Don't Sweat the Small Stuff......................
Updated: August 28, 2011, 1:29 PM ET
Don't sweat the small stuff
Chicago Bears fans have some things to worry about, but ignore the obvious
http://a.espncdn.com/i/columnists/Is...Melissa_35.jpgBy Melissa Isaacson
Titans Edge Bears, 14-13
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There are enough things to worry about as a Chicago Bears fan.
Robbie Gould going 5-of-9 on field goals this preseason is not one of them. Nor is the Bears' coverage on special teams. Or the fact that backup quarterback Caleb Hanie seems prone to the particularly costly interception.
[+] Enlargehttp://a.espncdn.com/photo/2011/0827...rte_b1_300.jpgAP Photo/Frederick BreedonBears fans don't have to worry about Matt Forte, who gained 74 yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown.
The Bears' final roster decisions at running back is surely not worth stewing about.
Neither is Roy Williams. Nor the defense's lack of takeaways.
And certainly not the fact that Saturday's 14-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans dropped the Bears to 1-2 this preseason. At least not if you believe in precedent, like the fact that the Bears have lost the key third game of the preseason in three of the past five years, including the '06 Super Bowl year and last season's journey to the NFC Championship Game.
"We got better in most areas," Smith said after the loss.
Gould missed a normally automatic 29-yard field goal try when it bounced off the left upright in the second quarter. But he came back to hit 45- and 52-yarders later. And keep in mind that two of his four misses this preseason were from 55 and 56 yards.
But combine his misses with the special teams' continued struggles in their coverage game -- the latest in their kickoff coverage along with a lack of awareness following a blocked punt that the Titans kicker recovered and ran for a first down -- and it's easy to see why some might see this as a real problem.
Still, it's hard to panic when you consider that rarely have the Bears' core players all been in together and that they have relied heavily on rookies like Chris Conte, who was taken out of the play that resulted in Marc Mariani's 37-yard punt return.
"[The lack of continuity in the preseason] is a huge thing," Craig Steltz said of a unit that is perennially one of the best in the league and will continue to look for veteran help on the waiver wire. "The return game is almost like a big offensive play, and we all have to be on the same page, and if one guy misses a block, that can be a big return."
In some areas, the Bears will simply have to hope to continue to be lucky. So while Hanie has a tendency to toss up the big interception like the 90-yard pick-six by Tommie Campbell in Saturday's third quarter to put the Titans ahead for good, he remains generally suitable enough. Particularly if he hands off the ball.
Matt Forte, in a day more active than his average regular-season game last season, rushed for 74 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown while also snaring a 15-yard pass.
While Chester Taylor was understandably steamed that he did not play Saturday and was not told until right before the game, the Bears are set with Kahlil Bell (48 yards on 11 carries and three catches for 20 yards) and Marion Barber.
Barber, who was the second back in replacing Forte, left the game with a calf injury that did not appear serious, and if it doesn't turn into a lingering problem, he should be more than adequate as the backup, especially on the goal line.
The Bears' offense rang up 416 yards, was 56 percent in third-down efficiency and was balanced in its run-pass ratio. Dropped and missed catches continue to be a problem with Williams and Devin Hester the main culprits. But the Williams worries overall probably aren't worth it.
No, he's not the savior Bears fans would like, but a one-year contract paying him $2 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus, is not the investment of a superstar. If he continues to miss catches he should make, at least they have a solid replacement in Johnny Knox.
More importantly, they also have Earl Bennett, who had six receptions for 89 yards against the Titans and provides Jay Cutler with invaluable peace of mind.
"Earl hasn't changed one iota since his freshman year at Vandy and he probably never will," said Cutler, who gave the locals a few occasions to flash back to their college glory days. "I just feel comfortable with him out there. He does what he is supposed to do. In a couple words, he is just a football player and we need more of those in the locker room."
If that sounds like a pointed dig, it probably is and well it should have been after another week of butterfingers. But fretting about Williams feels like wasted effort right now.
If the Bears succeed this season, they will likely do it by again relying heavily on their defense, which for the second week in a row failed to get a single takeaway and had just one sack (by Amobi Okoye, who has all three this preseason).
"Defensively, we've talked a lot about taking the football away and we haven't gotten it done," Smith said.
But keep in mind the Bears were again without Lance Briggs (who had two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two interceptions in 2010) and Anthony Adams (two forced fumbles last season).
Adams said he's not overly concerned with the seeming lack of ferocity in the preseason.
"No," he said, "because when [turnovers] come, they come in twos and threes, so we just have to be patient and let it happen. Sometimes you just have to literally take it away from them. But they'll come. We'll keep pushing the issue."
[+] Enlargehttp://a.espncdn.com/photo/2011/0827...ers_b1_200.jpgAP Photo/Joe HowellIt's safe to say Julius Peppers isn't showing all of his moves in the preseason.
And so will guys like Julius Peppers, who paused for an extra beat when asked how much he's showing in his pass rush right now.
"I'm playing," he said with a slight smile. "I'm doing what I'm asked to do right now."
Does this mean there is no cause for alarm for a team that in two weeks will begin a streak against quarterbacks the likes of Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers?
Heaven's no. You could be concerned about Smith's clock management difficulties when the regular season begins (see the end of Saturday's first half when the Bears failed to call a timeout and ran out the clock). Or the fact that the offense, while continuing to improve, still isn't exactly punching the ball into the end zone. Or Chris Spencer's obvious inability to step in and start at center the way the Bears intended him to do.
There's always something. Just maybe not the obvious things.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.