This, however, was most certainly not.
This was embarrassing, potentially demoralizing and, worse than that, possibly defining. If losing a winnable game against an above-average team in Minnesota last week did anything positive for the Bears, then getting blown out 41-0 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday only showed them once again just how far they have to go to be among even the division's elite.
"This is certainly the most disappointing day since I've been here," said second-year coach Dick Jauron, whose high-octane offense hit its lowest point in his tenure and whose defense couldn't hope to save it.
This was one of those days in which records are set and the losers trudge off the field with no ready explanations handy.
"We have the talent on both sides of the ball and on special teams," said Bears cornerback Thomas Smith. "There's just something, some intangible, that's missing right now."
Not generally an encouraging early-season sentiment but indeed, the Bears were missing several things Sunday.
Points, for one, as the Bears suffered their first shutout since 1989, when they lost 26-0 to San Francisco in the last game of a 6-10 season. It was Tampa Bay's largest margin of victory in its 24-year franchise history and marked the 20th straight quarter in which the Bucs have held the Bears without a touchdown.
And to think it started out reasonably hopeful for the Bears, who nevertheless seemed to seal their own fate by squandering first downs from the Bucs' 34- and 36-yard lines in their first two possessions.
The first opportunity fizzled in part with the first of five sacks of Cade McNown by the Tampa Bay defense. The second died with the first of three McNown turnovers.
"It's a feast-or-famine defense," quipped McNown, "and they ate a lot today."
McNown would fumble upon being ambushed on that series and later toss up two first-half interceptions. Still, the Bears would find themselves down just 3-0 (on a 23-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica with less than three minutes remaining until halftime).
"[That's when] it all went downhill real quickly and then it snowballed from there," said Jauron.
It began innocently enough with a 47-yard field goal by Gramatica, but was followed quickly by McNown's second interception, a second-and-10 pass to James Allen from the Bears' 17 that bounced off Allen's hands and into the arms of Donnie Abraham, who had the first interception as well.
Three plays later, Bucs quarterback Shaun King faked a shovel pass to Warrick Dunn and scampered alone in the opposite direction for the 13-0 lead.
The blowout did not officially ensue, however, until Bucs corner Ronde Barber scooped up a fumble by rookie receiver Dez White after a hit by none other than Abraham, and returned it 24 yards for the touchdown and 20-0 lead.
The Bears managed to both get beat up and do some beating up of themselves. There were two delay-of-game penalties, one flag for 12 men in the huddle and the general sense of confusion, mostly on offense as McNown felt constant pressure.
"Sometimes they just brought things that we really didn't see and you feel bad, you feel stupid because we just didn't get it blocked," said Bears guard Chris Villarrial. "We take a great deal of pride in protecting the quarterback and obviously we didn't do it today and it's frustrating."
For McNown's part, he rarely hit the "hot" receiver--the man assigned to bail him out in the case of a blitz. "We had a lot of things go wrong" said McNown, who completed just 15-of-29 for 96 yards. "It's a tough one to swallow. I saw a lot of miscommunication out there, some assignment errors on a lot of people's parts, including my own and I just think we have to eliminate those errors.
"We have to come together as a team. We have to gel. We have to feel each one another out there and react quicker and better and sharper."
Those adjustments were apparently too much for one halftime, as the Bucs scored on their first two possessions of the second half--on a 13-yard pass from King to Keyshawn Johnson over Thomas Smith, and a quick slant from King to Jacquez Green for 58 yards, making it 34-0.
A 20-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run by Mike Alstott, who combined with Warrick Dunn for 124 yards in 29 carries, would complete the scoring.
"They game-planned us really well," said McNown. "It seemed like they were at the right spot at the right time on a lot of plays. It's tough to face a team like that. If you're unsure at all, they're 100 percent sure of what they're doing. To move the ball, to score, to beat a team like Tampa, you have to be 100 percent sure of what you're doing.
"Then, it's a matter of who's a better team."
No question about that one. The Bucs now hold the distinction of tying the Washington Redskins for the longest win streak at six games against the Bears, who have lost 10 of their last 13 games dating back to last season.
The Bears, already two games in the hole in the NFC Central, face the 2-0 New York Giants in the home opener Sunday at Soldier Field.
"The only consolation is that it's a long season," Jauron said. "We'll have to see where we're going. It's up to us to figure out who we want to be, who we're going to be. We do have a lot of young players. But if we're going to be a good team, they've got to step up and play."