Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
After Chicago’s 45-10 loss at Cincinnati, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
It’s time to raise serious questions about coach Lovie Smith’s decision to take over day-to-day supervision of the defense, including game-day play calling. Over the past two weeks, the Bears' defense has looked unorganized -- lining up late on far too many plays -- and very slow to adjust to an opponent’s scheme. Some of the first problem can be blamed on using three different middle linebackers, but there’s no way to explain how the Bears seemed so flat-footed against the Bengals’ offense. It seemed like Cedric Benson gained 5 yards before he got touched on many of his runs. That suggests the Bears didn’t have enough players designated to play the run -- and didn’t fix the problem quickly enough once it was exposed.
We’re starting to see some of the gunslinger reputation that quarterback Jay Cutler brought with him from Denver, and I don’t mean that in a gol-lee kind of way. Without knowing the play call and whether receivers are running the right route, it sure looks like Cutler throws the ball totally up for grabs too often. That approach is having a big impact on the Bears’ bottom line. He’s thrown nine interceptions in the Bears’ three losses and one in their three victories.
Here’s how bad it got Sunday: The Bengals had two first-half touchdown drives, one spanning eight plays and one spanning seven, in which they never faced a third down. That means they were churning up yards at a pretty good clip. Overall in the first half, the Bengals gained 292 yards on 38 plays -- an average of 7.8 yards per play. Even when they were faced with a third down, however, the Bengals had no trouble. They converted eight of 12 attempts in the game.
And here’s one question I’m still asking:
Is this the beginning of the end for defensive tackle Tommie Harris? The Bears and Harris sent out a number of contradictory messages last week, all pertaining to the health -- or lack of health -- of his knee. The mystery heightened when Harris said Sunday that his knee was not the reason he missed Sunday’s game. Perhaps the Bears were just giving him a midseason rest for a chronic injury. No matter what the explanation is, it’s growing increasingly clear that the Bears won’t be getting the kind of dominating interior play they hoped to get from Harris this season. The question remains: Will they ever?