By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
Figuring out what was meaningful from a game like that requires an unusual approach, and after that one we all may need psychiatric help.
Not much seemed to make sense out there, so the proper technique may be to treat it appropriately – as we would something conjured in our collective mind.
Sigmund Freud held that to determine the proper interpretation of a dream, it must be broken down into its elemental parts, assessing the feelings associated with each. His psychoanalytic method aimed to find meaning after collecting images and symbols that ultimately create a picture of the latent thoughts that matter.
Let's try it, then, as we free-associate some of what we saw.
-- The loss leaves the Bears at 4-3 headed into the week off. The loss of Jay Cutler for an extended time, however, looms larger in that it in itself darkens playoff possibility. The feverish action of the game was a distraction from having to confront this once more -- that Cutler continues to symbolize the pain of proximity to real hope. Not again with this, we felt, staring into the hellish quarterback abyss, where ancient, Lovecraftian beasts writhe and scream in the inky depths.
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-- But Josh McCown is at the very least a capable backup, able to get a team through a game or through a stretch of games. He can make conservative, system throws if given ample protection, and is a better athlete than we remembered. He performed well enough for reasonable expectation of competence, though he did it against a bad defense.
-- Marc Trestman's play-calling was principled and steady. He went back to designs that proved to work, and didn't ask that too much be done. His team could have unraveled, and it did not.
-- Chris Conte makes us feel bad. He can't keep his feet to make a play on a floating duck in the end zone, and then gets toasted by his man for a score after his eyes were in the backfield. If he is the starter at his position, it's hard to think about what the players behind him must be doing at practice that keeps them there.
-- Devin Hester's touchdown return may be enough to enhance field position for the remainder of the year, by reputation and fear alone. And the offense will need the help.
-- Lance Briggs can play the run, and his presence was missed when it mattered most. Rookie Jon Bostic improved throughout the game, showing elite speed amid inconsistent reads.
-- Brandon Meriweather is every bit as reckless and dangerous as Ndomukong Suh, and maybe moreso. He is more human missile than football player, and any punishment he receives from the NFL should be equaled by a public stance from the NFLPA, which needs to speak openly and act against that kind of unprofessional behavior that endangers the health and safety of its members.
-- An invisible plane exists at the 35 on kickoffs, it seems, and if any part of a member of the kicking team breaks it before the ball, it is ruled offsides. We learn this, of course, after the Bears recover the first onside kick since the feat was accomplished by the Decatur Staleys.
-- There are sights more deflating than seeing Briggs and Charles Tillman helmetless on the sideline with the game in the balance, but not many.
-- That feeling is countered by trying to think about Matt Forte running behind Kyle Long on pulling plays or quick-hitting traps.
-- The Bears were probably not going to win the Super Bowl before this wild game or before Cutler was hurt. We saw how many points they are likely going to need to compete for the rest of this season, and even 41 was insufficient. It was the most they have ever scored in a loss in franchise history.
-- It was the end of something, perhaps, reeling in the far fringes of optimism. The new coaching staff appears to know what it's doing, but there are too many new names in uniforms, too many easy yards surrendered, and too many games left.
Freud believed that the dreams of adults were the attempts of the subconscious at wish-fulfillment, with the altered consciousness of sleep giving repressed thoughts the chance to reach the mind, but disguised by resistances that hid their nature. These powerful, veiled desires were inscrutable, but very real.
When it comes to the Bears, it looks like we have to be careful what we wish for.
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