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Bernstein: Bears Victory Positive Enough

By Dan Bernstein senior columnist

(CBS) Yaaaaaaaaaaaay.

Let's get one thing straight before we talk about the Bears' sloppy 22-20 victory over the Raiders on Sunday for John Fox's first win as Chicago coach – this season's going to be largely an exercise in week-to-week compartmentalization and understanding that a positive outcome is really just empty calories, a short-term reward for three hours of emotional investment.

I get the argument that worse is better, that a season without title hopes is best served by a record more likely to ensure more valuable draft assets. While that's entirely true, it's also unrealistic to apply that logic on game day itself, when a professional team is doing everything in its power to win.

The Bears are trying to establish a new, more accountable culture under new coaches, and even a handful of victories can create important scaffolding on which to get it built. There's also valid reasoning behind that.

So any deeper meaning notwithstanding Sunday, the Bears should come away pleased.

Their offense survived three turnovers to roll up 371 net yards and converted 10 of 17 third downs. Though Jay Cutler threw an interception close to the end zone yet again, his earlier-than-expected return from a pulled hamstring showed him in otherwise fine form behind a makeshift offensive line. He clearly couldn't take off and run, but his short-area movement was enough to keep plays alive, and he completed 65 percent of his passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns and had a passer rating of 89.4. Jimmy Clausen, this was not.

The Bears' 33 minutes of possession time was helped by poor Latavius Murray, who bobbled a pass directly into the hands of Pernell McPhee and later muffed a backfield toss that Sam Acho recovered. Those mistakes helped counterbalance Cutler's folly, as well as fumbles by Matt Forte and a center/QB exchange.

McPhee was a beast, continually crashing down the line to stop ball-carriers near the line of scrimmage, including once on a late third-and-2 to force a field goal attempt. Eddie Goldman was stout at the nose, often taking up more than one blocker and notching his first career sack. Rookie receiver Amari Cooper was held to 49 yards on four catches by a secondary missing corner Alan Ball and then safety Antrel Rolle.

I'm convinced that at the very least, both of these Bears coordinators are good at what they do and deserve some degree of trust in their game planning and understanding of their own personnel. Adam Gase certainly doesn't dither, getting plays in with enough time to get lined up for several seconds of good looks and critical pre-snap movements that can reveal a defense's plan. Vic Fangio's side, meanwhile, held a previously productive Oakland offense to just 20 points despite the three Chicago turnovers.

I'm learning that I have more confidence in the two lieutenants than Fox himself, who seems determined to live up to every criticism of his clock management and conservatism earned at previous stops. Known as a great Monday-to-Saturday coach with less in-game savvy than many of his counterparts, Fox's use of timeouts at the end of the first half failed to follow a consistent strategy. Before the final, game-winning drive he also chose to let enough time bleed away to put the advantage of the two-minute warning at risk.

Injuries are piling up, too, with Rolle in a walking boot and Will Montgomery's broken fibula not making anything easier for the line that was already missing Jermon Bushrod and still employing Vladimir Ducasse, who plays as if trying to complete his own personal bingo card of mistakes.

But Robbie Gould's 49-yard field goal made it all a little bit better for now, instead allowing three hours to feel a little less wasted.

The game's final play was appropriately goofy – a schoolyard circus of useless laterals and back-passes that just kept going until it ran out of energy and somebody fell on the ball. It ultimately culminated in nothing but afforded some mild entertainment.

That reminds me of something.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score's "Boers and Bernstein Show" in afternoon drive. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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