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Telander: An epic mess

Let's look at the bright side.

The Bears converted a third down. Yay!

It came late in the third quarter on a 7-yard completion from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to wide receiver Devin Hester at the Washington Redskins' 33.

This shocking feat ended a stretch of 0-for-28 on third downs with Cutler at the helm, a string going back three games. No matter that Cutler promptly threw a third-down interception that Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall returned 92 yards for a touchdown.

We take little victories where we find them.

Why, the Bears even converted a second third down in the fourth quarter!

Beyond that, this 17-14 loss to the Redskins was a mess of epic proportions.

The Bears, a curious gang that once had a strange momentum and a 4-1 record, are now reeling and 4-3.

If they have an offensive line, it must consist of the large, faceless people milling about near the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, what I see is a well-oiled, live-stock-sized turnstile.

Word is, Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was shown a photo of the Bears' O-line mid-week and had to be given meat and shot with a tranquilizer gun to calm him down. I think there was a play Sunday when the 6-6, 335-pound Haynseworth pushed the entire Bears unit back like a mattress box.

Later, Haynesworth knocked the ball out of Cutler's hands on a sneak at the 1-inch line, when, as he said, "I just jumped over the offensive linemen."

Trampoline, mattress, launching pad, it's all there.

But the stretch of Bears turnovers that occurred in the second half was unlike anything we have seen before.

Yes, fumbles and interceptions are part of almost every NFL game, but how does a quarterback--Cutler-- throw three interceptions to one defensive back--the Redskins' DeAngelo Hall--in just fourteen minutes of the second half and then throw a fourth one to the same guy eight minutes later to basically end the game-

We don't know.

Cutler doesn't know.

Cornerback Hall himself said, as he walked through the Soldier Field tunnel after the game, ``Some of it was great coverage, some of it was luck, and some of it was team defense.''

And how did it all feel-

``It feels great- '' Hall said.

Of course, it does. Especially since the Bears had a chance to win this game right up until Cutler mysteriously heaved the ball far up the right sideline, over seemingly confused receiver Johnny Knox, and into Hall's hands with 2:24 left. It had been first-and-10 near midfield.

It just made no sense.

`We all struggled on offense, which makes the quarterback look like he's struggling,'' said Bears center Olin Kreutz.

Oh, fine.

Cutler threw four interceptions, was sacked four times, and ran for his life other times. Except for the picks, we're getting used to that.

But there seems to be some increasing disconnect between Cutler and his receivers and offensive coordinator Mike Martz'es play-calling. Martz and Cutler had told us how this sophisticated, first-year offense would take time to kick in.

Yet things only seem to be getting worse.

Yes, the Bears third down conversion rate has soared (I'm being sarcastic here, kids) to a mighty 17.9 percent.

But the Bears have lost three of their last four games and have averaged a mere 14.5 points in each. In their first three games, all wins, they averaged 22 points.

Some trends are plain disturbing.

Cutler's once-stellar quarterback rating has dropped to 84.1. The offense is 0-for-10 when trying to score from the enemy's one-yard line. Veteran punter Brad Maynard seems to be losing his power.

And until Sunday the Bears had won every game in the last five years in which the defense scored a touchdown. Well, little Bears nickelback D.J. Moore scored on a 54-yard interception return of a Donovan McNabb mis-throw, and the Bears still lost.

How long until the Bears defenders start to turn away from their offensive teammates in distrust or disgust-

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher says that won't happen. ``It doesn't matter what they do on offense,'' the bullet-headed one said in the locker room, ``we have to win the game on defense.''

That's a nice sentiment.

But when you see the Bears schedule after the coming bye week and the Buffalo Bills--the Vikings, Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots, Jets, etc.--you wonder.

Somebody better block somebody soon. Or something.