THERE WAS A WORST PART: BEARS WERE RIPE FOR LOSS

CHICAGO — Well, this was a terrible, embarrassing, second- rate football game. But let me be blunt. The Chicago Bears finished off the Lions Sunday about as quickly as it takes a dog to raise its leg, and with nearly the same respect. On a day fit for tadpoles and the occasional polar bear, they bruised and bullied and stomped all over the silver and blue and left giggling, 24-3 winners.

But that wasn’t the worst part.

The Bears ran right through the Lions defense, which for the most part was as effective as a lace napkin. Fullback Matt Suhey had his first 100-yard game in two years. Walter Payton had his umpteenth 100-yard day to make it a matching set — the first time two Bears had gained 100 yards in the same game in seven years.

But that wasn’t the worst part.

The Lions’ offense went oingo-boingo. Eric Hipple saw more of the sky than he did of his receivers. The only thing tougher to complete than a pass seemed to be the snap, which the Lions muffed three times.

But that wasn’t the worst part, either. Defense indescribable

Nor was the fact that in the Bears’ locker room afterwards, a cigar-puffing tackle named Keith Van Horne was asked to assess honestly the play of the Lions’ defensive line.

“Oh, uh . . . heh . . . heh-heh . . . umm . . . heh-heh . . . uh . . . what can I say?” he said.

Nor was it the Lions’ feeble punting game, the snaps that nearly flew over the kicker’s head, or the less-than-inspiring decision to punt on third down as the first quarter ran out — because the wind was blowing in the right direction.

No, no, no, and no. The worst part of this whole sordid affair is that the Bears — the best team in football — on this day might have been takable.

Everyone knows of the Big Bad Bears this year. They came in Sunday cocky, swell-headed, undefeated in nine games and all but assured of the division title — with a big game against Dallas next week already on their minds. But they came out playing like mere . . . mortals.

“You could tell at the start that they really didn’t want to play,” Lions coach Darryl Rogers said afterwards. “They weren’t showing the normal intensity. . . . You could see it. It made me hopeful at first.”

And why not? This was a rare moment. With starting quarterback Jim McMahon out with an injury, the new Bears were suddenly playing like the Bears of old, when the most effective passes were the distance from the quarterback’s arm to Walter Payton’s stomach.

Unfortunately, even that was too tough for the Lions to defend. And despite the gifts from Bears’ backup quarterback Steve Fuller — which included a few passes that bounced off Lions’ defenders and a foolish giveaway on a fumbled lateral — three points was all the Lions could muster in the bluster.

The Bears’ offense ate them up.

The Bears’ defense spit them out. Opting for the opera

I’d like to point out what happened in the first half, but that would be like sifting through a garbage can to see what the owner had for dinner. Suffice it to say it was pretty bad. And the second half wasn’t much better.

In fairness, the weather was enough to make you attend an opera for shelter. Bone cold, wet and windy, it left both teams at times playing like junior colleges. No. Sorry. I take that back. Some junior colleges play better than that.

There were missed passes, missed handoffs, punts whose hang time would be measured in microseconds. There was, however, no offense by William (The Refrigerator) Perry. Thank heaven for small things. Er, big things.

The Lions wound up with only 106 total yards, an average of 26.5 per quarter. Ugh. The Bears owned the foorball for 41 minutes out of 60. Double ugh.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Lions’ tackle Keith Dorney. “They came in and blew us out. What can I say? I’m very embarrassed.”

So are many of his teammates. But OK. One can only take so much bad news. The Lions were not supposed to win this game — it just would have been a golden opportunity. It’s gone. But before anyone gets suicidal, let’s remember the Lions are 5-5 and still alive for the playoffs. And if anyone had told you at the start of this season that would be the case right now, you’d have probably laughed, or tried to sell them insurance.

“The Bears are a great team and we are a struggling team,” said Rogers, who wins points for honesty. “Face it, we are not the Chicago Bears.”

Losses, like Sundays, are part of living with that. The worst part, let’s hope.

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