Don't rain on their parade

CHICAGO -- To borrow a tired phrase you might have heard before around these parts, the Chicago Bears are still who we thought they were after a soggy 13-6 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday night.

Don't get washed away with negativity, because this was already a team with obvious flaws, almost all of them on offense. Those flaws just got covered up during the previous two months with defensive dazzle and garbage-time scores.

The Bears are still a great defense capable of carrying a team to the playoffs. Still a bleak offense with a sporadic chance of making it rain. Still a Super Bowl contender. Still a team that hasn't beaten a really good team yet this year -- 0-2 with a date in San Francisco next Monday. Still a team that employs tight end Kellen Davis for some unknown reason. Still a team riding Tim Jennings' career year.

Were the Bears, now 7-2 after the end of a six-game winning streak, exposed as playoff pretenders under harsh national lights? Not quite. Do they leave you wanting more? Absolutely.

But losses happen, especially against good teams. The Bears didn't get any of the big plays, defensive or otherwise, that carried them through the first half and they couldn't put together any complete drives.

As good as the Bears' record is, remember this is a team that beat the sloppy Detroit Lions 13-7 and the woeful Carolina Panthers 23-22 in a wild comeback. But this isn't a 5-4 team because the Bears found ways to win those games.

It's true that we didn't learn if the Bears offense can rise to the occasion as they failed against their first playoff-type team since losing 23-10 to the Green Bay Packers in the second week of the season.

With or without Jay Cutler, who was knocked out of the game with a concussion, this game was a coin flip. Two good defenses on a rainy, muddy bog will usually dominate and that's what happened, if you look at things with a glass-half-full philosophy.

But with Cutler out after the first half and Jason Campbell in, the Bears' offense was even less watchable than usual. Both Bears quarterbacks combined for 134 yards and a 39.2 rating. Brandon Marshall had 107 receiving yards. Amazingly enough, six other receivers caught a pass and none had double-digit yards. Several had costly drops though.

"We just weren't able to make enough plays on offense to win this game tonight," receiver Earl Bennett said.

That's an understatement. Bennett caught one pass for nine yards.

The running game wasn't much better. Matt Forte couldn't get going against a stingy Texans defense, with 16 carries for 39 yards. His longest run was eight yards. Michael Bush had three carries for 34 yards, including an 11-yard run that ended in a lost fumble.

It's tough to rank culprits for another rank offensive showing but, hey, at least the offensive line kept J.J. Watt from killing Cutler or swatting a pass into the 4th Phase.

The veterans on the Bears' defense know how to do two things really well: Run Lovie Smith's defense and defend a wack offensive showing.

"We didn't do our part," linebacker Lance Briggs said of a defense that allowed one touchdown, in the first half. "You know [there is] a sense of urgency. It's all about that score. It's all about trying to put more points up on that board than they have."

Granted, the defense didn't score as it usually does, but it did hold running back Arian Foster to 17 second-half yards. It was his 85 first-half yards and 2-yard touchdown catch that hurt.

The big story of the night was Cutler's concussion -- thought to be his sixth since college. Head injuries are finally being treated with appropriate caution, at least on the surface. Smith wouldn't speculate on Cutler playing next week, but he has to pass independent testing first.

"We're hopeful," Smith said. "But you can't go that far."

Late in the second quarter, Cutler was creamed by linebacker Tim Dobbins on a short pass to Devin Hester. The helmet-first hit was offset by Cutler being slightly over the line of scrimmage when he threw the pass. On the next play, Cutler ran for 11 yards and slid head-first into Kareem Jackson. Smith didn't know which play resulted in the concussion, though Dobbins told reporters he hit Cutler in the chest.

After the 11-yard run, Cutler played six more snaps before the half, ending in his second interception. Overall, he went 7-for-14 for 40 yards passing and ran for 37.

Smith said Cutler didn't show any concussion symptoms until halftime.

"Of course he wanted to play," Smith said. "Guys always want to play, but the decision was made for him."

Cutler was the third quarterback knocked out of a game with a concussion Sunday, which doesn't mean the game is suddenly more violent, just that, at least on the surface, the concussion protocol is that much more serious. Defensive lineman Shea McClellin also suffered a concussion in the first half and was ruled out.

"At halftime when we came in, Jay told me, 'Hey, get ready. I'm not sure right now of the status of my injury. Just get ready and to go out and play the second half,'" Campbell said. "From that standpoint on, the coaches came out and said, 'You're in, let's roll.'"

Campbell was half-decent, considering he just watches every week. But while his deep ball was sharp, his decision-making was rusty. Maybe Cutler conjures some more second-half magic, or maybe he throws two more interceptions.

One of those concussed quarterbacks Sunday was San Francisco's Alex Smith, the Bears' foe next week. If it's Campbell against Colin Kaepernick by the Bay, it won't change much. The story of that game was going to be the defenses anyway.

Over/under 19 1/2 points next week?

This game might have been billed as a battle of Super Bowl contenders, with both teams 7-1, but really it was meant to be ugly, given the rain and the quality of defense on both sides.

The offenses combined to go 5-for-27 on third down and the winning team had 215 net yards, including a whopping 88 yards net passing.

Jennings raised his league-leading interception total to eight with two in the first half, and Cutler was picked off twice, by former Bear Danieal Manning and Jackson. One before the concussion, one after. Cutler's bad starts are expected now, and even accepted as the Bears continued to pile up wins in spite of them.

Campbell didn't throw an interception, though it's tough to when you're mostly throwing checkdowns late in the game needing to stretch the field. He did manage to complete a deep pass to Marshall in the third quarter, a perfect 45-yard bomb to the Texans' 10.

"Not only did he make some amazing throws, but that was a check," Marshall said. "He called that. He saw something he liked and got us in the right position."

But instead of tying the game, the offense stalled and Robbie Gould's 24-yard field goal made it 10-6. Gould missed a 48-yard attempt in the fourth and the Bears never got back into Texans' territory.

By the end of the game the fans who braved a driving rain were angry. After failing to come down with a high pass, Davis lay on the ground before being attended to by trainers. When he got up and walked off the field under his own power, he was booed.

You can't blame the fans for being angry at this point, but this is still a Bears team worth believing in.