CHICAGO -- You know the popular adage Murphy’s Law. It states anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Here in Chicago, we have McCaskey’s Law, summed up by running back Matt Forte after the Bears’ first desultory loss of the season, a 48-23, Alshon Jeffery-less embarrassment against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Soldier Field.
“It seemed like everything that wanted to go bad today went bad,” Forte said.
Bad things often happen for this perennially bad organization, which is trying to dig itself out of a self-inflicted hole with the hires of general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox. George Halas should have invested in a shovel company considering how many holes his team has gotten into over the years.
Rebuilding the Bears isn’t a one-season job, that’s for sure. But we knew that going into the season, which had all the makings of a 6-10 finish. Now, if Jay Cutler’s injury is serious, we would consider six wins quite an accomplishment.
New ideas, new regime, new low expectations or not, it was the same old Breaking Bad News Bears, who looked every bit as disorganized and undisciplined as last year’s Terrible News Bears in the second game of the season.
How bad was it?
“It was bad all around,” Forte said. “Embarrassing.”
It was a record-setting day at Soldier Field as the Bears (0-2) tied three franchise records and set two more. None were complimentary.
One would think Cutler’s second career injury while trying to make a tackle on his own interception could be a team record as well, but that doesn’t count.
The Bears’ 170 yards in penalties tied a franchise high established in 1944. The Cardinals’ seven touchdowns tied a team record achieved against the Packers in 2014, and Larry Fitzgerald’s three touchdown catches tied a team record set by Rob Gronkowski last season.
The Cardinals' 48 points were a team record for most points allowed at home. The Bears have only been around as long as the NFL. They did give up 53 in a loss to the Chicago Cardinals back in 1955, but that game was at Comiskey Park. David Johnson’s 108-yard kickoff return to start the game is another record, but considering it tied for the second-longest return in NFL history, we can let that one slide, right?
If you can find more records set against the Bears, please go up to Halas Hall and leave a note by the new Papa Bear statue.
All those warm fuzzies from only getting knocked around, rather than devastated, by Green Bay last week are appropriately gone. Veteran players were angry one week after some found positives in a season-opening loss to Green Bay.
“Eventually, you’ve got to make the decision that you’re tired of losing. You’re not going to accept it,” linebacker Jared Allen said. “It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening, and we’ve got to get it corrected.”
That’s a Week 8 postgame lament in Week 2, folks. Not good.
How do the Bears progress especially if Cutler misses time? Fox doesn't seem too worried about feelings or morale.
“It’s all a challenge," he said. "Been there, done that. We were the team that started 0-4 and then won 11 of our next 12. This isn’t a prediction. We’ll find guys that want to do it and can do it, and we’ll move forward.”
Unlike last year, you can’t blame the coaching. Allen said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s game plan was excellent. It was Allen who picked off Carson Palmer on a screen pass because he knew it was coming.
“Our scouting report was right on this week, honestly,” Allen said. “Hats off to the coaches and everything they gave us. It wasn’t for the lack of being prepared and not knowing what they’re running, that’s for sure.”
Imagine how badly the Bears would’ve lost if the scouting report had been wrong.
The penalties were what angered the Bears the most. They had 14, two of which were easy defensive pass interference calls on cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Alan Ball that totaled 80 yards. Both calls led to Arizona touchdowns in the first half.
Asked how Fuller, the 2014 first-round pick, played, Fox said, “I just know we gave up 170 yards of penalties in downfield throws. And it wasn’t a mystery that we were going to see some of those.”
All 170 weren’t on downfield throws, but it felt like it. Terrance Mitchell replaced Fuller late in the game.
Forte was angry at the offensive penalties.
"Just lack of focus out there," Forte said. "We know the snap count. Why jump offsides? We can’t hold out there. That just puts us behind first-and-20, and then you got to get all those yards back, which is nearly impossible."
This wasn’t a blowout until Cutler got knocked out in the second quarter when he gamely but futilely tried to tackle the guy who had just picked him off. The pick was vintage Cutler and so was his sincere attempt to make a stop. Cutler is as tough as a pressbox waffle.
Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson stiff-armed Cutler to the ground and scored to give Arizona a two-touchdown lead. Cutler walked off the field and never returned. The Bears waited until the second half started to announce it was a hamstring injury, though Fox wouldn't elaborate.
Cutler looked sharp until the interception, completing his first eight passes for 120 yards, including a 48-yard score to Josh Bellamy. The Bears were finding big holes in the Cardinals' defense and getting wide-open looks. But on Cutler's ninth pass, a jerk route or option route, the quarterback and tight end Martellus Bennett saw different things. Cutler threw it right into Jefferson’s breadbasket, behind Bennett, and the safety scored to make it 28-14.
“I felt a guy coming outside. It’s a jerk route, so it could go either way,” Bennett said. “But those are plays we need to make, and we make all the times.”
The Bears had a better pass rush than last week’s whiff contest against Aaron Rodgers, but they still didn’t get a sack against Carson Palmer, who threw for four touchdowns, three of them to Larry Fitzgerald, including a late, rub-it-in score in the fourth.
"We had some good hits on the quarterback, but it wasn't enough," Allen said. "We've got to do more."
The Bears actually forced two turnovers late in the first half but could only muster 6 yards on two drives that started at the Cardinals’ 22- and 12-yard lines.
On the first play of the next drive, Allen tipped a pass to himself, and the Bears got the ball back on the Cardinals’ 12 with 54 seconds left. On third-and-1 from Arizona’s 3-yard line, Forte ran for a 2-yard loss, and Gould kicked another field goal as time expired.
“To be on the 2-yard line and not be able to get in, that’s terrible,” Forte said. “As an offense, you got to get at least get two yards there.”
After Cutler got knocked out, Clausen’s offense gained two first downs and 36 yards in his next five drives. The Bears went 1-for-10 on third down with Clausen.
As much as everyone loves to bag on Cutler’s mistakes, he’s much better than the alternative. But in what already looks like a lost season, maybe it’s not too soon to think about how a total rebuild is accomplished.