the second half, and was lucky to reach double figures by the end of the third quarter, finishing the game with a sparkling 10.5.

The Browns didn't even find the Bears' side of the field until a Brad Maynard shank two minutes into the third quarter, which led to their only score.

Fans booed throughout the second half at the Bears' incredibly conservative approach offensively, but with a comfortable lead and the Browns as bad as they are, it was the smart play.

Other than bad punts by Maynard, Cleveland had absolutely no chance to get out of their own end, because the Browns weren't smart enough to keep it on the ground and out of the hands of their quarterback.

Ultimately, the Bears didn't have to do anything other than let the Browns self-destruct, but Cutler knows that's not going to work against even a decent opponent.

"We gotta get better offensively," Cutler said. "We can't bank on pass-interference calls or roughing-the-passer penalties, or we're gonna be in trouble."

No one more so than Cutler himself.