When Jay Cutler broke his thumb, Chicago’s defensive players said they’d step up and make things right. When Matt Forte sprained his knee the next week, they said they’d doubly step up. For three and a half weeks, the defense jammed its finger in the leaking dike that is Chicago’s season but couldn’t stop the flow of Bears’ losses. And that flow turned into a gusher in the second half Sunday, as Seattle scored the last 31 points to hand the Bears their fourth consecutive loss, 38-14.

CHICAGO – When Jay Cutler broke his thumb, Chicago’s defensive players said they’d step up and make things right. When Matt Forte sprained his knee the next week, they said they’d doubly step up.

For three and a half weeks, the defense jammed its finger in the leaking dike that is Chicago’s season but couldn’t stop the flow of Bears’ losses. The flow turned into a gusher in the second half Sunday, as Seattle scored the last 31 points to hand the Bears their fourth consecutive loss, 38-14.

"When you are 7-3, everything is looking good, and then all of a sudden you are 7-7 in the blink of an eye," receiver Roy Williams said.

The defense wasn’t supposed to be alone. Special teams were going to help carry the load. Instead, they’ve disappeared.

All-time kick returner Devin Hester ran away from all three punts his way Sunday. And Corey Graham turned a Seattle field goal into a touchdown by getting penalized for using another player for "leverage" in trying to block the kick.

"We can’t seem to turn the corner," Graham said of the special teams. "We’re getting a lot of penalties. When we get opportunities to make blocks, we’re not blocking them. ... Our kick returns have been terrible. We haven’t been able to make nothing happen out there."

Chicago’s biggest problem has been backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, who threw three more interceptions Sunday. Two other huge problems have been a GM who refused to sign a better backup and a coach who refused to pull Hanie until Seattle’s second interception return for a touchdown.

"Caleb’s been our guy," coach Lovie Smith explained.

Even with Chicago trailing 31-15 with five minutes to play.

"We felt like he was the best option at the time," Smith said.

Only for Seattle defenders.

"We knew he was eyeing down receivers and that gave our corners great jumps on the ball," Seattle safety Earl Thomas said.

Point guard Michael Ray Richardson once described a bad Knicks team by saying: "The ship be sinking."

Chicago’s ship sunk the second Jay Cutler broke his thumb, even though the defense wants to believe it can win without a quarterback.

"This is not our team," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "This is not how we should play. Doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback. The defense has to play better."

The defense held Kansas City to 10 points. It shut out the Broncos until the final five minutes. It held Seattle to 84 yards in the first half and scored a touchdown of its own when Israel Idonije fell on an end-zone fumble to tie the score at 7.

The defense is fine. Better than fine. But better than fine is not good enough with the worst quarterback in the NFL.

The Bears, the NFL’s home for wayward quarterbacks for five decades before they traded for Cutler, should know this by now. They don’t.

"These last few games, there have been no games," Idonije said, stopping twice and closing his eyes before continuing, "you know, we’re just better."

No, they’re not. Good teams have good quarterbacks. Even Lovie Smith seems to finally grasp that.

"It’s hard when you don’t get more production from the quarterback position," Smith said.

Four weeks ago, the Bears looked better than the team that reached the NFC Championship game last year. Now, they are headed for their most disappointing finish in years.

"It’s been devastating to see your season go down the drain like that," Graham said.

The ship be sinking. And the best Chicago can say is it has sunk before.

"We’ve been a lot worse than this, I know that much," Urlacher said.

That’s no comfort.

Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.