By Dan Durkin-
FOXBOROUGH, Ma. (CBS) — A pretender met a contender in Foxborough on Sunday.
The Bears were outcoached, outclassed, outmanned and surgically dismantled by the New England Patriots in a 51-23 loss, dropping them to 3-5 on the season heading into their bye week.
When a team struggles, followers frequently seek a singular explanation to get to the root cause of what’s not working. That’s a futile effort when it comes to the 2014 Chicago Bears, as there is plenty of blame to go around.
Want to blame general manager Phil Emery? Go for it.
The Bears lack talent, particularly in the back seven of their defense, which was also an issue last season. For the majority of the game, the Bears’ top 11 on defense featured three undrafted free agents, two of whom are rookies. The pieces Emery handpicked in free agency to patch cracks in the foundation on defense haven’t stopped the erosion.
To make matters worse, the Bears’ big-fish free agent, Lamarr Houston — the only player to touch a New England quarterback all game — injured his right knee celebrating a sack of Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo, while his team was down 25 points no less. The extent of Houston’s injury will be revealed in a MRI tomorrow, but that play may be the perfect microcosm of the first half of the Bears’ season.
Want to blame defensive coordinator Mel Tucker? Have at him.
The Bears’ defense has become the “get well” unit that opposing offenses circle on their schedule. Last year, Tucker’s defense couldn’t stop the run. This year, they can’t stop the pass.
The Patriots offense operates on precise timing between the receivers and quarterbacks, yet there the Bears were giving free releases off the line of scrimmage to tight end Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell, who roamed free down the field. In fact, Gronkowski did so much running — nine receptions on nine targets for 149 yards and three touchdowns — that he left the game due to dehydration issues.
Tom Brady has made many defenses look bad, but if my count was right, four of his passes were dropped, which means he only missed on one throw all day. Sunday’s game was effectively a seven-on-seven drill, only it counted in the standings.
Want to blame Bears coach Marc Trestman? Be my guest.
It seems just about every week, Trestman’s team either comes out of the gate unprepared or doesn’t make necessary in-game adjustments to put the team in the best position to succeed. His offense didn’t run a play in Patriots’ territory until there were seven minutes left in the first half. Meanwhile, the Patriots scored 21 points in 57 seconds late in the first half, during which every phase of Trestman’s team played a part in the three touchdowns.
First, the Patriots outschemed the Bears defense, getting Gronkowski singled up against linebacker Shea McClellin for the easy fade, then the special teams busted on a punt coverage to set Brady up at the 9-yard line, then Bears quarterback Jay Cutler tried a two-handed chest pass but instead fumbled under duress, with the New England scoop going for a 15-yard return for a touchdown.
That’s known as the trifecta of terrible.
Where this Bears team goes from here remains to be seen, but with the Green Bay Packers waiting on the other end of the bye, the end seems in sight, if it hasn’t already arrived.
“We are going to certainly assess all three phases of our football team and our personnel,” Trestman said. “(I’ll) talk to Phil (Emery) about it, obviously, and we will to from there.”
A week off doesn’t seem to be sufficient enough time for that sort of assessment. This team has fundamental, systemic issues that span personnel, coaching and the players.
“We have a whole half of a season to play, and we are going to go back tomorrow and start over,” Trestman said. “And address every situation that we have and all aspects of our football team. And get ready to start this thing again up in a week.”
That last part may sound like a threat at this point to Bears’ fans, coach.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.