The Bears are very good at taking the blame themselves. This I-have-no-one-to-blame-but-myself attitude makes for good locker room harmony, but it doesn’t necessarily make for winning football. What sounds positive can actually be a negative, because it promotes enabling.
When the media turned a critical eye on Rashied Davis, Kyle Orton drew the focus back to himself after Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss to the Bucs.
“That would have been a big play,” Orton said of Davis’ third-down drop in overtime before Tampa Bay’s game-winning drive, “but we had numerous other opportunities to close it out. We made too many mistakes. I made too many mistakes. When you lose a game like this, you can only look at yourself.”
The Bears are very good at taking the blame themselves.
“I’m blaming our entire football team, starting with me,” coach Lovie Smith said.
“I’ve got to do my job better,” defensive end Alex Brown said.
Even when a Bear made an excuse – defensive tackle Tommie Harris talked about not being 100 percent healthy – he followed up by saying he had no excuse.
“I have to step it up for this team,” Harris said. “I haven’t played the caliber of football that I’m known for playing. I feel it all starts with me, so a lot of the loss I take personally, because I know I can change a game, but lately I haven’t been doing it.”
This I-have-no-one-to-blame-but-myself attitude makes for good locker room harmony, but it doesn’t necessarily make for winning football. What sounds positive can actually be a negative, because it promotes enabling.
Instead of singing “Kumbaya,” the Bears need to point a few fingers. They are right when safety Kevin Payne says: “That’s two weeks in a row that we should have won the game, that we feel like we were the better team and we didn’t come out with the victory.”
But it won’t change unless the Bears figure out WHY the better team keeps losing.
The reason is simple: Chicago can’t hold late leads. They’ve blown a fourth-quarter lead two weeks in a row. They also lost three times last year when they led in the fourth quarter. And another four where they were tied midway through the third quarter.
The only two times Chicago lost a game the last two years where it wasn’t at least tied in the second half was at Washington, when the Bears trailed 14-13, in the fourth quarter, and a 16-7 loss to Detroit, when they trailed 13-7 heading into the final 15 minutes.
What about the games Chicago rallied from behind? Well, those rallies were either led by the since-traded Brian Griese or by the defense and special teams. Chicago needed two kick returns for a touchdown and a blocked punt to edge Denver 37-34 in overtime last year.
No, this comes down to the offense.
It has been good early in the fourth quarter, with touchdowns to pad leads against the Colts and Bucs. But it disappears in the last seven minutes. Where Griese is at his best – “He certainly is a good two-minute player,” Orton said – Chicago’s offense goes into punt formation. That puts too much stress on the defense. The best way to protect a small lead is to grind out first downs and take a knee.
“You want to close the game out with the ball,” Orton agreed. “That’s just another example. We weren’t able to do it.”
Again. And again. And again.
This time especially hurt, because Matt Forte ran for 7 yards on first down. All Chicago needed was to gain 3 yards on two tries to get a first down at the two-minute warning with a 7-point lead and Tampa down to two timeouts.
“I don’t know if that would have ended it, but that would have been huge,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “We talked about how we’d like to get two, but at least one for sure.”
They got none.
Point your fingers there. If you don’t, it’ll happen again.
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.