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Hot topic of conversation after Bears loss: job security
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap (86) falls into the end zone as Chicago Bears cornerback Corey Graham, center and safety Al Afalava defend.


Associated Press

Jay Cutler works his way upfield during the first half.


Associated Press

A potential touchdown pass eludes the hands of tight end Greg Olsen.


Associated Press

Baltimore's Paul Kruger, top, and Justin Bannan stop Bears running back Kahlil Bell in his tracks.


Associated Press

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Published: 12/20/2009 6:18 PM | Updated: 12/21/2009 8:40 AM

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Bears grades

GAME BALL: Joe Flacco

In the fine tradition of Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner and Brett Favre - a power trio that combined for 13 touchdown passes without any interceptions against the Bears earlier this year - Baltimore's Joe Flacco threw for a career-high 4 TDs without any picks. Flacco posted a 135.6 QB rating as he hit 21 of 29 passes for 234 yards.

QB (0 balls)

Jay Cutler's 3 interceptions were bad enough. Late in the third quarter, what was with the throw 15 yards out of bounds when the Ravens brought a pedestrian four-man rush and nobody was close to Cutler? And it can't be good when Channel 32 analyst Brian Billick wonders if you're "beginning to look Jeff George-ish."

RB (2 balls)

Matt Forte looked quicker and more agile than he had in weeks - a sign he has been more injured than anyone was willing to say. He rushed 20 times for 69 yards, but what was with the terrible ball protection when he had the ball knocked out of his hands inside the Bears' 10 early in the third quarter?

WR (0 balls)

A drop for Devin Aromashodu. A drop for Rashied Davis in junk time. Earl Bennett's 20-yard catch in the third quarter, when he found a hole in the zone trailing 31-7, was the deepest pass the Bears hit since their first play.

OL (2 balls)

Nicely conceived 30-yard WR screen on the game's first play from scrimmage. LT Chris Williams and C Olin Kreutz were among the guys leading the way forl Bennett. The line provided a few decent holes for Forte in the first half. Alas, facing fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter, the Bears felt they couldn't run against the Ravens.

DL (1 ball)

The Bears sold out to stop the run and the line plugged the gaps after Ray Rice's early pair of 28-yard blasts. The stats say Adewale Ogunleye earned a quarterback hit.

LB (2 balls)

As mentioned before, the Bears sold out to stop the run and Lance Briggs benefited with 13 solo stops. Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach each posted sacks after the score was 31-7.

Secondary (1 ball)

On the Ravens' first possession, TE Todd Heap beat Corey Graham for a TD on a simple slant. On the next drive, Heap lined up at right tackle and essentially went uncovered for a TD. Demetrius Williams caught a TD between Peanut Tillman and Al Afalava despite Peanut's interference. Derrick Mason whipped Zack Bowman with an inside fake and an outside move to the pylon for the Ravens' fourth passing score.

Special teams (2 balls)

Bennett's 49-yard punt return provided the Bears' lone score. The return team set up a nice path up the right side, which featured a nice downfield block by Darrell McClover. Johnny Knox fumbled another kickoff as he didn't protect the ball whatsoever.

Coaching (1 ball)

Nice to see the Bears go for it on a pair of fourth-and-1 situations in the first half. Been wanting to see that aggressive attitude for weeks. Flacco had just 4 TD passes in the previous seven games combined, so it seemed to make sense to stuff the run and force the second-year guy to beat you downfield.

- Lindsey Willhite

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If, as Bears general manager Jerry Angelo suggested before the game, job security will be addressed after the season, Sunday's pathetic 31-7 loss to the Ravens could not have helped anyone's cause.

It was the Bears' fourth loss of the season by 20 or more points, the first time that has happened since a historically bad 4-12 Dave Wannstedt team in 1997. It was the Bears' eighth loss in their last 10 games and the seventh straight game in which they've failed to score more than 21 points.

Head coach Lovie Smith's record since the loss in Super Bowl XLI is 21-25, including three straight nonplayoff campaigns, but he claims not to be concerned about his job.

"I haven't been concerned about my job security (any) day I've come to work," said Smith after his team fell to 5-9. "Come to work same way each day, trying to do the best job I possibly can.

"If you can do that, you don't think about job security."

Angelo did not offer Smith a vote of confidence in a pregame meeting with the media, and even if he had it wouldn't have had much credibility after the Bears' sixth loss in seven road games.

Smith probably understands that better than anyone.

"What's a vote of confidence at this time?" said Smith, who clinched his third losing season in six years at the Bears' helm. "I'm sure what Jerry said is what I'm saying right now, 'Disappointed in our play and probably let the season play out.' That's the way you do everything.

"You don't talk about things like that during the year, except what's going on on the football field. That's enough to talk about. We're disappointed in our play. Disappointed in our record.

"I'm the head football coach, so I'm sure a lot of people aren't knocking down the door wanting to pat me on the back."

Angelo wasn't the only one who failed to deliver a vote of confidence. Smith didn't have much good to say about his team whose only 2 wins in the past 10 weeks have been against the Cleveland Browns (3-11) and the St. Louis Rams (1-13).

"It looked like one team was playing for something and the other one really wasn't," Smith said of the Ravens (8-6). "I thought we had a good week of practice. (We) did whatever we needed to do to get here. I thought obviously (there would be) a better effort from us, better play from us, but we didn't get that."

Debating whether the Bears have been worse on offense or defense seems akin to asking roadkill to compare the front and rear axles on a truck.

In this case, the nod probably goes to the offense, which generated just 220 yards of total offense and surrendered 4 interceptions, 3 by Jay Cutler, who boosted his NFL-leading pickoff total to 25.

Only once in franchise history has a Bears quarterback been intercepted more, and that was in 1947, when Sid Luckman threw 31 interceptions.

Cutler's passer rating of 7.9 was the easily the worst of his career, far surpassing in ineffectiveness the 32.7 he put up in 2007 with the Denver Broncos.

It also was the lowest in the Ravens' 14-year history for an opposing quarterback.

Cutler threw 2 interceptions in the first quarter, which not only nuked Bears drives but led to the Ravens' first 2 touchdowns and a 14-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the game.

"It seems like we haven't gotten a lot of breaks," said Cutler, who completed 10 of 27 passes for 94 yards. "But there were a lot of mistakes, by myself and the rest of the offense as well."

Cutler has had more TD passes than interceptions in just two of his last 10 games, and the Bears have failed to generate more than 284 total yards in each of their past five games, making the dismissal of the offensive assistants an almost foregone conclusion.

Cutler was asked if he'd like to put this season to rest and start over.

"Hit the reset button or something?" he said. "It would be nice. But we can't. We're in the position that we are, and we're responsible for that.

"I'm responsible for that, but there's not much we can do but keep fighting these next two games and try to get something out of it, try to salvage something out of it, and try to get ready for next year."

Next year can't come soon enough for the Bears who, if past performance is any indication, don't figure to put up much of a battle in next Monday night's prime-time clash with the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.

"We go out, and we know what to do, and we're trying to do it," defensive end Alex Brown said. "But when you're not playing with confidence, it just doesn't work.

"We didn't tackle. When (we) play a good team, they kill us. Whenever we play a team that's in the playoff run or a division leader or something, we've gotten smoked, and we're just not very good."