Get off the ledge

One loss should not define expecations for the Bears

September 15, 2009, 11:30 AM

By: Jeff Dickerson

Sunday, September 7, 2008 : Bears 29 Colts 13.

Jay Cutler

Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire

Jay Cutler fell flat figuratively and, in this play, literally in his regular-season debut with the Bears, but expect him to come back strong.

How does that game pertain to the current Bears predicament?

Because after that victory at Lucas Oil Stadium, analysts and fans couldn't wait to change their preseason predications. People who had the Bears finishing 8-8, rushed to inflate that record to 11-5 or 12-4 -- all due to one solid performance.

Are you honestly ready to torpedo this season because of one mediocre performance?

Yes, I used the term "mediocre," not "awful" or "embarrassing," or one of the other far less printable adjectives that have been flooding my inbox.

As bad as the offense looked committing four turnovers, the defense was a pleasant surprise. If it weren't for the last minute breakdown on Greg Jennings, I'd say the defense looked to be in mid-season form. Lovie Smith may want to tweak a few things (more playing time for Zack Bowman and Danieal Manning / less for Nathan Vasher and Kevin Payne), but his unit should be ready to compete against Pittsburgh this weekend.

Injuries are a part of the game. You'll never replace a Brian Urlacher, but at least the Bears suffered those injuries at positions were they have good depth. Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach are better than just capable back-ups, they're former starters, and along with Lance Briggs, form a pretty decent trio at linebacker. Plus, Pisa Tinoisamoa will return eventually, adding more bodies to the mix. Tim Shaw was added for special team, which makes complete sense, considering Roach and Hillenmeyer will be asked to do more on defense. The team also lost special teamer Trumaine McBride to a knee sprain, so somebody will also have to pick up his slack for the time being.

Desmond Clark's damaged ribs are a concern, but the Bears did decide to keep four tight ends on the 53-man roster. So if Clark has to miss some time (a rarity for the veteran), the team can activate Michael Gaines and insert Kellen Davis in the No. 2 tight end spot. Knowing how Clark loathes not dressing on game day, I'm sure he'll be back as quickly as his body allows.

Notice I haven't said much about the offense.

Jay Cutler threw for over 4,500 yards last season -- don't you think he'll shake off one miserable night? The receivers are still a work in progress, but Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox did some good things versus the Packers. Depth behind Matt Forte is still a red flag, and the offensive line needs to be a much better job -- especially the left guard. The offensive isn't without its share of problems, but most are correctable.

It's never easy facing the defending Super Bowl champions. Pittsburgh has the benefit of resting since its opener last Thursday against Tennessee. The Steelers will be ready, but so will the Bears.

Smith's teams habitually struggle to handle prosperity -- but they always play well when everybody picks them to lose.


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