By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) A big flop into the squishy turf of Soldier Field, and all the anxiety is back for plenty of good reason.
This was to be the get-well game for a Bears team still unable to win at home, with the Dolphins merely playing the foil for Chicago to show the continued improvement expected after a surprising win in Atlanta. The next step in the “process” that coach Marc Trestman is always describing in his bookish monotone.
Consider this process stalled, by a score of 27-14 in a loss to the Dolphins.
The low rumble of 60,000 people muttering to themselves is the sound of discontent and lack of trust in this plan — one so easily, systematically and completely dismantled by an ordinary opponent. Mediocrity is just such fits and starts, and whipsaws of emotion for fans searching for reasons to believe in something that is supposed to work.
Trestman has a curious way of viewing the schedule, believing it consists of 16 individual seasons, whatever that could possibly mean. After the fact, though, it helps clarify why it seems like different Bears teams keep showing up.
Sunday’s “season” was awful from the start and got worse from there. Outside of Jeremiah Ratliff’s sacks and Pat O’Donnell’s punts, the Bears were as sloppy and inconsistent as the grass on which they can’t win. Strange play-calling, missed tackles and an inability to win battles at the line of scrimmage put them too often in the opposite down-and-distance situations of the Dolphins.
Having the starting offensive line back was supposed to be a good thing, but there was never any kind of rhythm established that we’re told is the strongest aspect of Trestman’s scheme, based as it is on the West Coast offense principles. Jay Cutler was uncertain and jumpy, and he threw another interception that defied explanation.
Right tackle Jordan Mills has become a problem, now routinely targeted and exposed as the line’s weakness. His starting position must be in jeopardy.
Also in that regard, the linebackers need fixing. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had the best game of his career by exploiting the medium-range spaces, and his successful use of simple read-option actions can’t be excused after the Bears have faced similar strategies in three of their previous games.
When interviewed by WBBM radio at halftime down 14-0, Trestman said his team needed to “restart the game.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they did – restarting the same game they were dropping at home to an underdog.
We’ll hear the same stuff from Trestman about this being unacceptable, and that it all starts with him. He’s right, in that well-coached teams don’t look like that. Not in that game.
This one wasn’t on the terrible special teams or a rash of penalties. The defense wasn’t great, but they allowed fewer than 30 points despite the Dolphins forcing three turnovers and benefitting from short fields.
Trestman will never be able to coach the interceptions out of Cutler – that’s obvious by now – but a healthy Alshon Jeffery can’t finish a game with two receptions for nine yards. Brandon Marshall has to shove his way open to make heavily contested catches, and Matt Forte can’t be required to matter this much.
There was no effort to establish the run early, instead leaning on smoke routes and receiver screens. Guard Kyle Long told WBBM-TV that, “I felt like I didn’t even break a sweat until the second half.”
“It was kind of a weird game,” he said. “A really weird game.”
For the Bears, though, it wasn’t. It was another daytime loss at home that included too many turnovers and not enough points. That’s not an anomaly anymore, but a disturbing pattern.
Making matters worse for Trestman, there were reports of a postgame shouting match in the Bears’ locker room, with Marshall one of those involved as players had to be separated and some removed from the room. Marshall began to lose his cool late in the game, and a lit fuse on that powderkeg is the last thing Trestman needs.
What exactly is this process, coach, and where is it going?