Phil Arvia: Bears good, but not great like AFC's best
For public consumption, at least, Lovie Smith was unconcerned.
“The first game, you set the bar, then you start working from there,” he said after the Bears lost their season opener 14-3 to the Chargers.
Actually, the bar was set in February. Against Indianapolis in Miami, the Bears failed miserably to clear it.
The height was a notch lower Sunday, and the Bears crashed again — making them 0-for-3 since November against the AFC’s power trio of the Colts, Chargers and New England — confirming everything you feared was true about them.
They’re good. Really good. But not as good as the best teams in the AFC.
Rex Grossman is still sketchy. Mike Brown is still ouchy. Ditto for Dusty Dvoracek. Smith is still touchy. Cedric Benson is still fumbly. And nobody is going to let Devin Hester beat them.
The good news? These guys wouldn’t throw each other under the bus unless a meteor shower hit the Greyhound terminal.
Consider Smith’s nose-growing answers to questions about A) the interception of a pass Bernard Berrian quit on, and B) Tommie Harris getting away with an obvious offsides to force a fumble and rob the Chargers of a goal-line chance.
“Great play by their player,” he said of the former.
“I thought the officials called it right,” he said of the latter.
Fine, for now, in the name of camaraderie and the spirit of not pointing fingers. Just be careful this willful avoidance of the obvious doesn’t extend to judgments on players.
And speaking of another Mike Brown injury ...
Actually, let’s not. It was just too painful to watch that exceptionally personable young man limp through yet another locker room with yet another bag of ice strapped to yet another body part.
In this case, it was his left knee, which the Bears officially said was sprained. Unofficially, Brown might be done for the year, which would give the former Pro Bowler a total of 43 games missed over four seasons, excluding playoffs.
“The prognosis, right now, doesn’t look too good,” Brown said, shortly before tearing up and cutting short his interview.
“It’s such a crappy deal,” Adam Archuleta said. “The guy, he’s been through so much, and he was poised to have a great season, a big season. I was looking forward to us actually playing the whole season together, and then, bam.”
Instead, what does the NFC North’s last-place team have to look forward to now?
Well, there’s the defense and Bob Babich, whose fiery sideline demeanor might make up for the passion lost if Brown doesn’t make it back to the field. Nor does it hurt that he seems prone to letting his guys tee off once in a while — well, except when everyone bit on the halfback part of LaDainian Tomlinson’s halfback option pass for San Diego’s second touchdown.
“He puts us in positions to be successful,” said Nate Vasher, who got his first career sack on a first-down cornerback blitz in the third quarter. “That’s what you want a defensive coordinator to do. We had a chance to bring some pressure. We had a chance to have some show looks — give the illusion of pressure — and still get sacks.”
They had a harder time giving the illusion of a running game. Eighty yards and two fumbles weren’t much to show for 26 carries, especially from a team that should have run more in the Super Bowl and claims, in Smith’s constant refrain, to “get off the plane running.”
Maybe they should walk off the plane and save their energy for times such as Sunday’s fourth quarter, when they trailed 14-3 and faced a second-and-2 from the Chargers 36 — essentially, game-on-the-line time. Benson rushed for no gain, then Adrian Peterson got a yard, then Benson got nothing on fourth down.
Smith was asked about that sequence, too.
“When a play isn’t successful, it’s pretty obvious what happened,” Smith said. “They played better than we did.”
Happens a lot when the Bears are on offense. Especially against the AFC.
Phil Arvia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 633-5949. Read his blog at http://blogs.dailysouthtown.com/arvia