Bear Down

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Defense won't rescue Bears this time

Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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In Jay Cutler's Chicago Bears debut in Green Bay, he threw four interceptions and Brian Urlacher hurt his wrist, ending his season after one game.

That game was the beginning of a really bad 2009 season, and a harbinger of the tumult to come over the next four seasons.

But if you look at one game and how it affects one season, that game had nothing on the 100th start of Cutler's NFL career, a 45-41 loss to the Redskins, where he got knocked out for at least a month and Lance Briggs for likely six weeks.

The Bears' most recent loss could have wide-ranging implications beyond this season, but looking at just 2013, it could be the difference between making the playoffs and missing them.

It's not like this was a Super Bowl team, but before the injuries, the Bears were interesting, a wait-and-see fringe playoff team with a developing offense and a surprisingly uneven defense.

At 4-3 with only one win has come against a good team, the Cincinnati Bengals, and only one by more than six points, a 40-23 win over Pittsburgh, it's hard to believe this will be a playoff team without Briggs and Cutler for the next month.

Now there is every reason to believe they're an 8-8 team that is done by New Year's.

Oddly enough for Chicago, the defense won't rescue them this time. While the Bears still track and hunt takeaways better than anyone, it can't do much else. A decimated defensive line and a linebacking corps missing two veteran starters are killing any chance this defense has of pressuring quarterbacks and stopping the run. There is no help coming.

For a change, the problems on defense are putting more pressure on the offense. It's always something.

While Josh McCown is a major upgrade over Caleb Hanie, the replacement the last time Cutler missed significant time, he's going to have to be near perfect.

At least McCown has weapons, which Hanie didn't. He has a chance. But without Briggs, who was playing excellent football, the Bears defense don't have enough firepower on defense.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com

Degree of difficulty too great now

Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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The Chicago Bears were already hanging by a thread when it came to being a contender, so after losing their signal callers on both offense and defense for at least a month, call this a lost season.

When the season started, the consensus was that quarterback Jay Cutler had to stay healthy for the Bears to have a chance at playoff glory so the torn muscle in his groin puts the team into worst-case scenario territory. Now a defense that has been struggling to adjust with the departure of Brian Urlacher and the ineffective play of Julius Peppers, has to deal with the loss of linebacker Lance Briggs for six weeks with a small fracture in his left shoulder.

Technically, the Bears have a chance as they take a 4-3 record into the bye week, but it would take the eternal optimist to see this team doing any damage during the upcoming portion of the schedule, which includes the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens in consecutive weeks. Relief would appear to come in the form of a late-November game against the St. Louis Rams and a Dec. 1 game against the Minnesota Vikings, but both of those games are on the road, where the Bears are 1-2 this season.

It probably lacks creativity to simply write off the Bears, but a double-dose of injuries like these forces the realist out of anybody.

If there is anything to look forward to in the immediate future, it's to see rookie second-round pick Jon Bostic getting a chance to grow as an NFL linebacker. On offense, it's time to see how creative coach Marc Trestman can get with the playbook. The Bears showed some creativity with Josh McCown under center Sunday, using short pass plays to set up things deeper down the field. McCown looked effective, but some of that had to do with the Washington Redskins preparing for Cutler and a different Bears game plan.

It was hard enough for the Bears to beat disappointing teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Vikings and New York Giants with a healthy Cutler and Briggs. Playing without them will prove to be too difficult.

Doug Padilla is a reporter for ESPNChicago.com.

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