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Bears are living between awesome and awful

Updated: September 30, 2013 7:28PM



DETROIT — Now where were we?

Ah, yes: Heading into Sunday’s game, the question had been whether the Bears were for real and whether there was something fundamentally wrong with those of us who couldn’t quite get on board with a 3-0 team.

Then Sunday afternoon arrived, dark and stormy inside a domed stadium, and refused to proceed dutifully into Sunday evening. It dragged and dripped and loitered, much to the chagrin of the Bears, who wanted out of here in the worst way in the first half.

The answer would seem to be that they are as real as a painful 40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions suggests, but that’s too easy.

Sunday was a market correction. The Bears are not an elite club, at least not yet. I think they know this. I think they knew it before Sunday’s game but got caught up in the elevated endorphin levels around Chicago.

When a city puts so much enthusiasm into a 3-0 start, when it nominates the quarterback for sainthood and the head coach for a Nobel Prize in chemistry, there’s only one way to go when something like Sunday happens: in the opposite direction. And so after Jay Cutler threw three interceptions, you might have found yourself saying the Bears would be crazy to give him a new contract after the season, that coach Marc Trestman can’t adjust on the fly and that maybe it would be a good idea to just go ahead and blow up Halas Hall.

There is a middle ground, folks. As you’re crawling blindly around in your desolation today, feel for it with your fingertips. The middle ground is that the Bears aren’t as good as they seemed to be in the first three weeks of the season and not as bad as they were in the second quarter Sunday, when they gave up 27 points.

Cutler had problems setting his feet when he threw, leading to the interceptions, including an awful hanging floater that Lions safety Glover Quin returned 42 yards to set up a touchdown. Cutler also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. There was the distinct whiff of the same, old Jay in his performance, but it doesn’t mean he’s back to being a lost cause.

‘‘It boils down to my turnovers,’’ he said of the loss.

What it all boils down to is whether Trestman can coax Cutler back to being a more disciplined quarterback without taking away the daring that makes him dangerous. In other words, it’s the challenge that every coach has faced with Cutler. I happen to think Trestman is up to it. Or, if you prefer that the answer match your Monday morning blues, if Trestman can’t do it, nobody can.

Sunday revealed other problems. The Bears’ defense is pedestrian when it isn’t forcing turnovers. And, oh, yeah, it might want to remember how to tackle. The amnesia dates back to the Lovie Smith era, when tackling was something you did when all else had failed. The failure to tackle is how Lions running back Reggie Bush was able to rush for 112 yards — in the first half.

‘‘We knew in the first three weeks, even though we were getting a lot of turnovers and touchdowns, that we still weren’t playing the way we should,’’ Bears defensive end Corey Wootton said. ‘‘If we hadn’t gotten those turnovers, they would have been scoring a lot more points on us. The biggest thing is, we need to get back to our fundamentals — our tackling, our technique.’’

Trestman and the Bears tried to put a happy face on the game, pointing to how they came back to make it respectable after falling behind 40-16, but the words were so empty, they echoed.

‘‘That kind of backbone is going to help us,’’ Trestman said.

Now it gets a little tougher. If I’m Trestman, I embrace Sunday. There was no way his team could have lived up to the hosannas that had been sent its way the previous three weeks. For a second there last week, I expected Chicago TV stations to interrupt regular programming to bring us team coverage of Cutler’s amazing ‘‘back-shoulder’’ throws.

Sunday’s sudden loss of cabin pressure should have been expected. Lots of people got a bit too excited. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to believe. But blind faith doesn’t get you very far.

The answer is somewhere in between. We still don’t know how good the Bears are, but I think we can agree they’re not this bad.

Email: rmorrissey@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MorrisseyCST



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