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With seven games to go, Bears have no answers on how to fix things
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith looks up at the scoreboard during the fourth quarter of a 21-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field.

 

Associated Press

In those night-time defeats to the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown 11 interceptions.

 

John Starks | Staff Photographer

"We lost the game, so it doesn't matter," said inconsolable defensive end Alex Brown. "We lost, and that's what counts."

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/13/2009 2:26 PM

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The good news is that there is still a lot of football left.

But that might also be bad news for a Bears team that has alternated offensive meltdowns with defensive disasters, has lost four of its last five games, and has defeated just one team with a winning record this season.

All of that greatly overshadowed Thursday night's excellent defensive effort, which was about all Lovie Smith's 4-5 team could cling to after its third interception-filled loss in prime time.

In those three night-time defeats, to the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown 11 interceptions.

So it was little comfort knowing the defense did its job in Thursday night's 10-6 loss to the Niners.

"We lost the game, so it doesn't matter," said inconsolable defensive end Alex Brown. "We lost, and that's what counts. We lost. I don't know what you want me to say. We lost the game, so that's it."

Brown wasn't trying to suggest "that's it" for the season, but he wouldn't have been challenged if he did.

Of the Bears' seven remaining games, only two are against teams with losing records. The Bears also have two games remaining with the 7-1 Vikings, they face the 5-3 Eagles next Sunday, and have the 4-4 Packers at home and the 4-4 Ravens in Baltimore.

Brown said what everyone knows when he was asked how much room for error is left for the mistake-prone Bears.

"None at all," he said. "We have seven more games that we've got to win. But we can't win seven before we win one. We've got to win the first one."

That will be difficult enough for a team whose confidence is in doubt after a five-game stretch in which the only victory came against a 1-7 Cleveland Browns team.

That confidence seems especially fragile on offense. In just nine games, Cutler has already thrown more interceptions (17) than all but two NFL quarterbacks threw all of last season, and he was one of those two.

The ground game wasn't much better Thursday night, and the lack of a run threat continued to make more difficult for Cutler. Only twice all season has the Bears' run game produced more than 86 yards, and those two games were against the Browns and the Detroit Lions, who are also 1-7.

Even more disappointing for the offense is that there doesn't seem to be a consensus regarding what's wrong.

"I don't really have an answer," said tight end Greg Olsen, who caught 7 passes for 75 yards Thursday night. "We're going to have to see what happened. Everyone wants to say the picks are always on the quarterback, but they're not. There are a lot of things that the receivers have to do better, just the entire offense in general to take some of the pressure off that position, and we all have to do a better job."

Ten penalties for 75 yards also hurt the Bears, especially on offense.

"It's tough, especially on big plays," said wide receiver Devin Hester, whose 7 catches netted just 48 yards. "We hit them for 25 or 30 yards, and then you turn around and see a penalty flag lying on the ground."

A senseless unnecessary roughness penalty on right tackle Chris Williams cost the Bears 15 valuable yards and time off the clock during the game-ending drive when time was running out, and Cutler wound up having to force a final throw into the end zone that became his fifth interception. On the previous play right guard Roberto Garza was called for holding, moving the Bears back 10 yards.

"We've turned the ball over in some games when we can't (afford to)," coach Lovie Smith said. "But the penalties, that hasn't been something we've done a lot of, as far as past games. They can beat you in the end, and that's what happened."