Bears in big hole after loss to Lions
It's his job to find holes, so no one needs to remind Matt Forte that the Chicago Bears are in a big one five games into the season.
The defending NFC North champions are off to their worst start since 2007 at 2-3 after a 24-13 loss at Detroit on Monday night. They are already three games behind the Lions and Green Bay, the last two unbeaten teams in the NFL, and the way they are playing, it's not easy to envision a breather this weekend against Minnesota.
Chicago continues to have trouble blocking, and a defense that was expected to be its strength is coming off another rough outing. After a game that the Bears were viewing as a defining moment, they look like the definition of mediocrity.
''There is never a time for panic but we need to have a sense of urgency,'' Forte said. ''If you panic, you get out of your regular rhythm.''
The Bears have struggled to find the right balance on offense, with quarterback Jay Cutler again absorbing regular beatings and the run game getting ignored at times. One week the pass protection is there, but Forte has no room to room. The next, there are enough holes but Cutler is running for dear life.
A defense led by Pro Bowlers Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs isn't holding up its end, either, and that's maybe the biggest head-scratcher with the Bears.
Yes, Cutler was on the run again Monday even though he only got sacked three times. The line got rattled into nine false starts - six in the first half alone. Chicago wound up wasting a solid effort by Forte, who ran for 116 yards, and a big part of the blame goes to the defense.
Peppers has been mostly quiet after delivering in a big way in his first year with the Bears, but the problems go beyond the pressure up front. There are issues in the secondary, too.
''I don't think anyone (foresaw this); I don't even know what we're ranked, 31, 32, somewhere up there,'' cornerback Charles Tillman said. ''I don't think anyone could foresee us being ranked that high. It's time to do some soul searching and see what each of us is really made of. We can either tuck our tails between our legs and go run away or man up and fight and get this thing turned around.''
Only three teams are allowing more yards per game than the Bears. They're 27th against the pass and 28th against the run, and have already given up as many combined runs and passes for 40 or more yards (six) as they did all last season.
They had trouble containing Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in losses to New Orleans and Green Bay, then got shredded by Cam Newton while allowing 543 yards in a win over Carolina. It was more of the same against the Lions.
They gave up 395 yards on 47 plays - 8.4 on average. That included a 73-yard touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson in which Tillman failed to jam him and Chris Harris got beaten, and they watched as Jahvid Best went 88 yards untouched to the end zone on a run that might have left Minnesota's Adrian Peterson champing at the bit. After all, he ran for 224 yards against Chicago in 2007 -- the most ever by a Bears opponent -- and he is coming off a 122-yard performance against Arizona that included three statement-making touchdowns in the first quarter.
''Defensively we stink,'' Urlacher said. ''We can't stop the run, we can't stop the pass; we can't stop the pass, we can't stop the run. We're all over the place.''
Tillman said the players are to blame.
''I feel like our scheme is not difficult,'' he said. ''We are doing the same thing we did last year. It's the same defense, same players. I respect Coach (Lovie) Smith and (defensive coordinator Rod) Marinelli. They will be men and blame themselves, but, it really falls on the players. They're doing everything in their power and I think we, as players, we can definitely man up and make the plays.''