Losses happen. They just do. There are rare instances where a team goes the magical 16-0, even fewer when they reach 17-0, 18-0, even - well, no one's gone 19-0, right, New England?
But losses don't just happen like they did last night against the Niners. Not if you're serious about proving your last loss was about the conditions and failure to execute. Not on Monday Night Football, the biggest stage in the NFL during the regular season. Not in a prime-time matchup against another top NFL team. And not with that team starting a backup quarterback.
This loss sucks on multiple levels. It sucks because you just aren't supposed to be manhandled bad enough to drop behind by twenty points at halftime. It sucks because the Niners' backup quarterback came out and punched you in the mouth - you challenged him to beat man coverage on the first drive of the game and not only did he do so, he did so with flying colors and beat your safeties so badly Brandon Hardin should be tearing off his metaphorical body cast to get on the field. You can't win in man when you let your receiver just flat out beat you off the line. You can't win, period, when you lose all ability to tackle. You can't play defense as designed when your defensive line looks completely unlike the defensive line of this year.
But more importantly, it sucks because it's a game you realistically couldn't afford to lose. Heading into the toughest back-to-back games on your schedule, you only needed to take one to maintain your lead over the Packers - instead, due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Packers now lead the division. Week 15 still matters, but the Packers are right back in the hunt, where you didn't want them to be.
Does it sound like I'm mad, Bears? Damn straight - you've driven one of the most levelheaded on this site to anger in one night. And it's not just because you lost. I can understand that losses happen. What I can't wrap my head around is how quickly, how badly it all went down. When you're 7-2, leading the toughest division in the NFL much less the NFC, you aren't supposed to get your asses handed to you as badly as you did if you have any serious hopes of being the Super Bowl Champions. No one asks how you got there, this is true, it's that you got there. But can you feel confident at all that you'll get there? Jason Campbell and the Bears' offense didn't get to the red zone until the third quarter and even then it took a sack, forced fumble, and penalty on San Francisco for a shove in the back to bail your ineffective offense out, not to mention Campbell having his own "Tell Tice I Said F*** You" moment and moving around plenty more, instead of taking any more punishment from the offensive line.
I didn't mind the loss to the Texans, okay, you had your contributing factors - it was raining steadily, you lost your starting quarterback halfway through to a concussion, and hey, they didn't exactly score all over you either. But this had it all. It had Kyle Williams finding an open pocket of air behind Kelvin Hayden and Chris Conte. It had Major Wright getting beat up and down the field. I think I saw Nick Roach get blocked so hard he bounced on the turf like a Superball. J'Marcus Webb was actually used to sack Campbell. Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman were effectively removed from the game. The defensive line? Nonexistent. The rebirth of the "Cover-2-Murdering" Tight End. And the lack of blocking; oh, the inglorious lack of blocking. Aldon Smith played so well that I'm pretty sure he's dreaming well of lining up against Gabe Carimi and beating him again, then stunting around to beat Webb again before finally sacking Campbell, just because he can (and because Campbell probably moved in his direction again). Seriously, 5.5 sacks. It's nice to know you were at least trying to block him, I'm not sure what the mercy rule would have been called at for setting the individual sack record.
You got outplayed. You got outcoached. And it was horrifying. Midway through I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and cry and pretend it was all a bad dream. I saw defensive linemen and linebackers swallowed up in a misdirection power scheme that let running lanes flow open like floodgates. I saw offensive linemen devoured by Aldon Smith and Justin Smith repeatedly. I saw Campbell take hit after hit after hit, hold onto the ball, remain immobile until he got rocked and said that he wouldn't take any more standing up. I saw him overthrow receiver after receiver, when he did choose to unload the ball. I saw running backs stopped in the backfield as often as they eked out four yard gains. I saw Devin Hester take a punt and do nothing but turn backwards for ten yards, unable to move forward. For that matter, Devin Hester returned three punts for -1 yard. Three punts for negative one yard. This must be that helpless feeling you get when you get stuck with Semtex or a Plasma Grenade in Call of Duty or Halo, respectively. Or maybe it's the feeling Ken Amada had when Shinji got shot in Persona 3. Helpless. Powerless.
You even had Dane posting the Insta-Recap no less than fifteen seconds after the game was over. The text message that 670 The Score sent me after the game read "Bears Embarassed By 49ers." That is how thoroughly you were brutalized on national television.
The most alarming thing to me though, is that this was your backup plan should the starter go down. If you would have told me that one quarterback would go 16/23 for 243 and 2 touchdowns with a 133.1 rating, and the other went 14/22 for 107, 1 TD, 2 INTs and a 52.7 rating, I'd say that's about right. I had no idea it'd be reversed, and the former would be freaking Colin Kaepernick's line. I realize it's one game, but Chilo Rachal shouldn't have nearly as high a quarterback rating as your backup quarterback.
I shouldn't have to tell a 7-3 football team this. I shouldn't have to tell a 7-3 football team that they got smacked up and down the field in a manner matched so infrequently that I can only think of two games that rival this. You can blame the west coast travel all you want for being out of sync or whatever. You can have a players' only meeting if you want. But if you're serious about having the expectations of a big boy team with Super Bowl dreams, you're better than you were last night. You're fortunate losses like this only count as one, just as you're unfortunate piling 40+ on Tennessee and Jacksonville only count as one.
We can beg for Jay Cutler to come back and save the team again; maybe they just don't know how to react when faced with bad circumstances like having to play a backup quarterback - I've defended Mike Tice's playcalling numerous times, but I had a hard time defending it last night. Or maybe they'd figure out that at this point, Carimi probably needs more tight end help than Webb does, as scary as that is to say. It's amazing how offenses look good or bad as the players execute. It's nice to say players should step up, but when Marshall's being doubled as he was and nobody can get open, or Campbell overthrows them, well...
The offense isn't perfect even with Cutler. We can't pretend that it is. But at least there was a threat. Last night, I didn't feel any sort of threat. When the 49ers went up 3-0 in the first, then 10-0 like it was nothing, there was a gut punch that you just knew this wasn't their night.
I tried to gather up all the positives that I could... Really, I can't find any. Not even in the turnover column. The Bears had no turnovers. I guess the only ones I can find are being one-for-one in the red zone, on a sequence that they shouldn't even have gotten there, and leading the time of possession battle. Even that's rather dubious. Oh, Kellen Davis caught a ball, and not only that, ran for a first down while shaking off a tackle. ... Shouldn't that count for points or something? Oh right.
Cutler coming back against the Vikings is big. But he can't fix everything. And it's not entirely certain his presence makes the outcome of this one any different - maybe closer, but who knows. The 49ers played one hell of a game last night, and deserved to win as big as they did. The Bears, on the other side, did not, and did not.
So it's come to this, Bears. You're 7-3. You've dropped your last two games against the toughest competition you'll face this year, one in close fashion, the other looking like the University of Illinois taking on a high school team. If you're serious about being a Super Bowl-winning team, you'll come back against the Vikings and take care of business, like you did when you got beat by the Packers. Put this one behind you and move on. Really, you have no choice. You're better than this; play like it.