By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) If any of your childhood years were spent in the 1980s, you’re probably familiar with the “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” cartoons of the day. I loved them, their predictability lost on me then, and the specialized weaponry among a clear line between American good and overly reptilian foreign evil. I still remember most of the theme song.
The show only ran from 1985-’86, but syndication made it seem way more voluminous. The most enduring part of those cartoons were the extra-cheesy PSAs tacked onto the episodes lecturing kids to not touch downed power lines and to do all your chores or whatever it is you came to cartoons to exactly not hear. The improbability that hulking special ops fighters would always just so happen to be passing by these suburban opportunities for life lessons wasn’t important.
Each PSA ended with an enlightened kid saying, “Now I know.” One of the Joes would follow with, “And knowing is half the battle.”
G.I. Joe’s wisdom revisited me as I watched the Chicago Bears on Sunday. A motley crew from the start with a maligned starting quarterback holding a spot for the future of the franchise and without seemingly viable options to which to throw the ball, rational expectations of the Bears going into this season foresaw them as something between barely below average and disaster. Yet we still couldn’t quite put our finger on what this thing is. A 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons probably gave us a good idea, though.
Now, one game does not a season make, but not extrapolating Week 1 is more appropriate for the losing New England Patriots or the winning Detroit Lions than the Bears. After the game, it became clear that the on-field product at Soldier Field on Sunday made a lot of sense, all things considered.
Glennon is a statue, doing little to avoid four Falcon sacks. He finished the game with a decent 213 yards passing, with 163 of those coming in a fourth quarter in which he almost stole a victory in the final seconds. But it took 40 attempts to get those yards, too. There were times he was groan-worthy — not in the Jay Cutler sense of bad turnovers (Glennon had none Sunday) but like when he checked down on third-and-13 inside the Falcons’ 50, a reception that came up woefully short of a first down and led to a conservative punt rather than a long field goal attempt or going for it on fourth. But then Glennon showed an ability to lead in crunch time at the end, and on a Jordan Howard touchdown run earlier Glennon lined up wide and blocked a defender in front of the Bears running back.
And he didn’t lose the game, which is all he’s being asked. He resembled a quarterback worthy of starting for a team not going anywhere and wouldn’t be with Mitch Trubisky starting either — the rookie in there instead serves no purpose right now if he has little to work with and defenses scheming against his skittishness. So we know Glennon is capable of not shooting holes in the boat.
The darling of the day was Tarik Cohen, whose play was thoroughly entertaining and showed that drafting the undersized back may really pay off. Cohen set a franchise record with 158 all-purpose yards in a debut. He’s now the only chicken salad that I like and showed what a dangerous receiver he is with a touchdown catch involving putting a defender on his back as he crashed into the end zone. That came after he almost had a long touchdown catch on that drive that was barely broken up by a defender. I won’t even hold his performance of the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field last week against him.
So now we know that a Bears offense lacking pass catchers has a Human Joystick at least, one who parallels himself with Isaiah Thomas (I’m assuming).
And Cohen will be further needed with the loss of receiver Kevin White for the season. Again. This time it’s a collarbone that will end another brief season for White and perhaps his Bears career. The reflex might be to hate White for his body again betraying him, but I can’t think of a player with worse luck who would kill to have his career told a different way. Do we know he’s played his last game with the Bears? No. But we know he’s irrelevant again for the duration, sad as it is.
The Chicago defense is tough and put up a noble effort, but the secondary’s tackling skills, or lack thereof, were exposed. The rest of the country will only know of the defense from the image of an 88-yard Austin Hooper touchdown catch on a massive Chicago fail that included Hooper stiff-arming Quintin Demps’ soul from his body, a play that would be end up being the difference-making score.
The Bears defense likely will keep them in some games if relatively healthy, but it’s not a world beater. It would need to be to play over .500 in the death schedule the Bears were given by the NFL in their first nine games.
Let’s admit, too, that the Falcons underachieved in their win for reasons that might range from a new offensive coordinator to playing down to their competition. Winning on the road in the NFL is also difficult regardless of teams, and if this game was in Atlanta, the margin of victory might be a bit larger.
So we know the Bears won’t be a Cinderella. But we also know they have the capacity to at least not waste three hours of your life despite the final score, and the NFL finds ways of granting a few wins here and there to such teams. That understanding is a good thing, because we know this season — with the exception of any tick Trubisky eventually gets — really doesn’t mean much.
And if you’re not going to beat yourself up watching this team going forward, knowing is half the battle.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.