The Chicago Bears have been telling us for three years that they have all the answers, but they departed Soldier Field late Sunday afternoon with all the same questions they carried into the first game of the season.
At $18 million in 2017, can Mike Glennon win you a football game? He could not down the stretch, as the Bears dropped a heartbreaker to the Falcons 23-17.
Did the starting quarterback have enough weapons around him to finish that final drive? Everyone in the stadium knew he could go only to Tarik Cohen on the last play of the game and Cohen was covered.
Would the offensive line really play like one of the best in the NFL, as we've been told for weeks? The line was pretty good, but right tackle Bobby Massie completely whiffed on defensive end Brooks Reed as he swallowed up Glennon to seal the Atlanta victory.
Can the secondary make plays when it matters most? The breakdown on the 88-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Austin Hooper was so bad that no one on the defense seemed to know what happened when asked about it postgame.
Will the defense create turnovers this year after tying the league record for fewest a year ago? They did not take the ball away in Game 1.
Would Kevin White be the difference-maker GM Ryan Pace continued to insist last week that he would be? White caught 2 passes for 6 yards Sunday and left with a shoulder injury. If he's done for the year, the seventh pick in the 2015 draft will have played five games in three seasons.
Would it be another season with moral victories, keeping games tight and then talking about how close they are to making the playoffs after losing? In a 3-13 season, they lost six games by 6 points or fewer last year, and they've already done it once after Sunday's defeat.
Cleveland lost 15 games last season, five by 6 points or fewer. Lots of teams can say they're close. The Browns lost by a field goal Sunday at home against Pittsburgh.
Are the Bears better? It certainly seems so. They competed with the defending NFC champs Sunday. They should win more than three games in 2017, but the lack of playmakers continues to be baffling.
Pace has had three draft classes, three chances at free agency, three springs and three summers to build a playoff team, but you need game-changers in order for that to occur.
He should have collected -- at a bare minimum -- six players to this point who can alter the game in an instant on defense with a turnover, or break open a game on offense with a lightning strike.
Right now, they have Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd.
Maybe Cohen will be one of those guys. In his first game, it looks like a brilliant pick by Pace, but at his size you wonder if Cohen can handle the punishment of a long season and a heavy workload after he took some monster hits Sunday.
Maybe Mitch Trubisky will be one of those guys, but inserting him into the lineup before he's ready and before the Bears have a team around him on offense will do Trubisky and his development no favors.
The Bears played a good football game Sunday, but they were just good enough to lose while failing to take the ball away, a thread that has run through the last couple seasons.
They had a conservative plan on both sides of the ball and probably waited too long to use some hurry-up, which can really help a talent-challenged offense.
Clock management was questionable again, and they ran three plays in the first 1:18 of the final possession, leading up to the two-minute warning.
In the end, it didn't matter because they had four chances from 5 yards out to win a game that was right there for them.
"That's the NFL. It's just what it is," said head coach John Fox. "Whether it's the playoffs, the Super Bowl or the regular season, you have to win the close games."
Maybe the Bears will start finding a way to win those games, but they don't give you ribbons or trophies in the NFL for coming close.
It's a win or a loss. That's it.
And for the third straight year under Fox, the Bears are 0-1.
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