By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) All that confidence after the Bears’ surprising win over the Vikings two weeks ago was just thrown away into the hands of Brent Grimes and Chris Conte and run right back in their faces in a 36-10 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday.

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Any belief that the Bears were headed in something resembling a right and better direction was dropped on the ground by Jay Cutler in a performance worthy of enshrinement even in his personal pantheon of insouciant misery. Next time he wants to eat a handful of Quaaludes before a game, it would be nice to at least let somebody know. Because that’s what it looked like as he went 16-of-30 for just 182 yards, a touchdown and those two interceptions for a passer rating of just 55.1 — and that even included a 50-yard Hail Mary to Cameron Meredith at the end of the first half.

And whatever faith existed that John Fox’s team had shored itself up and weathered a spate of early injuries to try to play competitively in a reeling NFC North was coughed up by Jordan Howard and left on the field in Tampa.

The Bears had some of all of it, and they turned it all over.

This was coming out of the bye-week break, remember – not just off an unlikely win that had rocketed them to 2-6. It was too good a chance to back up all of the nice things they were beginning to say about themselves, taking on the NFL’s 28th-ranked defense and a middling offense down to one credible receiver. The Buccaneers were 0-4 at Raymond James Stadium and were viewed by consensus as an ideally positioned opponent for the Bears to use as a stepping stone in their glorious return to mediocrity.

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Instead, they resumed their slide to somewhere else, and we can picture Bears chairman George McCaskey back on the phone, furiously speed-dialing his mysterious football consultant to pack up and hurry back to Halas Hall with a HAZMAT suit, a barrel of disinfectant and a spray gun. Or a flamethrower.

It’s smack dab on Fox to explain this and not by gibbering about watching the film or how the Bears can still finish with a winning record or just how close they were to this game turning their way. Nothing about a good two weeks of practice or blaming injuries, either, but instead a frank accounting of how this was allowed to happen. Fox is now 8-17 in his current position and has done little to deserve the benefit of your doubt.

Fox’s Bears are great at getting injured, however, with three more starters knocked out in Kyle Long, Will Sutton and Bobby Massie. They also seem to be well-prepared to celebrate sacks when trailing by multiple touchdowns, which is always a good look.

The Bears were healthy as ever going in, with extra time to get ready for this chance to validate their recent improvement with the kind of competence they assured.

What they gave us was a terrible loss to a bad team, one that laid bare the truth that the Bears are also exactly that.

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