PHILADELPHIA — Inside a stunned Bears locker room Sunday night after a disgraceful 54-11 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, coach Marc Trestman approached Jay Cutler. Josh McCown joined them near the corner to form a quorum.
You didn't need to be lip reader to understand the agenda they privately set.
Burn the tape, they said in so many words. By the time the last Bear boarded the team bus, that had become the mantra you will hear more this week than "Jingle Bells."
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Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
Lincoln Financial Field, 1 Lincoln Financial Field Way, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA
"I don't think we're going to study this much,'' Cutler said. "There's not much to study. We got beat down.''
That's one way to put it. Embarrassed is another.
By kickoff, the Bears knew they could win their division with a victory and the Eagles knew they couldn't. The Bears supposedly were playing for a bigger purpose; the Eagles mostly for pride and playoff seeding. Yet it didn't take long for a crowd of 69,144 and a national television audience to realize which team responded like the game didn't matter.
Of all the troubling things that happened to the Bears — and there were enough to spoil Chicago's holiday mood — arriving unprepared in every way should concern Trestman most. All the motivation created by losses by the Lions and Packers inexplicably failed to affect the Bears' execution. With opportunity to seize, the Bears flopped in Philly.
"We were ready to play and we played a terrible football game,'' Trestman said.
He was half-right.
Given the stakes, the Bears played their worst game under Trestman. By the end of the first quarter, the Eagles led 21-0 and their fans were feeling so festive that even booing Santa Claus sounded like a bad idea. At halftime, nobody would have blamed NBC executives if they considered pre-empting the second half with a "Sound of Music" rebroadcast.
What was more embarrassing, the Bears not showing up early or appearing to quit late?
"They hit us first,'' cornerback Tim Jennings said. "There was no way for us to bounce back.''
Not with the worst defense in franchise history. The return of bulkier linebacker Lance Briggs made no impact. If running back LeSean McCoy wasn't making his case as the NFL's best running back not named Adrian Peterson, quarterback Nick Foles was keeping plays alive with his feet to find receivers wide open. It was a group effort to give up 514 yards, but Shea McClellin's persistent problems left little doubt his biggest contribution this season will be injuring Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The easier the Eagles moved the ball, the more Chip Kelly looked like the clear-cut winner in the brainy battle between outside-the-box, first-year NFL head coaches. Kelly not only deserves credit for outsmarting the Bears but for deciding not to rest starters in a game that potentially affected only playoff position. Many an NFL coach would have marred the league's integrity and made it easier on the Bears, whose errors made it hard enough.
On offense, the Bears regressed. Cutler flashed bad mechanics and body language he often shows when things go south, especially pass protection. Cutler lacked sharpness but, despite throwing the inevitable pick-six to punctuate the disaster, backup Josh McCown wouldn't have changed anything given how much pressure the Eagles applied — and, yes, Cutler should start against the Packers.
The Bears offensive line gave up five sacks and resembled the 2012 edition. The right side, guard Kyle Long and tackle Jordan Mills, reminded the league they were rookies. Every player and coach contributed to making an Eagles defense that gave up 48 points seven days earlier to a Vikings team without Peterson look tougher than a cheap cheesesteak.
Ironically, the Eagles defense bouncing back provided the Bears' most important, instructive lesson learned the hard way. As badly as the Bears were dominated, it has no bearing on Sunday's NFC North title game. Cutler's right: Review it, curse it, forget it. In the NFL, sometimes the only thing Sundays have in common is that they follow Saturdays.
Just as Kelly found a way to get the Eagles to ascend one week after a blowout, Trestman now faces a similar challenge. The Packers may or may not have Rodgers, but it shouldn't matter to a Bears team still potent enough offensively to beat them at Soldier Field. The Bears must focus on finding the team that won two straight games in December instead of the one humiliated three nights before Christmas.
As much as perception will bury the Bears on the city's longest Monday in awhile, the reality remains that they still can clinch a playoff berth by winning one more game. In the first season of any coach, that still would mean something.
Even after the Bears treated this game like it didn't.