CHICAGO — Well, that wasn’t very nice. The Bearsinvite the Lions to a football game, then don’t let them play with the ball.

Talk about hogging a pigskin. Chicago kept it for three minutes to every one by Detroit. There was this one Bears drive, in the second quarter — no wait, that drive was the second quarter.

There was this other Bears drive in the third quarter — no, wait, that was the third quarter.

I do recall a moment, late in the game, where a bunch of Lions trotted onto the field, and the officials stopped them immediately.

“Who are you guys?”

“We’re the Lions offense.”

“Hmm. Got any ID?”

I would like to tell you what happened next, but I was temporarily blinded by the cleanliness of the Lions’ uniforms.

“I feel like I could go out and play a game right now,” said Barry Sanders. Unfortunately, he was saying this after the Lions had just played a game — and had been swallowed, superstar and all, by a score of 20-10. Barry touched the ball a whopping 11 times. That’s five times more than any other Detroit receiver or running back, none of whom actually broke a sweat.

Dave Krieg, on the other hand, did break a sweat once, when he spent nearly 20 seconds trying to escape a pass rush. This was the Lions’ longest play from scrimmage. I’m talking time here, not distance.

“What’d we have, like 10 minutes of offense the whole game?” Lomas Brown asked.

Fifteen minutes, 48 seconds to be exact.

“Man! That’s kinda embarrassing.”

Yeah. And Newt Gingrich is kinda conservative. Bears’ best offense was Lions’ defense

Now, it might seem like we’re coming down hard on the offense. Not true. We are simply spanking them first, so they can go home and rest. Not that they need rest. Several of them actually finished the New York Times crossword puzzle while waiting to get into Sunday’s game.

The real culprits for this disaster — which pretty much knocks the Lions out of the playoffs, let’s be honest — are the stalwart men who play Detroit defense. Thank heaven they are not defending our shores from foreign invasion. We’d all live in Nebraska by now.

How can we describe their performance — particularly at the line of scrimmage?

Soft, as in noodles when you overcook them.

Soft, as in bread when it sits in onion soup.

Soft, as in mud after a rainstorm.

Soft, as in — well, you get the point. The Lions defense made Lewis Tillman look like, well, Barry Sanders. He had 126 yards. Lewis Tillman? Last week it was Errict Rhett from Tampa Bay. Geez. The Lions keep up this star-making business, they ought to charge a commission.

What gives? I’ve heard of the bend-but-don’t-break defense. This is more like the bend-over defense.

“We got out butts kicked,” said Bennie Blades.

“They kicked our butts,” said Marc Spindler.

“A butt-kicking,” Chris Spielman said.

And you wonder why ex-players become TV analysts.

What isn’t addressed by these lucid explanations is the only important question: Why? The Lions knew the Bears wanted to dink them to death. Heck, it was in all the papers here Sunday.

Everywhere you looked, articles talked about how Bears coach Dave Wannstedt planned to keep the ball out of Sanders’ hands with a ball-control offense. Short passes. Lots of runs. Hey, Lions. The paper only costs 50 cents.

Instead, Detroit seemed as surprised by the Bears as Priscilla Presley was to meet her new son-in-law.

“They pounded us all day, we didn’t stop anybody,” said Wayne Fontes. “In all the years I’ve been coaching here, I’ve never been this frustrated. . . .

“But we’re still in it. There’s no quit in this team.”

There’s not much tackling either, Wayne. Speaking of swift kicks . . .

Funny, isn’t it? At the start of the year, the Bears were picked to finish in the depths of the NFC Central Division. Instead, they are 7-4, while the Lions are 5-6. The play that truly separated them Sunday came late in the third quarter, after the Bears had finished one of their average drives, which lasted longer than “Lonesome Dove.”

“I was on the sideline just trying to get my breath,” recalled Blades, the safety, “and next thing I know, someone’s yelling, ‘Defense. Get back out there!’ “

Chicago had squib-kicked the ball, catching the Lions completely off-guard. The Bears easily recovered the onside kick and quickly drove downfield for a touchdown. It was a great play. A smart call. “We saw on the film where we thought it could work,” Wannstedt said.

Wait. You mean you study film and actually learn things? Based on the Lions, I thought you just shut off the lights, turn on the projector, and go,
“AAAAAHHH!”

Oh, well. No time to waste. Another game in three days. At least the Lions’ offense is fresh. They don’t even need to wash the uniforms.

“Are you surprised by what happened?” Fontes was asked.

“I’m disappointed,” he said, “but not surprised.”

He’s sounding more like a Lions fan every day.

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