It's not that the Bears' offense is pathetic. It's just pathetic against teams that are any good.
The Bears have failed to score more than 10 points against each of the three best teams they've faced this season, totaling just 23 points in losses to the 7-3 Green Bay Packers (23-10), the 9-1 Houston Texans (13-6) and the 7-2-1 San Francisco 49ers (32-7).
As glass-is-always-half-full coach Lovie Smith pointed out after the latest offensive debacle against a playoff-caliber team, the Bears still are 7-3 and tied atop the NFC North with the Packers.
They're still in good shape to make a playoff run with three of the next four games at home.
But if they can't move the ball against other teams that are destined for the playoffs, it doesn't bode well for a postseason run. At this point, "one-and-done" seems about right, even with Jay Cutler at quarterback.
Monday night against the 49ers was the most egregious example of the offense's inability to carry its weight against a quality team. The Bears were held to a season-low 143 yards, almost all of it after the outcome was decided.
The only other time the Bears have been held to fewer than 200 yards was in the loss to the Packers, when they had just 168. Just like in that Packers game, when they allowed 7 sacks, the offensive line appeared incapable of stopping an elite pass rusher.
"We couldn't get our running game going," Smith said after Monday's loss. "We couldn't protect our quarterback, and special teams didn't do much. Whenever you see a minus-2 turnover ratio, it's not a good night for us."
The Bears also were minus-2 in the loss to the Texans, and they have turned the ball over six times in two weeks.
"Nobody played well," Smith said late Monday night. "So many of us had opportunities. I can't make a case for any of us.
"We have to leave this game as quick as we possibly can because we didn't do anything. There's nothing good really to talk about. I thought we had a good week of practice. I thought we'd be ready to play."
Another disturbing coincidence between the Bears losses to the Packers and the 49ers was the opposition's ability to take wide receiver Brandon Marshall out of the game.
He had 2 catches for 21 yards Monday and 2 catches for 24 yards at Green Bay, by far his two worst games of the season.
That's a blueprint other teams are certain to study -- especially when the Bears continue to offer the lame excuse that their go-to guy was thwarted because the other team played Cover-2. That should be a defensive look the offense is familiar with since its own defense utilizes it.
"They played two man," Marshall said of the 49ers. "They tried to take me out when I'm out wide. It's easy for them to do that. They didn't do anything special.
"I have to do a better job of just trying to beat double coverage and look at some techniques that I can use to get open. It's tough, but I still have to make plays."
Another potential solution would be for someone else to make some plays, but that disappointing trend continued as well against the 49ers.
Devin Hester's 3 catches amounted to just 23 yards, and Earl Bennett had just 1 catch for 6 yards. Alshon Jeffery had 2 catches for 15 yards before suffering a knee injury, the extent of which isn't known. Running back Matt Forte had 3 catches for a total of 4 yards.
It all combined for a rough night for backup quarterback Jason Campbell, who was sacked six times in his first start for the Bears.
"If we give him enough time to make the throws, and we come down with them, it's a different story for him," Marshall said. "He needs guys around him making better plays, and we didn't do that."
The same is true for Cutler, who is expected back Sunday to face the Minnesota Vikings. But he can't be too thrilled about that opportunity if he watched Monday night's latest offensive fiasco from home.