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Bears thankful for short week after long day against Saints

Updated: November 9, 2013 6:26AM



The Bears play the New York Giants on Thursday night, but the next game still can’t get here fast enough.

After a disappointing performance from start to finish in a 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Soldier Field, the Bears need a game to disprove the notion that the worst-case scenario is unfolding in the early days of the Marc Trestman era — that they’re getting worse.

‘‘It couldn’t come at a better time,’’ Trestman said Monday of the game against the Giants at Soldier Field (7:25 p.m., NFL Network). ‘‘I know the guys would much rather get out there and play another game after yesterday.’’

The loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field last week easily could be written off as a blip — a bad day by Jay Cutler on the road and a few missed tackles. But Sunday’s loss was a different story. Cutler ‘‘leaned up’’ his mechanics and technique and avoided the dreaded interceptions that cost him against the Lions. The Bears’ tackling and ‘‘run fits’’ were better. But all sorts of other problems popped up that cost them against the Saints.

From the first snap of the game, all the upgrades of the Trestman era that would put the Bears over the playoff hump this season seemed to dissipate. They lost focus and lacked discipline. They were discombobulated and out of sync. And they were outcoached.

Here was a positive sign in the aftermath: Though the offense is Trestman’s baby, he was not fooled by numbers that are more impressive than they look. The Bears gained 434 yards against the Saints. Cutler’s 128.1 passer rating was the fourth best in the league Sunday. Alshon Jeffery caught 10 passes for a franchise-record 218 yards. Another coach might ask, what’s the problem?

But not Trestman. While other coaches might remind us the 3-2 Bears are still in first place in the NFC North, Trestman accentuated reality.

‘‘[The loss] really was about our offense’s inability to move the football. It was unacceptable,’’ he said. ‘‘[After] the way we practiced, the way we worked and the way we started games and moved the football in the first month, [Sunday’s game] was terribly disappointing.’’

Trestman knows this team’s identity ultimately will be defined by its offense. He knows beating the Saints was predicated on the idea of starting quickly and keeping Drew Brees off the field. And he knows the Bears did just the opposite.

They came into the game with an NFL-best 41 first-quarter points and were facing a team that had allowed 27 first-quarter points (sixth-most in the league). And they came up empty — the first of the Saints’ five opponents to fail to score in the first quarter.

A week ago, the Miami Dolphins gained 81 yards on 11 plays in the first quarter against the Saints. The week before that, the Arizona Cardinals gained 102 yards on 15 plays in the first quarter. The Bears gained 14 yards on 10 plays. That’s a failure.

‘‘It all came down to how we started the game,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘[But] I feel like you see signs of us getting better — being a good team all the way around. I don’t want to sugar-coat it. We lost the game. But we are doing some things better. We’re getting closer.’’

We’ll see about that — and soon. Though it’s too early to panic, it’s reasonable to fret if you thought this could be a 10-6 or 11-5 team. The loss to the Saints makes the game against the winless Giants much bigger than it should have been. The Bears have to re-establish that they’re headed in the right direction — from top to bottom.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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