CHICAGO — Taking in the Chicago Bears game this weekend felt a whole lot like watching a State Farm commercial I’ve seen for years.
Come now, and journey with me down memory lane.
In the commercial, two women appear in a shopping boutique — and all of a sudden — one spots a purse they want to buy. After uttering the magic words, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” Anthony the State Farm agent appears and lets one of the women know she saved about $150 with her discount double check.
Thrilled, she picks up the purse and glides over to the cashier’s counter to make a purchase.
The other woman, who doesn’t have State Farm, rattles off a jingle hoping her insurance company can help too.
“I don’t have State Farm, but insurance find me money!” she says.
A fisherman appears, with a little bit of green attached to the end of the hook on his fishing pole.
“I got you a dollar,” the fisherman exclaims.
Disappointed, the woman reaches for the dollar, but the fisherman has other ideas.
“Ohhhh, you almost had it! You got to be quicker than that!” teases the fisherman, jerking the dollar away, just out of the woman’s grasp.
The commercial ends with the phrase, “having insurance isn’t the same as having State Farm.”
The same can be said about being a football fan in Chicago, because being a Bears fan isn’t the same as being a fan of a team that’s actually good at football.
On Sunday in their game visiting the New Orleans Saints, the Bears were the fisherman, dangling a dollar in front of the faces of their fans, metaphorically teasing them with a win they kept just outside of reach.
Chicago had not one, not two, not three, not four, but five opportunities to tie or take the lead after Cairo Santos knocked a 31-yard field goal through the uprights to tie the game, 17 all, with 3:27 to go in the third quarter.
Opportunity No. 1 yielded a three-and-out. Two runs for four yards by D’Onta Foreman, followed by a completion from Tyson Bagent to running back Darrynton Evans for two yards on third down. On fourth-and-four, the Bears punted away.
“Ohhhh, you almost had it! You got to be quicker than that!”
After the Saints’ Go-Go Gadget man Taysom Hill connected with tight end Juwan Johnson to take the lead, 24-17, with 11:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, Agent Bagent spared no time throwing away the Bears next chance to tie the game.
The undrafted, DII college quarterback threw an interception intended for Darnell Mooney on the second play of Chicago’s second drive of the fourth quarter — his second of three picks on the day.
The Bears defense came up with a stop on New Orleans’ next drive — forcing a turnover on downs where they stuffed a Derek Carr QB sneak on fourth-and-one inside their own red zone — but opportunity No. 3 ended the same way No. 2 did, with a Bagent interception.
For what it’s worth, Chicago’s defense was stout when it was needed most.
After the turnover on downs, the Bears forced another punt after Bagent’s third and final interception of the game. When the offense punted again after their fourth opportunity to tie or take the lead, the defense held the Saints to seven yards on four plays, leading to a missed field goal to keep it a one possession game with two minutes and 30 seconds left to play.
Darnell Wright committed a holding penalty on the first play of the drive. After an incompletion to Cole Kmet, Bagent was sacked and fumbled on second-and-20. The ball was recovered by New Orleans with 2:16 to go, and the Saints ran out the clock to earn the victory, sending Chicago fans home disappointed for the seventh time this season.
The game wasn’t all bad — Kmet made a highlight reel snag in the end zone on his way to a pair of touchdown catches Sunday afternoon — and despite four turnovers, I still think Bagent has outpaced expectations filing in for Justin Fields, but at this point, I sound like a broken record.
When will the Bears stop dangling the metaphorical dollar in front of their fans and end the mediocracy?
If it’s not a lack of preparation on the part of Luke Getsy or Matt Eberflus, it’s a lack of talent. If it’s not a lack of talent, it’s attrition from injuries. If it’s not preparation, lack of talent, or injuries, it’s an off-the-field distraction leading to the departure of a coach. If it’s none of the above, it’s just a series of bone-headed plays that leave fans scratching their heads.
Right now, there’s no end in sight.
There’s only a small, forlorn hope fans can surprise the fisherman, grasp that metaphorical dollar a few more times, and end up with at least a couple more wins than Chicago had last year.