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Bernstein: At Least They Didn't Lose

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) Short of a victory celebration, can we have a relief rally? A loss-avoidance shindig?

How about a good-lord-that-could-have-been-awful carnival, or a festival of thanksgiving for the season still mattering?

It wasn't great, but it was looking for a while like it was about to be Really Bad.

This one was a must-must, a necessary condition for continuing one's emotional investment in a severely flawed Bears team, even if one may know better. After starting the year against three solid opponents, the bums came to town with a rookie QB, a banged-up defense and an inexperienced coach.

And thanks to Devin Hester, Matt Forte, and a gameplan apparently imported from the 1960s Packers, the bums were vanquished 34-29 and sent back on the bum train to Bumville. Enough blocking, enough tackling and points from three phases. Chew the clock and get out of that building before you screw something up. Or have to call another timeout.

"We're not apologizing at all for this win," Lovie Smith said. "We feel real good about it."

Well it certainly feels better than the alternative. 2-2 after the first quarter of the schedule is tolerable, 1-3 is not. Many expected them to be at this point, somehow, anyway.

What lingers, though, is still a little icky.

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Olindo Mare left one field-goal short and stubbed another one into the pile, fizzling a pair of drives. Jeremy Shockey was called for a ticky-tack pushoff that negated a touchdown. Thanks for that.

Jay Cutler's self-described "internal clock" is still ticking too fast – he lofted another interception as the rush converged. Frank Omiyale got himself benched. The receivers and tight ends still can't make plays by themselves. The run defense continues to get gashed due to overpursuit and an inability to disengage from blocks.

Brandon Merriweather seems content to headhunt rather than cover or tackle, and abandoned his deep half of the field in two-deep zone coverage to leave Steve Smith open. Remember why Bill Belichick let him go? Yep, too much freelancing and launching instead of controlled, responsible play.

The stupid, drunken fans are still screaming when they shouldn't, forcing Cutler to cover his earholes to hear the play before a critical fourth-down. There's enough trouble getting the information from Mike Martz's frontal lobe to the huddle, even without the inexcusable noise.

"I'm trying to get the perfect play called," Cutler said. "Mike's a perfectionist, so it comes with the territory, I guess."

Ouch. It doesn't have to be perfect, just perfect enough to leave you with a timeout or two in your pocket at the end of a close game. That stuff matters against better teams, like the one up next and many more to come. Those teams are going to make you pass the ball, again, too.

Safety Chris Harris tweeted this: "Whether u like or didn't like the way we won……WE WON!! A win is a win!"

And I agree. He is absolutely right.

So by all means, come on over tonight for the big get-together -- you're invited to join me in recognizing this win appropriately.

I have tepid beer, unsalted pretzels, non-fat cheese, and a huge platter of imitation crabmeat. We can listen to vaguely-unsatisfying music and watch 2-star movies. Marion Barber may come over and entertain us with a series of dangerous, incomplete back-flips!

Party's on. Bears beat the Panthers.


Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of "Boers and Bernstein" since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein's columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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