NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 18: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints sacks Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears at the Louisiana Superdome on September 18, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Bears 30-13. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
An early season-loss that featured an offensive line that resembled Swiss Cheese, a jittery quarterback on the run, an unbalanced offensive attack, plenty of injuries, and complete ineptitude on third downs. Quick quiz: Does that describe the Bears loss to the Saints on Sunday, or the nightmare game against the Giants last season?
Seeing Cutler go down in successive plays induced flashbacks to last season, when Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half and suffered a concussion. That game was the low point of the Bears season. They didn't convert a single third down, and scored just a single field goal. Both Cutler and back-up Todd Collins were knocked out of the game. It was ugly.
There are clear parallels between the Bears loss at the Meadowlands and the one at the Superdome. Against the Giants, the Bears lost two players on offense to injury: Cutler and Collins. In New Orleans, it was Earl Bennett and Gabe Carimi, who is expected to be out a month. The Bears had just two rushing first downs in both games. The Saints and the Giants dominated the time of possession battle.
At the same time, yesterday showed that the Bears have made some strides. Until Carimi left, the line was not good, but not deplorable. Forte still found a way to gain 164 all-purpose yards. They converted on two third down opportunities, which is two better than against the Giants.
Just like it did last year, this loss should serve as a wake-up call for the Bears. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz will need to vary the play calling. The offensive line will simply have to do a better job, with or without Carimi. Wide receivers need to do a better job at making themselves viable targets for Cutler.
This loss to New Orleans does not have to be the end of the world, but only if the Bears re-learn lessons they had already been taught last season.