This NFL season has been a very unpreDITKAble one. There have been surprises all through out. From the emergence of Mike Vick to Tom Brady’s excessive growth of girly hair. Let’s be real, we don’t care about those folks. We’re going to outline the 5 biggest surprises of the Bears 2010-2011 season.
5. Somebody send out an S.O.S for Tommie Harris
With the signing of Julius Peppers, opposing quarterbacks now had to worry about Peppers and Tommie Harris. Well that is, had Tommie Harris shown up to any games during the 2010 season. In 16 games Harris was able to make 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks. After 8 sacks in 2007, Harris has been on a downward trend. This lack of production can be credited to his health, as injuries have plagued him over the previous two seasons.
A healthier Harris this season, many fans expected him to have a better season. It was evident that Tommie Harris had lost a step early in the season. The realization of this punched Bear fans in the gut when he wasn’t even activated for the Week 3 contest vs the division rival Packers. Luckily Matt Toeaina and Anthony Adams held down the defensive tackle positions on the Bears’ defense through out the season.
Harris created a stir for the Seahawks offensive line this past week with 2 sacks in a huge playoff game at home. Fans are hoping that this is the Tommie Harris we’ll see more of in the future. If Harris can return to his old self, coupled with Julius Peppers, Idonije, and Matt Toeaina, this defensive line will be the best in the NFL. We have our fingers crossed.
4. Cutler and Martz team up for a balanced offense.
As Chicago fans, we have truly been spoiled. After years of less-than mediocre quarterbacks, Ron Turner playcalling, and abysmal front office moves, Chicago ponied up. They were able to bring in a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler, and forced Ron Turner out of town in favor of Mike Martz. Cutler’s 1st season in Chicago wasn’t something to write home about. 27 touchdowns is a solid performance, except if it’s coupled with 26 interceptions. That was the case for Cutler last season.
Many expected Mike Martz to come in the windy city and throw the ball 40 times a game. After some initial success, which came from a balanced offense, things weren’t looking good in Week 7. Losses to Seattle and Washington in back-to-back games would have many questioning the play-calling of Mike Martz. These games Cutler threw 39 and 40 passes, the most he would throw in the entire season (Exception to Week 17 where Cutler threw 39 vs GB). Throwing the ball that many times a game, neglecting the run, not throwing more quick passes, etc all were to blame for some of the Bears’ problems.
After the bye week, Martz adjusted how Cutler came out of the pocket and implemented a lot more quick passes to counter act the excessive blitz the offensive line was facing. Matt Forte also started to receive a lot more carries. This balanced offense led Chicago to a 5-game winning streak. They would win 7 of their last 9 games, with losses to New England and Green Bay. After the bye week, this Chicago Bears team was completely different. This can be attributed to great coaching adjustments in all facets of the game.
3. Julius Peppers + Israel Idonije = <3
When you sign a pro-bowl defensive end to a 6 year/91.5 million dollar contract, you expect their pay to reflect that. Many said Peppers was past his prime and he wouldn’t produce in Chicago, boy were they wrong. Peppers’ production has really increased week by week and his best performances seem to come in big games at big moments. For example, the huge strip-sack he had on Michael Vick in the red-zone vs Philly. Peppers has 54 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. Peppers is the easy choice for the NFL’s defensive player of the year.
Peppers is the type of player where he makes the players around him better. Opposite of Julius Peppers has been Israel Idonije. Idonije played mostly special teams and rotated in on the line, but has seen a starting role this season. Idonije has hit career peaks in the major categories with 49 tackles, 8.0 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Peppers and Idonije have been a force to reckon with all season long. With Tommie Harris racking up 2 sacks last week vs Seattle, if Harris returns to his former production from his pro bowl years, Peppers and Idonije will reap the benefits. The surprise here is the amazing production by Idonije, many fans were upset when we lost fan favorite Alex Brown to free agency. Not having guys like Brown, Mark Anderson, and Adewale Ogunleye is a lot easier when a player like Israel Idonije steps up and has a career season.
2. Team Health
When you go an entire season and don’t suffer from injuries, it isn’t hard to find success. Many teams are plagued by injuries and luckily that hasn’t been the case. Outside of Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs each missing a game, there have been no glaring injuries that stick out. Many analysts have pointed out the Bears health. Just a season removed from losing Brian Urlacher in Week 1, not being effected by injuries is a great thing.
Last week vs Seattle in the divisional match-up Chris Harris left the game at half-time with an injury. When asked if he would play vs Green Bay he replied “My leg would have to be cut off for me to miss that game”. It’s great to have players with that menality although, I am sure Minnesota Viking fans who put up with Favre at the end of the season would object. Our ability to keep our players healthy this season has been very instrumental in our success. The Bears defensive secondary has been a revolving door the past couple seasons due to injury. Not having Craig Steltz play at safety because our guys haven’t gotten injured really sticks out in my mind. A healthy Charles Tillman all season long = many happy Bear fans.
1.) NFC Championship, #2 Seed, NFC North Title, 11-5
After an 0-4 start in pre-season, many people thought the Bears wouldn’t even make the playoffs. Even though pre-season games don’t gauge a teams’ success, the Bears starters played abysmal during this time. Mustering up a first down looked like a an advanced calculus problem for this offense. Luckily, all of the doubters were 100% wrong. The Bears went on to an 11-5 record and won the NFC North title. They would wrap up a #2 seed and are now set to host the NFC Championship game vs the Green Bay Packers.
If you had told me before the season that we would be hosting the NFC Championship game, I would ask you where you bought the crack you just smoked at. With just a couple days left until this game, take a look back on all of the great memories from this past season.