With bye, Bears hope to regroup after dropping five of first eight games Print
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Thursday, 01 November 2007 15:07
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 LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -Ruben Brown planned to head home and watch a film. No, not game film.
The veteran offensive lineman was planning to take his kids to the movies while in Buffalo this weekend and hoping to forget about the first half of the season. And why not?
``I'm definitely disappointed we're in this situation,'' he said.
The Bears certainly did not expect to be 3-5 heading into their bye week and slipping out of playoff contention after winning the NFC championship last season. Yet, that's what they're doing.
They had a chance to reach the break with a .500 record and some momentum, but blew it last week with a 16-7 loss to Detroit. That was just the latest in a series of indignities for the Bears.
They were hit hard by injuries on defense. They changed quarterbacks. They got run over by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson to the tune of 224 yards, a Vikings record and the most by a Bears opponent. And they allowed a league-record 34 points in the fourth quarter of a loss at Detroit in September.
``The potential is there,'' veteran receiver Muhsin Muhammad said.
He pointed to an eight-game win streak in 2005 that lifted the Bears from a 1-3 start and sent them on their way to the playoffs. And he mentioned that Chicago won the first seven last season.
``Here we are with an opportunity to go on another winning streak,'' Muhammad said.
Recent history hasn't been kind to Super Bowl losers, though.
Seattle became the first runner-up since 1997 to win a postseason game the following season when it beat Dallas in the first round last year. And the Seahawks were also the first runner-up to even make the playoffs since the 2001 Tennessee Titans.
The Bears laughed at that bit of trivia when they reported to training camp, but no one's smiling now. Only five teams have made the playoffs after a 3-5 start and none has done it since the 2002 New York Jets, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Few, if any, envisioned this scenario when camp opened, even if there were questions about Rex Grossman and Cedric Benson.
They acquired strong safety Adam Archuleta in a trade with Washington. Cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher got long-term extensions. And Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs accepted the franchise tender offer of one year and $7.2 million on the eve of camp after saying he would never play again for Chicago.
A few days later, the Bears traded for nose tackle Darwin Walker to replace the troubled Tank Johnson, who had been cut. The defense figured to be as dominant as it was last season, maybe even better.
On offense, the Bears thought a veteran line would still be among the league's best, that Grossman would rise above his inconsistencies and Benson would make fans forget about Thomas Jones.
None of that happened.
Grossman left the Bears no choice but to remove him after throwing six interceptions and one touchdown in the first three games. If he finds success in the NFL, it will probably be in another uniform, but the Bears needed to do something, so they turned to Brian Griese.
The final eight games might also determine Benson's future.
The hard runner who plowed over opponents late last season and occasionally made them miss is nowhere to be found. He's done nothing to win over fans who wanted the Bears to keep Jones. And it's hard to believe he's winning over management, even if general manager Jerry Angelo said, ``I would hate to think you're going to single out one person and say, 'This is the reason why they can't run the ball.'''
Benson has 466 yards on 149 attempts - a 3.1 average - and has spent significant time on the sideline. The blame does not end with him.
The Bears have forced 13 turnovers and committed 23, a minus-10 differential tied with Houston for second worst in the league.
No wonder the offense is ranked 26th. More shocking is the defense.
The Bears can point to the long procession of injuries that started when safety Mike Brown, an emotional leader, and nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in their left knees during the season opener at San Diego. Briggs (hamstring), Archuleta (broken hand), Walker (sprained left knee), Tillman (ankle) and Vasher (groin) have all missed at least one game. And then there's six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is playing with an arthritic back and has been inconsistent.
The injuries don't completely explain the missed tackles, blown coverage and costly penalties, though.
``It's like halftime,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ``Let's go back out there. We're behind.''
 

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