A Dash of Optimism and Other Points of View
Its a funny world. I spent most of the offseason trying to talk the Bears down while the rest of Bears fandom was sky high over thier prospects this season. Now that they lost in embarrassing fashion in front of a national audience against the first quality opponent they played, thier biggest rival no less, I find myself with this deep-seated optimistic feeling. It’s absolutely sick but there it is.
So now that everyone has settled down, the first thing I’m going to do today is talk some people off the ledge by giving you three positive points from Thursday’s game.
- Our first ray of sunshine, as noted by Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune in his film review, was the play of the cornerbacks which I thought was outstanding.
- Our next point may not seem to be so positive but “Bear” with me as Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes quarterback Jay Cutler on what the Packers did to beat the Bear offense:
“‘They played two-man 90 percent of the game, so we have to get other guys involved and get them out of it,’ Cutler said. ‘We never challenged them in that and they never had to get out of it, so it was an easy game for them.’
“What is the solution?”
You run the ball, that’s what you do. And it surely does seem to me like the Bears are very capable of that after two games. Both Matt Forte and Michael Bush gained good yardage Thursday night. And even without Forte, Bush looks very capable of carrying on to me. He’s much more nimble with better vision than I thought he was going to have going into the season.
Having said that, if you are going to base your offense on the run you have to play mistake free football. The Bears didn’t do that. Penalties, critical drops, turnovers. You can’t have that if you are going to work your way down the field on the ground. That’s where the Bears need to show improvement next week. And I’m confident they will.
- My last point is this one highlighted by Biggs:
“Rush hour: Bears players will review game film Saturday at Halas Hall, and the defense should grade out fairly well, particularly the line that generated five sacks of Aaron Rodgers. First-round draft pick Shea McClellin had 1 1/2.”
Getting a good four man rush is far and away the most important aspect of the Bears defensive scheme. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have had serious doubts about their ability to generate pressure outside of Julius Peppers. I’d like to see it in a few more games and against better offensive lines but I think we should all be feeling better about it now.
I know everyone is depressed about the performance of the offense but long term, this really is an encouraging sign for the future this season. Indeed, I would argue that its probably more important than every single other isolated problem that you could name.
- Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune quotes Coery Wooton on playing too upright:
“‘You go through college and sometimes you develop bad habits just because you can get away with that in college,’ Wootton said. ‘But coming to this next level, your pad level has to be down. Your footwork and your hands have to be on point.
“‘Every now and then, pad level is definitely a concern for me. You just have to focus. That’s what Coach [Rod] (Marinelli) teaches us to work on every day in practice: pad level and take off.'”
- McClure quotes Gabe Carimi on his stupid unnecessary roughness penalty:
“‘I just have to learn that when it’s close to the play being over like that, and you don’t hear the whistle, you just let off,'” Carimi said. ‘I wasn’t trying to be dirty or anything. I was just trying to finish my guy'”
What a lot of bunk. How disappointing is it that Carimi should come off the field and expect us to believe that he didn’t retaliate for a late shove, as the camera clearly showed. This is what I’ve come to call Ndamukong Suh syndrome. The tendency to believe that just because you feed a bunch of feces to the media and the fans, that they’ll swallow it. It came back to bite Suh with his no famous Thanksgiving day stomp and the explanation that it was an accident. Eventually its going to bite Carimi if he doesn’t lose it fast.
In fairness, Carimi apparently did have second thoughts because Biggs reports that he later owned up to the mistake.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times puts his finger on some major problems the Bears had Thursday. This one was the one that harmonized with my own feeling the most:
“What happened to the idea that if opponents take Brandon Marshall out of the game, it will open things up for the other receivers? Through three quarters, Marshall was targeted one time and had no receptions — yet Earl Bennett (1-10) and Alshon Jeffery (1-7) were the only other receivers to make a catch.”
- On a related note, Pompei addresses the play of left tackle J’Marcus Webb:
“[Offensive coordinator Mike] Tice didn’t leave Webb alone with [Packers outside linebacker, Clay] Matthews too frequently after Matthews beat him one-on-one early. But help only goes so far. At some point, the linemen have to step up and make blocks on their own.
“What’s more, keeping extra players in compromises the offense. One of the reasons the passing game clicked so well against the Colts is the Bears often had four players running pass routes. When you have three, the quarterback’s options are limited, and all of them become easier to take away.”
I can only strongly agree with this. Tice made it sound so simple over the summer and people swallowed it hook line and sinker. But the number of people Tice has been holding in to help in protection has always made me very uneasy. It will be OK against the Indianapolises of the league. But its going to cripple the offense against good teams in adverse situations all year.
Biggs would seem to agree as he wrote this about the Bears upcoming schedule:
“It is alarming because the shift in the offensive philosophy was supposed to make the line better. Now, you have to wonder if against a defense with an elite pass rusher the Bears are going to be in for a rough ride. They host the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field on Sept. 23 and then they are back in the prime-time spotlight at Dallas on ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ on Oct. 1. Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is a more accomplished pass rusher than Matthews and Dallas utilizes a 3-4 scheme. Could the Bears be headed for another disaster there? You can’t discount the possibility.”
- Biggs points out that Thursday night’s game drew a record 6.3 overnight rating for the NFL Network. This is why we’ll probably never see another Sunday noon Packers game. And I hate night games. And given the way the Bears seem to lay an egg against them in prime time so often, it makes me hate them even more.
- Biggs asks former NFL quarterback Trent Green about the offense and how it fits Cutler:
“‘From what I have seen, this really fits Jay better,’ Green said. ‘[Former offensive coordinator Mike] Martz’s system is about timing. It’s about putting the ball in the spot. It’s about receivers being very defined in their routes, being right in the right spot. I don’t know if that necessarily meshed well with Jay. He is a little more backyard, drop back … he is not real disciplined in his drops. He likes to sit there – bounce, bounce – and then fire it in there.'”
“’From what I have seen, Jay likes to see the receiver come open and he then fire it. He’s got a big enough arm, like a Daunte Culpepper, where he can do that.'”
- Much has been said about Cutler since Thursday night but instead of focusing on his leadership skills, we should be more worried about this. From Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune.
“It has been easy to forget who Jay Cutler is. I’m guilty of it. Thursday’s Cutler catastrophe served as reminder that the pouty quarterback wilts when the lights are their brightest.”
“The Bears have “MNF” dates with Dallas, Detroit and San Francisco. They host Houston in an NBC Sunday nighter in Week 10.”
- But of course, we can’t leave Cutler alone without taking the obligatory shots fron The Sports Pickle:
“Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler treated all five of his linemen to $19 Casio wristwatches Thursday night after his teammates managed to get him through an entire game against the Packers without him getting killed.”
- But I would say that this picture is more to the point:
- Here’s another bad sign. From Potash:
The game Sunday against the Rams (1-1) at Soldier Field might be a bigger challenge than expected after quarterback Sam Bradford led them to a 31-28 victory Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Bradford, whose passer rating dropped from 76.5 as a rookie in 2010 to 70.5 last season, has had back-to-back 100-plus games against the Lions (105.1) and Redskins (117.6).
With the Rams missing starting center Scott Wells (broken foot) and starting left tackle Rodger Saffold (neck), Bradford was 26-for-35 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against the Redskins.
- If only the Bears had read this before the game. From The Onion:
- What really astounds me in watching the Eagles play is the incredible amount of talent they have on that team and how carelessly they waste it with stupid play. They’re extremely lucky to be 2-0.
- The Lions were better but not a lot better. They played a tough opponent in the 49ers and moved the ball well. But when they got into the red zone they stalled time after time. There was also some bad tackling out there. From what I saw their discipline on the field isn’t a lot better than it was last year.
- The 49ers provided a blue print for beating the Lions defense. They handled their front four pretty well and attacked the edges and the defensive backs. Of course, the Bears will have to execute like the 49ers do. Not an easy task.
- Speaking of the 49ers, I’ve got to agree with this sentiment. From Sports Views:
- I really wish I had watched this game. From The Onion.
One Final Thought
“‘Yes, I’ve watched it. And no, I couldn’t detach myself. Give me a couple more years.’
“MIKE PETTINE, the Jets’ defensive coordinator, when asked [before Sunday’s rematch] if it had been difficult watching film of the Jets’ last game in Pittsburgh, a 24-19 loss in the A.F.C. championship game in January, 2011.”