The Bears are expecting full MRI results on quarterback Jay Cutler’s groin injury by Monday afternoon and privately are bracing themselves for bad news.
Cutler was grimacing in pain as he left the field during the second quarter of the Bears’ 45-41 loss Sunday to the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. If his groin injury is severe, he could be sidelined for most of the remaining 10 weeks of the season.
That would leave the starting QB job to Josh McCown, who was effective in relief Sunday. He likely would be backed up by Jordan Palmer, who will be at Halas Hall on Monday after receiving a call from the Bears. Palmer impressed during preseason training camp.
But Cutler is not the Bears’ only concern. The defense turned in one of its worst efforts in recent memory, surrendering 499 total yards and a game-losing 80-yard touchdown drive that ended in the final minute.
Defensive standouts Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman weren’t able to finish the game, sidelined with shoulder and knee injuries, respectively.
And now the Bears head into their off week with 15 days before their next game left to ponder whether a seemingly promising season could soon be headed into freefall.
Until the severity of the injuries to Cutler, Briggs and Tillman are fully known, it’s hard to know for certain just how devastating Sunday’s loss will ultimately be. But it’s not too early to wonder if a once-feared defense has lost its firepower.
Yes, Tillman delivered an interception of Robert Griffin III in the first quarter Sunday, a takeaway that led to an easy two-play, 10-yard touchdown march. But that may have been the only memorable highlight for a defense that surrendered five touchdown drives averaging 79 yards.
Griffin threw for 298 yards and ran for 84 more, a season-high. The Redskins had seven plays longer than 20 yards and racked up 209 yards on the ground. The Bears never had an answer and never found a way to steady themselves.
Worst of all, after an impressive second half by McCown and the offense provided a 41-38 lead with less than 4 minutes to play, the defense failed its final test of the day, allowing the Redskins to go 80 yards in 12 plays for the game-winning score.
Without Tillman or Briggs to aid the cause, a shaky defense couldn’t respond.
“That’s just the nature of the game,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “Of course you want those guys out there. But if they’re not able to go, we’ve got to be able to figure out a way to make a play. I mean, it’s extremely tough. The offense did their job. We couldn’t have asked for Josh and the offense to do much more. That last drive was all on us.”
Just like that, with three losses in the past four games, the Bears are losing steam and losing starters to injury at an alarming rate.
Perhaps the off week will provide a good break for healing and mental relief. Or perhaps it will only delay the inevitable, a slide of a team that may not have enough talent or depth to withstand the blows coming at it.
Either way, the Bears’ next two games – Nov. 4 at Green Bay, and Nov. 10 vs. the Lions – will offer a pretty telling measuring stick that will help sort out the pecking order in the NFC North.