Bears' woes deepen as defense disappoints

Tribune staff reporter

They vowed they would not get caught napping this week, that if, in fact, they lost for the second week in a row, it would not be for a lack of effort.

Talk about setting yourself up for disappointment.

The Bears did look somewhat better in the effort department Friday against the Arizona Cardinals than they did in last week's dismal loss to Baltimore.

But it hardly mattered. They still made enough mistakes while failing to take advantage of those committed by the Cardinals to lose 27-24 after falling behind 24-6 at halftime in their second exhibition game.

And now, it appears the Bears have another worry. For as much as their offense gave them reason for concern last week, their first-string defense should worry them after Friday's game.

In the first half, with a game-time temperature of 98 degrees at Sun Devil Stadium, the Cardinals, with one of the worst offenses in the league last season, scored on four consecutive possessions to close out the half, with big plays on the ground and in the air.

These were the same Cardinals who did not score more than 14 points in the first half all of last season.

Arizona had 211 yards in total offense in the first half alone, while the Bears gained just 64--just 14 on the ground.

Fueled by players who may soon find themselves in the starting lineup, the Bears made a game of it in the second half. Bam Morris had two second-half touchdowns from 2 and 5 yards out; Andre Collins had an interception and 25-yard return that led to Morris' score; and linebacker Rico McDonald continued to flash impact skills.

The Bears closed to 24-21, but Arizona's Corey Wedel kicked a 30-yard field goal following a fumbled punt return by Thomas Lewis. It marked the second muffed punt return in consecutive weeks by the Bears, highlighting their need to find a dependable pair of hands.

At the game's outset, after a fumble recovery by Bears safety Marty Carter failed to yield anything--a 47-yard field goal attempt by Jeff Jaeger failed--the Cardinals marched off a six-play, 63-yard drive culminating in a 3-yard TD pass from Jake Plummer to Johnny McWilliams.

The drive featured a 40-yard run by Adrian Murrell that included missed tackles by the entire right side of the Bears' defense--Shawn Lee, Walt Harris and Marty Carter.

Jaeger then got the Bears on the board, making a 47-yard field goal this time, but Plummer continued to have his way with a 14-yard pass to Frank Sanders and another 40-yarder to Sanders two plays later for a touchdown.

Jaeger kicked his second field goal of the half, a 41-yarder, to close the Bears' deficit to 14-6. A late-hit penalty by the Cardinals, their sixth penalty of the half, helped the drive along despite the domination of Eric Swann.

A 44-yard kickoff return by Arizona's Mario Bates set up the Cardinals on their next possession. This time, it was reserve quarterback Dave Brown, who completed his first nine passes, moving the Cards downfield, hitting Bates for a 4-yard score with 1 minute 55 seconds remaining in the half for a 21-6 bulge.

Offensively, the Bears' line fared not much better on the ground than last week with 14 yards rushing on 13 first-half attempts as Swann and Simeon Rice took turns teeing off on the Bears veterans.

The Cardinals scored again before intermission--after Danny Thomas picked off an Erik Kramer pass at midfield--on a 45-yard field goal by Wedel.

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