Bernstein: Bears Display What They Are (And What They’re Not)

By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) In an authoritative announcement of their sheer mediocrity, the Bears on Sunday showed they could try to stay out of their own way just long enough to lose.

The 23-17 loss against the Falcons at Soldier Field is what it will look like — in fact, it’s what it’s supposed to resemble by design — until their annual spate of injuries burns deeper into a rickety roster or a certain rookie quarterback is removed from his packaging. It’s the essence of coach John Fox, a philosophy of ensuring that bad things don’t happen and hoping to get a break. There will be many more close games that pass for some kind of diversion and more losses than wins.

I should avoid using the phrase “pass for,” perhaps, as it serves as a reminder that Mike Glennon won’t do it much or for many yards. He is as meh as meh can possibly be, as if the concept of replacement level has been triple-distilled into a fine spirit by a master craftsman, to be swirled in a snifter for a perfect sip of C-minus. Where some quarterbacks are said to be able to make all the throws, he can make some of them, sometimes, when he’s allowed to. And a few seem to take a while to release. Glennon can only do so much, in all those words can mean.

Rookie running back Tarik Cohen is going to be a delight to watch, at least before he’s smashed into a tiny pile of splinters on a catch over the middle. If the Bears play with this toy too much, it’s going to break, and then we will have to have the talk about being responsible with our things and taking good care of them. If the Bears show they understand, then we can discuss those new video games they have been asking about and maybe a pair of the latest KDs. We also know Jordan Howard can excel as a load back, and his effectiveness in a game is contingent on a higher usage rate.

But the issue with this team that we knew would be the case and was already manifest after one game is clear, and it’s margin for error. Half is of their own doing, with Fox unable or unwilling to coach against his nature. He wants restrictor-plate racing and a puncher’s chance, to mix sports metaphors, without enough talent on the roster to give him the latter. And on a more granular level, plays will need to be executed crisply every time, penalties avoided to keep the calls on down-and-distance schedule, turnovers made non-existent and passes must be fit into small windows to find receivers who aren’t good enough to provide more help individually.

Unless the risk calculus changes due to desperation or the unlikely emergence of talent we don’t yet see, get ready for more of this. The Bears wasted no time to establish themselves as very deliberate and careful and something far less than dangerous.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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