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With chance to clinch NFC North, flat Bears lay an egg

LeSean McCoy ran wild against Bears who had whole lot more play for Sunday than did Eagles. | Getty Images

LeSean McCoy ran wild against the Bears, who had a whole lot more to play for on Sunday than did the Eagles. | Getty Images

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Updated: January 24, 2014 6:33AM



PHILADELPHIA — Two things that are in no danger of being overemphasized:

◆ The Bears had everything to play for Sunday night.

◆ The Philadelphia Eagles had nothing to play for.

Let’s not lose sight of that as we wander through the wreckage left behind by the Eagles’ 54-11 victory.

The Bears could have won the NFC North with a victory over the Eagles, who knew before the game that their season would be decided by a showdown with the Dallas Cowboys next week, regardless of the outcome against the Bears.

To sum up: Are you kidding me?

It’s hard to overstate just how out of place, out of sorts and out of answers the Bears were against the Eagles, and that was just in the first quarter. They trailed 21-0 after the first 15 minutes of play.

“Embarrassment” is a strong word, but it fits like a receiver’s glove here. There is no good excuse for falling apart so spectacularly in a game set up so perfectly for the Bears. They embarrassed themselves in on national TV by either not being ready or not being good enough. Pick your poison.

“We were ready to play this game, and we played a terrible football game,’’ coach Marc Trestman said.

That leaves “not good enough.’’

Whatever Sunday was, it doesn’t bode well for the Bears going into the regular-season finale against the Packers. That game will decide who will represent the NFC North in the playoffs. The way it looks now, whoever wins, we all lose.

“Nothing says that we can’t play well next week,’’ quarterback Jay Cutler said.

I don’t know. That loss seemed pretty insistent.

Remember the Bears’ offense? The one that had ripped through defenses no matter who was playing quarterback? I think it was taken off the airplane at O’Hare on Saturday and taken to a cold, windowless room. I know for sure it did not make it to Philadelphia.

It seems almost silly now to think about the buildup to this game. The Eagles’ defense shut down the Bears with an aggressive, blitzing attack that had them on their heels all night. The Bears got down so quickly that they didn’t even try to establish a running game.

Offhand, I can’t think of anything that went right for the Bears. If you’re filling out a postgame report card, who gets a decent grade? Nobody. Everybody’s report card should say, “See me after class.’’

Everything had gone the Bears’ way right up until kickoff. The Steelers had knocked off the Packers. The Lions had lost in overtime to the Giants.

What more did the Bears want?

Their defensive shortcomings have been apparent all season, though this effort was spectacularly below sea level. The Eagles rushed for 289 yards.

But the offense? This isn’t supposed to happen to a Trestman attack. The line, which had been fairly steady, was under siege almost from the beginning. The Eagles sacked Cutler five times, a season high for the line. They caught Matt Forte for a safety in the third quarter. And so on.

This loss wasn’t on Cutler, or at least it wasn’t on him for throwing bad interceptions when the game mattered. That would be easier to explain. But the Bears couldn’t move the ball at any point. People surely will focus on Cutler’s pick-six midway through the fourth quarter, but it’s hard to picture Josh McCown doing a whole lot better.

Trestman replaced Cutler with McCown with eight minutes left and the Bears trailing 47-11. It was a merciful act.

The biggest culprit was Devin Hester’s fumble on a kickoff return after the Eagles’ first score. Two minutes later, it was 14-0. This is known as a “tone setter.’’ It wasn’t long before Cutler was throwing on almost every down. Forte had five carries through three quarters.

There was never a moment when the Bears gave any indication they were ready to be part of this game. How is that possible?

I’m sure Soldier Field will be revved up for next Sunday’s game against the Packers. But I’m not sure how there can be any feeling that the Bears will do damage if they get into the playoffs. Not after this pulverization.

“Everybody in this locker room thinks we’re a playoff team,’’ cornerback Tim Jennings said.

The guys in the other locker room probably would disagree.

Email: rmorrissey@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MorrisseyCST



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