Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Losing their grip

Give Greg Olsen credit. The rookie tight end already understands the importance of not pointing fingers, particularly when it relates to the guy throwing you the football.

"We all have things that we can do better on offense," Olsen said. "Brian [Griese] is not the problem."

But Griese surely wasn't the answer in Sunday's 16-7 loss to the Lions at Soldier Field. The NFL's reigning offensive player of the week had four interceptions—all of which halted drives into Lions' territory—and finished with a 38.3 passer rating. Two of his passes were picked off in the end zone and one at the goal line.

The hero from the last-second win over the Eagles suddenly was showered with boos by the home crowd.

The Bears deserved to be jeered after a pitiful offensive showing.

"It's a tough loss for us," said Griese, who threw seven interceptions in two losses to the Lions this season. "Obviously, we all knew the importance of his game."

But did they? The Bears didn't play with a sense of urgency, falling to 3-5 and losing momentum going into their week off. They dropped into a deeper hole in the NFC North, with the Lions improving to 5-2, and the first-place Packers (5-1) set to play on Monday night.

A team once a favorite to return to the Super Bowl now has to wonder whether making the playoffs is a realistic goal. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 10 NFL teams in history have recovered from 3-5 starts to make the playoffs.

Cornerback Charles Tillman was asked if the Bears could fight their way back.

"Hell yeah," he said. "I'm going to go out swinging."

Tillman created a turnover by punching the ball out of Kevin Jones' hands, a ball recovered by Hunter Hillenmeyer. But other than that, the Bears didn't put up much of a fight.

The Bears' offense, given pretty good field position all day, squandered opportunities—partly because of Griese's poor throws and partly because of dropped passes. It didn't help that Cedric Benson had an average day running the ball, picking up 50 yards on 13 carries.

"It's kind of hit or miss," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said of the offense. "There were some good things, but not consistently being able to finish."

A defense expected to be healthier and stronger than in recent weeks again missed elementary tackles. Plus the defense had some blatant mental errors, with Adam Archuleta picking up a 47-yard, pass-interference penalty and Tommie Harris jumping offside with the Lions facing fourth-and-1 from the Bears' 2.

"I don't know if we need to switch something up or what," defensive back Ricky Manning Jr. said of the defense. "We've got to look at film. I don't know what the heck we're doing out there."

A return game touted as the league's best never got going because the Lions were smart enough to kick away from Devin Hester.

The only real opportunity Hester had turned into a 39-yard punt return and set up the Bears' only touchdown—Griese's 20-yard pass to Olsen in the third quarter.

Outside of that score, the offense was sluggish. The Bears were shut out in the first half against a Lions defense ranked near the bottom of most statistical categories.

Their best first-half opportunity to score, outside of Robbie Gould's missed 40-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter, came with 5 minutes 34 seconds left before halftime.

Griese and Benson helped the Bears move the ball from their own 45 to the Lions' 26. But on third-and-6, Griese dropped back and fired left toward a streaking Mark Bradley but was picked off by safety Kenoy Kennedy.

Bradley was the intended receiver on two of Griese's intercepted passes. The second was tipped by Lions cornerback Keith Smith and picked by safety Gerald Alexander with 6:55 left in regulation.

"The ball was a little short," Bradley said. "I don't know if Griese could have stepped into it. I had got word that he had pressure in front of him, so he couldn't step into it."

Griese was shaken up on the second interception, and Rex Grossman started throwing on the sideline. But Griese returned to the game, only to be sacked on the second play of the next possession.

Lions quarterback Jon Kitna made the Bears look defensively challenged, completing 24 of 35 passes for 268 yards with no interceptions while shaking off four sacks. Jones had 105 rushing yards on 23 attempts, including a 4-yard blast up the middle for a touchdown and a 34-yard sprint that set up a field goal by Jason Hanson. Hanson had three field goals, including a 52-yarder.

Credit the Bears defense for keeping the Lions out of the end zone a number of times. Yet none of that mattered for a team that has absolutely no margin for error heading into the second half of the season. They'll try to recover starting with a Nov. 11 road date with the Raiders.

"No sense in giving up right now," Tillman said. "That's not this team. We never quit."

vxmcclure@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading