The Arizona Cardinals played a game in Tennessee just five nights earlier and spent the week in Nashville practicing, so they were the team that was supposed to come into Soldier Field on Saturday dragging.
Instead, it was the Bears who looked like they had, well, no interest in the dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Whether you chalk it up to the inconsistencies of the preseason, or the sign of a greater problem looming for the team general manager Jerry Angelo said had all the pieces in place one month ago, that's your choice.
The lousy effort by the Bears' starters in a 14-9 loss to the Cardinals was the most alarming thing the team has faced in preseason since Rex Grossman was lost with a broken ankle at St. Louis in August 2005 and it looked like the Chad Hutchinson era would be spawned.
Forget that they are 0-3. It was an across-the-board meltdown.
The defense was again shredded on third down by hardly all-star-caliber quarterbacks as Arizona converted 8 of 15. Special teams had its share of errors as one field goal was blocked and Robbie Gould clanged another off the right upright.
"That's not how we planned it," coach Lovie Smith said. "We had opportunities early on. Not getting any points out of the two field goals hurt us. Defensively, we're playing pretty good."
Sadly, Jay Cutler put up Hutchinson-like numbers, finishing 10 of 20 for 129 yards. He was intercepted twice, sacked four times and had a passer rating of 31. That's nine sacks now in essentially a full game of action over the last two weeks.
The offense was off from the first play when Cutler threw for Devin Hester but had Johnny Knox in the same spot. Misalignments and wasted timeouts bogged down the first half.
The Cardinals (2-1) had been terrible in a loss to the Titans and entered with a full-blown controversy on their hands, in the midst of a Matt Leinart-to- Derek Anderson switch at quarterback. But Arizona was far more prepared and Cutler looked every bit like the quarterback that led the NFL in interceptions last season.
He stared down Knox and delivered a ball late that was picked off by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to end the first drive. Late in the first half, he underthrew Devin Aromashodu for an easy pick for Greg Toler.
The Bears have scored 36 points through three games and have two touchdowns in 16 Cutler-led possessions.
"We'll take the questions we deserve," center Olin Kreutz said. "Right now, we deserve to be questioned."
Smith's assessment that the defense was playing well was interesting considering the struggles that continue on third down. Calling out missed field goals only disguises bigger issues.
They call third down the money down and suffice to say the Bears, who were playing without linebacker Brian Urlacher (left calf) and then lost Lance Briggs to an ankle injury, aren't getting a return on their investments. Briggs left the stadium wearing a walking boot.
Anderson converted two third-and-8 throws and then a third-and-7 on the Cardinals' first scoring drive before hitting Stephen Williams for a 27-yard touchdown when cornerback Charles Tillman looked slow and free safety Chris Harris was slow reacting.
The Cardinals went ahead 14-0 in the third quarter when Leinart connected with Steve Breaston for a 13-yard touchdown on, what else, third-and-goal from the 13. The Achilles' heel of the defense from last season is once again an issue for a team that has allowed opponents to convert 45.7 percent of third downs.
The focus of training camp has been on the Mike Martz offense and you have to wonder if he was ducking for cover from the coach's box. Should there be this many glaring errors?
"You would think not," Cutler said. "You would hope not. I think we came out really tight. It still is a new offense. Guys are still trying to get used to it. Put a lot of pressure on this Game 3 of coming out and starting fast and clicking. Sometimes it doesn't come like that. You just have to get into a groove. We never really found that.
"We're getting there. We just took a little step back tonight. There was probably more bad than good."
At least it was an honest assessment.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun