KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jaquan Brisker sat in the corner of the visiting locker room at Arrowhead Stadium with his hand covering his mouth, talking to injured cornerback Jaylon Johnson. The words were muffled, but their eyes and body language said more than enough.
Where the hell do we go from here?
The Bears were eviscerated Sunday afternoon in Kansas City as Patrick Mahomes and the defending champion Chiefs worked them like a speed bag in a 41-10 loss.
Fourteen days ago, the Bears prepared for their season opener with big expectations- individually and as a team. It was a rebuilding team with the arrow pointing straight up. They added talent, and quarterback Justin Fields was expected by many to take a sizable leap.
Things started off bad and have only gotten worse in the two weeks since. The Bears are now 0-3, have the NFL’s worst statistical defense, the offense can’t do anything, and have been napalmed by a mixture of incompetence, lack of execution, poor preparation, and bad decisions.
After the Chiefs finished dragging the Bears back and forth on the GEHA Field grass for three hours, the Bears returned to the visiting locker room shellshocked at how poorly things had gone through three weeks.
“We just got our ass kicked,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “That’s number one. I can’t think of a game that I had in a long time that looked like that.”
“Honestly, it’s a reality check for all three phases,” defensive end DeMarcus Walker said.
Kmet looked dazed after the loss. He stood at his locker and fielded questions. But one of the Bears’ leaders, a guy this regime rewarded with a big extension in the offseason, had trouble finding a valid explanation for why the 2023 Bears keep sinking deeper into the sewer.
Defensive tackle Justin Jones sat at his locker, his back turned and his head down. One of the more vocal leaders of this Bears team tried to put out a positive message that a rebound could come. But his normal confident tone was gone. The Chiefs took that, too.
“Keep pounding the rock, man,” Jones said quietly. “They are a good team. No doubt about it. But we still got players, good coaches. We got a good team. We got to keep the unit together and keep progressing.”
On the other end of the locker room stood wide receiver DJ Moore talking to Darnell Mooney. Like Brisker and Johnson, the receivers were locked in an intense conversation. Perhaps they were trying to pinpoint why a passing game that was supposed to be dynamic has been borderline inept through three games. Perhaps they, like the rest, are merely wondering how bad the next 14 games can get.
“I don’t know,” Moore said. “Reality as in we got to stick together. What? These next two weeks, we got Denver, and then after that, we got Commanders, got to find a way to win those two and not be 0-5 or 0-4.”
Bears players on both sides of the ball tried to stand tall and confident, claiming the team isn’t lost. Spouting off belief that these first three games are not indicative of who they are and that solutions can be found. Chemistry, execution, and trust were all floated as potential keys to stopping the ship from sinking.
But what if it’s already underwater?
“We’re still trying to find our identity,” Walker said. “I honestly believe that. Got to get the chemistry going. Rather be a team that starts off slow and finishes hot than a team that starts off hot and finishes slow.”
This team had months to find its identity. It told us what it was in camp. It has been slapped in the face for three straight games, and now they have no idea who they are.
When asked what’s the key to fixing what’s broken, Walker’s answer felt telling about where this Bears team truly is.
“Coaches trust the players Players trust the coaches,” Walker said. “But it got to be 50/50. It can’t be 60/40, 70/30.”
When asked if they trust their coaches, Walker wasn’t convincing.
“You got no other choice,” Walker said. “Of course we do.”
Linebacker T.J. Edwards spent last season on a Super Bowl run with the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s now finding out how the other half lives.
“I don’t think anyone is freaking out or losing their mind, but we got to have a sense of urgency,” Edwards said. “We got to get going and play some good football. There’s no time to waste in this league. You never know.”
Slowly but surely, the 2023 Bears filed out of the Arrowhead locker room. The only sound that filled the air was the buzz of the overhead lights. Honestly, what’s there to say?
This team was supposed to be different. Supposed to be tougher, more explosive, and have better resolve. There were excuses for last year’s 3-14 team. A lot of the starters weren’t NFL-caliber players. It was a teardown season. Blah, blah, blah.
General manager Ryan Poles added talent. He added his guys at the positions he and head coach Matt Eberflus wanted.
And this team is arguably worse than the one that was a punching bag for most of last season.
That’s indefensible and goes beyond the players’ execution on Sundays. There’s something else afoot with the 2023 Bears.
They were supposed to be better. They were supposed to be at least watchable.
The Bears can look all they want for answers. They won’t find them at Halas Hall, on the bus, or in the corners of the visiting locker room of the stadium where Mahomes and the Chiefs snatched their souls.
After Sunday’s throttling, the Bears stumbled through the media session just as they stumbled through 60 minutes of game time.
There were no catchy lines, fiery pep talks, or easily identifiable solutions — just eyes searching the nothingness for answers are unlikely to materialize.