By Adam Hoge-
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It could have been worse.
No, not the game.
The Bears’ 54-11 loss to the Eagles Sunday night was nothing short of an epic meltdown on national television. And the performance was especially disturbing given what was at stake.
A division title.
“We were ready to play this game and we played a terrible football game, for lack of a better word,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “I’m not going to use any other word other than that. We were terrible in all three phases. We didn’t play well in any phase of our football.”
By virtue of the Lions choking away their season against the hapless Giants and the Packers falling at home to the Steelers, the Bears could have won the NFC North Sunday night with a win over a team that was playing for nothing more than playoff seeding.
- Bernstein: Bears A Total Buzz-Kill
- Hoge’s Notes: Bears Still Control Playoff Fate
- Eagles Rout Bears 54-11
- Photo Gallery
But that’s exactly why it could have been worse. Had the Lions won Sunday, the Bears wouldn’t control their fate going into next week’s de facto divisional title game against the Packers at Soldier Field. As ugly as their loss to the Eagles was, the Bears can still win the NFC North with a win against Green Bay.
But that’s where the positives end.
As Trestman alluded to after the game, Sunday night was a complete three-phase disaster. The defense giving up 133 rushing yards to Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was expected. The Bears’ special teams unit handing the Eagles great field position on their first two touchdowns drives was not surprising. But the offense not scoring until there were two seconds left in the third quarter was shocking.
The Eagles entered the game 30th in total defense, allowing 402.4 yards per game. The Bears totaled 257 yards. The Eagles entered the game 31st in passing defense, allowing 291.6 passing yards per game. The Bears totaled 196 passing yards. The Eagles came in a respectful 16th in rushing defense, allowing 110.8 rushing yards per game. The Bears totaled 61 rushing yards.
“I don’t think we’ll study (this tape) much,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. “There’s not much to study. We got beat down. Different type of game. We were playing a little bit of street ball there just trying to get back into it. Pass, pass, pass. Two-minute situations in the middle of the third quarter. So to go back and study it, it’s going to be a waste of time.”
Especially because none of it worked. Suddenly, with the division on the line, Marc Trestman’s seventh ranked offense turned into the 2012 version led by Mike Tice.
“We’ll throw this tape in the trash can,” Trestman said. “Coaches will evaluate it, make sure we clean up the things that we can clean up for next week.”
Of course, even Trestman’s best offense would have been hard pressed to keep up with the Eagles Sunday night. As bad as the Bears’ defense has been this season, it delivered its worst performance Sunday night by allowing 514 total net yards. That’s the 11th most yards the Bears have allowed in a game in franchise history.
And the Eagles’ 54 points fell one short of the most the Bears have ever allowed in a single game. The Lions scored 55 against the Bears in 1997.
Considering linebacker Lance Briggs played his first game since Oct. 20, it has to be startling to the Bears’ coaching staff to see the defense take such a big step backward after showing small signs of improvements the last three games. Especially with the biggest game of the season looming.
“All we can do at this point put this one behind us,” Trestman said about the defense. “Answer the questions that have to be answered as honestly as we can, and that is that we played poorly in all three phases.”
The problem is, there aren’t many answers for the defensive questions. Fifteen games has proven that much, as the Bears have now set a franchise record for yards allowed in a season with one game to go. That can’t be settling going into next week’s division title game against the Packers, especially if Aaron Rodgers returns. To be frank, the only reason the game still matters is because Shea McClellin broke Rodgers’ collarbone Nov. 4. A division no one seemingly wants to win surely would have been clinched by now had Rodgers been healthy all season.
Now the Bears’ chances of winning the NFC North might depend on whether or not Rodgers returns next week.
Of course, the Bears won’t approach it that way. They have Monday and Tuesday off to enjoy Christmas and will return to Halas Hall Wednesday for what will be a shorter than normal day of work on Christmas Day.
“I want them to go get home, appreciate Christmas, spend some time with their families and get themselves ready to go,” Trestman said.
To their credit, the Bears handled Sunday night’s blowout better than expected. Realizing their playoff fate is still in their control, a number of players had seemingly already put the loss behind them.
“I’m not even thinking about this game, to be honest with you,” Cutler said. “It’s done and it’s over with. I’m on to Green Bay. This game is wiped clean. I think the rest of the locker room is the same way. Not much we can do about this one, we just got to keep moving forward and concentrate on Green Bay now.”
Being able to put Sunday away and burn the film is a luxury, thanks to the Lions.
Now they just have to take advantage of the gift.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.