10:39 PM CDT, October 1, 2013
In terms of adversity, the Bears' 2013 season is akin to an airline losing your luggage on a trip to Hawaii. You can sulk away a day or two in a luxury resort, or break down and buy a few items at the gift shop and get on with paradise.
In other words, it's time to cowabunga up, Bears fans.
Teams with real adversity are the likes of the Giants and Falcons, who have seriously underachieved, or the Buccaneers, who are on the verge of mutiny. Those are calamitous situations. The Bears have started better than anyone anticipated and are on pace for a 12-4 season. Not real adversity.
Despite their first loss Sunday in Detroit, the Bears are one of only four NFC teams with winning records. The others are the Lions (3-1), Seahawks (4-0) and Saints (4-0), who bring their perfect record to Soldier Field on Sunday but will be coming off a short week after their Monday night victory over the Dolphins — and aren't bringing their dome with them.
Sure, quarterback Jay Cutler had his worst performance of the year in Detroit, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble that the Lions picked up for a touchdown. Cutler owned it. Coach Marc Trestman said everything was correctable. The second interception was especially crazy as Cutler was in the air when he heaved a throw downfield to Brandon Marshall in what might have been the first "jump bomb'' in NFL history.
The good news is the Bears are back home, where Cutler has been at his best and where Saints quarterback Drew Brees never has won, going 0-4, including 0-3 with the Saints. Of course, one of those games was the NFC championship and the other two were in December, so the Bears might be hoping the projected 62-degree kickoff temperature is about 30 degrees optimistic.
A healthy dose of Matt Forte, who needs about 10 more touches than he got against the Lions, would go a long way toward keeping Brees and company off the field. The Bears need to take the ball if they win the coin flip and dedicate themselves to running it early and often.
A huge advantage is the presence of offensive coordinator and line coach Aaron Kromer, who worked as an assistant in New Orleans for five years and served as interim head coach for the first six games last year.
There was talk in Week 2 of J'Marcus Webb aiding the Vikings with the Bears' line calls, and there were questions after the Lions game of whether Israel Idonije was helping steal defensive calls. That pales to the kind of information Kromer must possess.
The Saints no doubt will change their signals as a precaution, but Kromer has excellent insight into their personnel and the likes and dislikes of particular players, including Brees. He knows what makes Brees uncomfortable, what has worked against him and what makes that offense struggle.
It would help if the Bears could get their defensive line playing better. The lack of production has been confounding. Even with Julius Peppers coming off his best game of the season — five solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and three quarterback pressures — the top three pass rushers have shockingly little to show for the opening quarter of the season. Peppers, Corey Wootton and the disappointing Shea McClellin have combined for 21/2 sacks and nine quarterback pressures.
Teams are getting the ball out quickly against the Bears, with even the Lions bypassing their downfield attack most of the afternoon. And Brees gets the ball out as fast as anyone; the Saints' short passing game effectively serves as their running game. Regardless, the Bears are giving away huge chunks of yards. They rank 20th in defense, allowing 384 yards per game, and 26th in points allowed at 28.5 per game.
The Bears are dangerously thin at a few spots, especially on the defensive line after Henry Melton's season-ending knee injury. Anything you need to know about their depth on the line was revealed when Landon Cohen signed Friday and got 14 snaps Sunday ahead of undrafted free agent Zach Minter, who was not activated for the game. Cohen played a couple games with the Cowboys, but he still went from the street to the field with the Bears.
Now that may be adversity, but perhaps of the Bears' own making.
Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on WSCR-AM.
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