10:40 AM EDT, October 18, 2011
Excuse me, but I’m sick of hearing hear how the Bears are a victory over Tampa Bay away from having the same record they took into the bye last season.
The subtext seems to be this: Look at the way they stumbled to start last season and still won the NFC North.
I’ve heard some version of that from coaches, players, media and fans. The players and coaches have to grasp at that tripe. I get it. The Bears wouldn’t have to resort to that, of course, if they had an actual contending team.
Point is, stop it. All of you, stop it right now. Stop it before the stupidity becomes contagious.
Look, not all 4-3 records are created equal.
And even if the Bears beat the Bucs in London --- a big “if’’ because the Bucs are a good team and the Bears can’t beat good teams --- this 4-3 record couldn’t be more different.
For one thing, the division reeked last season, starting with the Vikings and Lions. The Packers were beaten up and error-plagued early last season compared to what was expected of their talent, but they would eventually show it, and look at that, they still are showing it.
The Vikings are still as dumb and bad as last season, but Lions have ridden a healthy quarterback to a 5-1 record, and so, the stumbling, bumbling, crumbling Bears are two games behind Detroit and three behind the undefeated Packers.
Oh, and the Bears already have lost to both teams. Last season, their 4-3 record included wins over both division rivals. So, the same record this year would be altogether different.
And once you get past the potential 4-3 record that serves as a laughable barometer, have the Bears watched themselves play?
Last season, the Bears had a terrific defense that was ranked among the leaders. This year, the Bears are just rank on defense.
They have nobody who can play safety, which is a problem when they don’t play offensive lines worse than theirs. They have at least two guys on their defense who’ve demanded trades. They appear limited to getting one game a month from a defensive tackle.
But wait, it gets worse. They haven’t consistently stopped the run, they haven’t consistently stopped the pass, they haven’t put consistently pressure on the quarterback with their front four, and they haven’t come close to getting home with their blitzes.
To think, this is the backbone of the Bears.
New NFL rules and a sorry defense that can’t force a lot of punts have cost the Bears a good deal of their special teams threat. I saw the way Devin Hester mesmerized the Vikings, but he always does that to them. Sorry, folks, but you have to ignore the Vikings and their continuum of idiocy. No matter the rules or the venue, the Vikings remain stupid and bad in coaching and execution. The Bears can’t play the Vikings every week. I asked. The NFL said no, and then shook my hand too hard.
To recap, the two best parts of the Bears aren’t close to last season’s level, which leaves the offense, which is largely just as bad and reckless as last season.
The game that Mike Martz called against Minnesota was uncharacteristically smart. It started with running the ball, which made the play-action successful, but Martz treats the rushing game like it’s a colonoscopy.
Last season, the offense looked decent --- decent was as good as it would get --- when there was some balance. But Martz couldn’t wait to get to this season and go back to the stuff his team couldn’t block and receivers couldn’t execute.
I don’t know who’s buying into Martz, but all of them ought to have “Schmuck’’ stamped on their foreheads.
As long as Martz is here, the comfort level remains at DEFCON5. You can’t trust him to realize what kind of team he has. Even when Martz calls for max protection, you feel he is threatened into calling for it. The extra blocking worked against the Vikings because, well, they’re the Vikings, the NFL equivalent of training wheels.
But unquestionably, this was the imprisoned Martz after the “Debacle in Detroit.’’ History tells us that he will revert to his vision of the offense, no matter that his team cannot execute the extreme demands of it. That, unfortunately, remains the one big thing that mirrors last season:
The offensive coordinator will revert to his DNA and then the Bears will be up Martz Creek without a paddle.
The good-news/bad-news thing is the Bears defense is more likely to repeat last Sunday night’s performance than the Bears offense is.
The bad-news/bad-news thing is, neither unit has played two quality games in a row.
The Bears have yet to beat a team with a winning record. The teams the Bears have beaten have a combined record of 5-13. The teams the Bears have lost to are 15-3 combined. The Bucs are 4-2. Sorry, you can’t play Minnesota every week.
You also can’t play remarkably healthy every week. That’s another huge difference from last season. The Bears lost almost nobody important last season, give or take a Jay Cutler concussion. The Bears already are more injured than last season. Don’t expect that to change.
And finally, there’s no guarantee that the Bears will get to face a bunch of third-string quarterbacks that helped them luck into whatever last season was, which was one of the worst things ever for people who want to see replacements for Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and especially Martz.
The line for those changes starts behind me, and that goes for even if they vault to that apparently glorious 4-3 record.