Grading the Bears
For the second time in three weeks, the Bears surrendered 5 touchdown passes. Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner finished the Cardinals' first four drives with touchdown strikes, including a pair to all-pro WR Larry Fitzgerald. Warner finished 22 of 31 for 261 yards and a passer rating of 135.9.
QB (3.5 balls)
The Bears ran 63 plays from scrimmage, and Jay Cutler dropped back to throw on 54. Despite this lopsided ratio, Cutler threw for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns for a 98.6 passer rating. Better yet from the Bears' perspective, he got up after every hit he took and backed up his receivers when they couldn't get a pass-interference call.
RB (2 balls)
While it's tempting to offer an incomplete grade considering Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson combined for 7 carries, Forte did a nice job of getting yards after the catch on screens and dumpoffs. He offset his career low for rushes (5) with 6 receptions for a career-high 74 yards.
WR (3.5 balls)
Tight end Greg Olsen snagged 5 passes for 71 yards and 3 touchdowns - doubling his season TD total and tripling his previous career high. Devin Hester made some nice catches, including a 43-yard fly pattern early, but he never got his body in the right position to earn a pass-interference flag. Earl Bennett delivered a career-high 93 yards on his first 7-catch day since the opener at Green Bay.
OL (1.5 balls)
A second consecutive 4-sack week isn't good, though it's at least somewhat understandable considering everyone in Soldier Field knew Cutler had to throw every down and Arizona has a good rush. What's not understandable? Back-to-back false start penalties assessed to LG Josh Beekman and C Olin Kreutz, respectively. Kreutz also picked up a holding penalty that negated a 25-yard pass to Forte.
DL (1 ball)
DT Tommie Harris was kicked out on the game's fourth play when he slugged guard Deuce Lutui in the head. You would think it could only get better from there, but you're an incurable optimist. Statuesque Kurt Warner was sacked just twice and the league's worst running team piled up 182 yards on the ground. Alex Brown earns the group's ball with 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
LB (1 ball)
In the first half when Arizona won the game, the defense didn't make a single tackle for loss and the Cardinals had SIXTEEN plays that went for 11 yards or more. The blame for that goes to the entire defense, but we thought we'd fit that factoid into this group's evaluation because the linebackers couldn't stop the running backs and force Arizona to be one-dimensional like other teams have done.
Secondary (1 ball)
Zach Bowman's 39-yard interception return of Arizona backup Matt Leinart gave the Bears some life with 10 minutes left, but Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and some dude named Early Doucet (filling in for the injured Anquan Boldin) had already been the death of the secondary. Peanut Tillman had the unenviable task of trying to slow down Fitzgerald and couldn't do it before going out with a shoulder injury.
Special teams (1 ball)
On the Bears' first kick return, Corey Graham was flagged for holding. On the Bears' first punt, Brad Maynard's short pooch punt went right down the middle and Steve Breaston brought it out to Arizona's 30. Robbie Gould had his 48-yard field-goal attempt tipped shortly before halftime. And did you see Arizona's pooched kickoff that Israel Idonije apparently lost in the sun? The Bears were lucky to get it back.
Coaching (1 ball)
Judging by the fans' leather-lunged catcalls, Lovie Smith didn't enjoy his finest hour. The fans booed the defense. They booed the effort. (They booed a Cedric Benson highlight on the big screen). Ron Turner called a few nice screen plays, but what was up with the Devin Hester reverse that lost 10 yards?
How they scored
Cardinals 7, Bears 0
Score: Larry Fitzgerald, 11-yard pass from Kurt Warner; Neil Rackers kick; 12:12 left in first quarter.
Drive: 8 plays, 81 yards; 2:48 time of possession.
The play: On third-and-10 from Cardinals' 19, Warner connected with Steve Breaston for 23-yard gain.
Fact: It was the fifth time this season the Cardinals have scored on their opening drive.
Bears 7, Cardinals 7
Score: Greg Olsen, 33-yard pass from Jay Cutler; Robbie Gould kick; 9:13 left in first quarter.
Drive: 6 plays, 90 yards; 2:59 time of possession.
The play: Cutler connected with Devin Hester on a 41-yard pass down the sideline, Hester's longest catch of the season.
Fact: The Bears' scoring drive consisted of 6 pass plays, ending with Olsen's fourth TD of the season.
Cardinals 14, Bears 7
Score: Ben Patrick, 6-yard pass from Warner; Rackers kick; 3:26 left in first quarter.
Drive: 9 plays, 74 yards; 5:47 time of possession.
The play: A 13-yard run by rookie Beanie Wells propelled the Cardinals into Bears territory.
Fact: The Cardinals scored 14 points in just 17 plays, including nine double-digit gains.
Cardinals 21, Bears 7
Score: Fitzgerald, 17-yard pass from Warner; Rackers kick; 11:19 left in second quarter.
Drive: 6 plays, 70 yards; 3:30 time of possession.
The play: Wells scooted up the middle for 26 yards to the Bears' 30, the longest run of the season for the Cardinals.
Fact: Warner's TD pass to Fitzgerald was his 11th straight completion, 1 shy of the all-time record against the Bears.
Cardinals 28, Bears 7
Score: Anthony Becht, 15-yard pass from Warner; Rackers kick; 2:49 left in second quarter.
Drive: 10 plays, 86 yards; 5:01 time of possession.
The play: The Cardinals reached the red zone courtesy of a 25-yard gain by Breaston on a flanker reverse.
Fact: It was Brecht's first TD catch of the season and 21st of his career.
Cardinals 31, Bears 7
Score: Rackers, 43-yard field goal as second quarter ended.
Drive: 4 plays, 24 yards; 22 seconds time of possession.
The play: A partially blocked field goal by Gould was returned to midfield by Dominique Rodger-Cromartie.
Fact: The Cardinals finished the first half with 320 total yards and 21 first downs.
Cardinals 34, Bears 7
Score: Rackers, 30-yard field goal; 7:46 left in third quarter.
Drive: 11 plays, 57 yards; 5:32 time of possession.
The play: On third-and-8, Warner and Fitzgerald hooked up again for a 17-yard gain.
Fact: After converting 8-for-8 on third-down attempts, the Cardinals were finally stopped, forcing a Rackers field goal.
Cardinals 34, Bears 14
Score: Olsen, 3-yard pass from Cutler: Gould kick: 11:50 left in fourth quarter.
Drive: 9 plays, 93 yards; 4:26 time of possession.
The play: Matt Forte caught a screen pass and rambled 28 yards into the red zone.
Fact: Forte finished with over 100 yards of total offense.
Cardinals 34, Bears 21
Score: Olsen, 20-yard pass from Cutler; Gould kick; 9:04 left in fourth quarter.
Drive: 3 plays, 28 yards; 52 seconds time of possession.
The play: An interception and 39-yard return by Zackary Bowman set the Bears up in Arizona territory.
Fact: Olsen's 3-TD performance was the first by a Bear since Marty Booker in 2001 against Tampa Bay.
Cardinals 41, Bears 21
Score: Breaston, 4-yard pass from Warner; Rackers kick; 4:30 left in fourth quarter.
Drive: 4 plays, 17 yards; 2:11 time of possession.
The play: The Bears' comeback ended when Matt Ware intercepted Cutler and returned the ball to the Bears' 17.
Fact: Warner's 5-TD game was the second of his career.
The Bears have been having this recurring nightmare.
Every time they play a good offense with a standout wide receiver, they get thoroughly embarrassed. They're unable to stop anything the opponent does on offense until they're hopelessly behind.
Oh wait, that's not a nightmare, that's actually happened in two of the past three games.
Sunday, while the Cardinals were rolling to a 34-7 lead at sunny and unseasonably warm Soldier Field, it was eerily similar to the Bears' 45-10 loss to the Bengals two weeks ago.
The Bears had a too-little, too-late rally but still wound up 41-21 losers to Arizona as they dropped to 4-4, 3 games behind the Vikings in the NFC North.
"For this to work, we have to believe it's going to work, and we have to have a sense of urgency, (but) we don't have that right now," said defensive end Alex Brown, who had the Bears' only sack and also forced a fumble. "I don't know what the (heck) is wrong, but we have to change it.
"It's the eighth game of the season, and I know a lot people like to think we're better than 4-4, but (heck), our record is 4-4, so that's where we are. If we want to have any aspirations of going further or making it to the playoffs and stuff like that, then we've got to play a (heck) of a lot better."
After the first blowout loss the defenseless Bears could claim it was an aberration, but when it happens twice in three game, it's dangerously close to becoming a trend. The Bears' only victory in the past four games was over the 1-7 Cleveland Browns.
Two weeks ago the Bengals scored on their first seven possessions as wide receiver Chad Ochocinco caught everything thrown his way, piling up 10 receptions, 118 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
The Cardinals scored on their first six possessions, and their Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald appeared to be wide open whenever they needed a completion. Fitzgerald wound up with 9 catches for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Arizona reached the end zone on its first four possessions and then settled for field goals on its next two to grab their 34-7 lead before the halfway mark of the third quarter.
"I don't have a lot of reasons to give you why we played that way," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I know we're a better football team than that. But of course our play didn't say that. We can't get behind like that defensively in the first half. We couldn't get off the field on third down. But just our entire play throughout was bad."
Finally on the Cardinals' seventh possession the beleaguered Bears defense forced a punt. Even though the 5-3 Cardinals went conservative for most of the second half, they still wound up with 438 totals yards. They had 320 at halftime. Kurt Warner compiled a 135.9 passer rating, completing 22 of 31 passes for 261 yards and 5 touchdowns, matching the number of TD passes that Carson Palmer had two weeks ago.
The Cardinals, who came in averaging 64.9 rushing yards per game, dead last in the NFL, pounded the Bears for 182 yards on the ground on just 31 carries for a 5.9-yard average.
Smith said the Bears have to focus on the bottom line and on the future rather than dwelling on their recent disasters.
"You look at reality, and we're 4-4," Smith said. "That's all you can look at. We haven't played the defending champs in our division (the Vikings). You're disappointed, which we are, but then you move forward and you just do everything you can to get a win the next time out, and that's what we'll do. We have a lot of important football games coming up."
Those games - two with the Vikings, and the Eagles and Packers at home - might be important to the opponents, but they won't matter much to the Bears if they continue to play as they have the last month. They admit they've played terribly, but they don't seem to have any idea how to get better.
"Everybody that doesn't feel bad after that shouldn't be here," Brown said. "We stunk up the place. That's horrible. I really don't know what to do, but we've got another game Thursday (at San Francisco). We keep saying, 'Go home and soul search and look at yourself,' but I don't know. There might be something more, might be a little more than that."
At least this time the Bears managed a couple consolation touchdowns, as Greg Olsen caught 3- and 20-yard TD passes in the fourth quarter from Jay Cutler, his second and third TD receptions of the day. It was the first time a Bear has caught 3 TD passes since Marty Booker almost eight years ago.
Cutler finished with a season-high 369 passing yards, the second most in his career. He completed 29 of 47 passes with 3 TDs and 1 interception for a passer rating of 98.6. But that was little consolation.
"A loss is a loss," Cutler said. "We've got to do things better in the first half. If the other team is going to score like that, we've got to close the gap somehow. We're not really into moral victories at this point."
But that might be the only kind they can get.