For those of you pining for last year's utterly futile Bears offense...

4th quarter

Jay Cutler on the bench late in the fourth quarter. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune / September 18, 2011)

The Bears’ offense had one -- count it, one -- drive. It came on their second possession.

After that, pffft.

Fifty-one minutes of pffft.

Last season kind of pffft.

I thought the Bears had learned something this year. I thought they had it figured out.

But no.

This devolved into last year’s misery. This became the Meadowlands with a ceiling.

Protection became a mess. Receivers weren’t reliable. There was no hint of a run game, which wasn’t working anyway, but wasn’t even given the chance to keep the aggressive Saints defense honest. Jay Cutler was channeling his inner Ricky Vaughn.

Pressure, sacks, drops, more sacks, utter futility. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

By the end, it was manslaughter. Worse, Cutler had been kicked in the throat and couldn’t make himself heard in a place when you can’t hear under the best of conditions.

By the end, too, it was  ridiculous that Bears coach Lovie Smith still had Cutler taking sacks. I mean, snaps. Same thing.

But from the start, Cutler looked jumpy in the pocket. Not sure why. He had some semblance of protection early. By the end, though, it was completely understandable. Cutler was getting pressured and hit like this was last season when everybody was starting from scratch with the Martz du Soleil offense.

When he did have time, he either had no touch or was betrayed by all kinds of drops and routes that still haven’t been completed.

To think, the Bears were down only 16-13 in the third quarter. Then Cutler was sacked and fumbled.

Yeah, that happened a lot last season, but this seemed worse because of who it was. Kellen Davis was beaten by Turk McBride. Remember, the Bears traded Greg Olsen to give Davis the job, and Mike Martz liked Davis and free-agent tight end Matt Spaeth because they could handle blocking defensive ends one-on-one.

Or not.

And then the Saints stuck it in the end zone, and the Bears needed a hero. Or a prayer. Or a replay.

The Saints faced third-and-2 at the Bears’ 12 early in the fourth quarter with the Bears down 10, and Drew Brees hit Darren Sproles in the flat for a touchdown.

That shouldn’t have counted.

Sproles appeared to step out of bounds at the 1 or 2. So, hold it. The Bears still might have a prayer. All touchdowns are supposed to be reviewed this season, and there’s no way someone with a television misses that. Fox Sports officiating expert Mike Pereira said the play should’ve been reviewed.

Nope. Wasn’t. Ballgame.

The Bears were beaten by the replay officials.

And the Saints.

And themselves.

Mostly themselves.

Their offense couldn’t make a big play. The defense couldn’t make a big play.

Perhaps the most disappointing part was the Bears’ response to pressure in an adverse environment. Or lack of response.

They had a chance to beat a good team on the road. They had a score they could work with. They needed to show poise and make plays. They couldn’t. They didn’t. They lost it when good teams win games. Blocking, coverage, understanding and executing assignments, sensible playcalling -- pffft.

Whatever hope you have for the Bears this season turns on games like this against opponents like the Saints. This explodes a lot of the optimism borne of the win over Atlanta a week earlier, especially on offense.

And now, here comes that Green Bay defense. Duck.
CHICAGO

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