Monday, December 27, 2010

Bears Win; Mike Tice Earns His Paycheck

Most people thought that a game between the Bears and Jets in late December would be a low scoring defensive battle. As I like to say quite often--nobody knows anything. I was worried about the Bears offensive line getting mugged by the blitz-crazy Jets defense, but the line played like champs. They protected Cutler, opened holes for Forte, and started to show what they are capable of week in and week out. If they continue to improve, this line could go from a liability to a strength next year. For the rest of this year, they might be good enough to carry the Bears to a playoff win. The defense, though, took most of the Jets game off.

Sunday's game is why I will never be a big fan of the Cover-Two. If there is little pressure by the front four, and the opposing offense has done their film work, it is just too easy to complete slants, dig routes, and dump-offs. It's one thing to give up a few easy completions in a game, but the Bears made Sanchez look like Tom Brady in the first half. The Jets knew where they could attack on the field and they went to it over and over again. Plus, Tillman (who I respect the hell out of) just isn't athletic enough anymore to be an effective coverage corner. He knows this, too, because he plays very soft coverages most of the time hoping to take away the deep routes. Part of his technique is scheme, but part of it is fear. Most of the time, it just doesn't look like he trusts his ability to play receivers tight. Every once in a while, I would like to see the Bears mix up their coverages just to keep the other team honest. The defense played better in the second half, but they can't afford to play that poorly against the Packers this week and win.

Luckily, Cutler played great (besides his typical dumb interception). I'm not sure I trust this offense in the playoffs to score 30+ points and win a shootout, but I guess they are starting to show that a 10-14 point deficit isn't insurmountable anymore. That, I like. Martz's playcalling continues to be effective, and Cutler is dominating when given time to throw down the field. The pass to Forte down the sidelines was incredible.

How good are the Bears special teams? Teams are so scared to kick to Hester that the Bears are consistently getting superb field position, which is really helping their offense. I can't recall the Bears going on many long drives lately because they are usually starting at or near midfield. This will continue to be a huge advantage as the Bears head towards the playoffs. Hester is playing as well as ever, and it looks like the rest of the special teams are feeding off his energy.

It was a fun win against the Jets, and I'm truly shocked that the Bears have won 11 games this year. If they beat the Packers next week, they'll lock up the #2 seed in the NFC and secure a bye in the first round. I really like the sound of that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bears are Playoffs Bound...and Jets Preview

The 2010 Chicago Bears are going to the playoffs! I'm more than a little surprised. I expected them to finish below .500, miss the playoffs, and fire Lovie Smith. It goes to show you how little any of us know no matter how much football we watch. This team looked terrible in the preseason and they were coming off of three straight seasons with a defense that looked to be in decline. But, a healthy Brian Urlacher, the newly acquired Julius Peppers, and some contributions from young players like Melton and Toeania have revitalized that unit. Their offense is still a work in progress, but it has shown it can be effective if the offensive line performs even at an average level. Their special teams, as usual, are outstanding (congrats to Hester!). With all of that said, can this team make some noise in the playoffs? I'm not sure (why would you trust my opinion anyway?), but at least we'll get the chance to find out.

After that first touchdown by the Vikings on Monday night, I started to panic a little. The defense couldn't tackle, Favre looked rejuvenated (briefly), and the fans were into it. But, the Bears didn't panic at all. They started making plays and didn't let up until they had punched their playoff ticket. Cutler can't make bad throws (like that interception) if the Bears hope to win a playoff game or two, but he seems to be limiting those mistakes compared to last year. Who knows, maybe he'll start going two or three games in a row without a dumb decision. Until that happens, though, the Bears can't be considered a true Super Bowl contender. When he is playing well, there are few quarterbacks I would rather have. But, he just needs to find some consistency with his decision making. He's taking us to the playoffs, though, so I can't be too upset.

The Bears control their playoff seeding destiny. If they win out, they'll be sitting at home during the first week of playoffs devising a brilliant offensive and defensive game plan for their eventual opponent. If they lose one game and the Eagles win out (which they likely will), then the Bears will probably end up playing the Giants or Packers that first week. I kind of want to see them take on the Packers just because they've only met one time in the playoffs (1941), which seems unfathomable (I'm trusting Wikipedia, by the way). A playoff game between the Bears and Packers would be great for this historic rivalry.

So, can they win out? Well, the Jets this weekend will be a tough, but winnable game. They don't have an explosive offense, but they are physical running the football, and they have some downfield threats (albeit inconsistent) with Edwards and Holmes. Their defense is aggressive as hell, and they have some corners who will play man-to-man all day. The Bears will have a hard time running the ball, and I think the offensive line will struggle with blitz pickups. But, Cutler should be able to take advantage with quick throws in the middle of the field. If he gets some time on deep drops, Knox or Hester might be able to get behind the corners. I see this being a close, low-scoring game that the Bears will win with a defensive or special teams score.

Bears 17, Jets 13

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bears vs. Vikings Preview

After Sunday's debacle against the Patriots, I didn't feel compelled to write a review of that game. What can one say? The Pats were better in every phase of the game (offense, defense, special teams, coaching, equipment preparation, catering, post-game new conference, grooming, and holiday spirit). Some of those are just conjecture, but I'm pretty sure Tom Brady is the kind of guy everyone wants at their Christmas party due to his affable nature, sexy wife, and general saintliness. Jay Cutler seems like he'd be the mean drunk in the corner in dark glasses and a black turtleneck sweater making fun of his co-workers kids. Anyway, I just couldn't find much to write about. The game didn't really change my opinion of the Bears, but it did make me realize how much better the Pats are right now than everybody else. I'd love to see the Bears get on a magical, Arizona Cardinals-type run and shock the world by making it to the Big Dance. But, I'm pretty sure they'd have Brady and Belichick to deal with. Yikes. Maybe the Bears could learn from this loss, make the necessary adjustments, and upset New England in the Super Bowl??? Whoa. Someone really spiked this holiday nogg...

None of this talk about the playoffs matters much if the Bears fail to get there. The way things look now, that almost seems inevitable. They only have to win one of their next two games along with a Packers loss. With Aaron Rodgers' availability questionable this week against the aforementioned Patriots (at New England) and a game against the somewhat dangerous Giants, one Packers loss seems likely. In fact, if the Bears DON'T make the playoffs, it will be a collapse of epic proportions. Even Ted Phillips couldn't justify keeping Lovie and Jerry if that happened, right? Right? RIGHT?

So, where the hell is the game going to be played on Monday night? I've been trying to follow this pretty closely because I find it wildly entertaining. The Vikings are literally a ship lost at sea. They have no home. The Metrodome is unusable due to the roof collapse (on a side note, I was in Minneapolis on Tuesday and it was crazy to drive by the dome and see it deflated, much like the Vikings fans hopes this year!). The NFL has supposedly given approval to use TCF stadium on the U of M campus, but there are huge problems with that idea. First of all, the field turf is frozen and there is no heating element under the field. There is two feet of snow on the ground and in the stands (with a few more inches falling today), and the water has been shut off since November. Plus, the concourses and bathrooms are relatively open since games were not designed to be played in December. As if that wasn't enough, there are no beer taps in the entire stadium because it's on a college campus. How can Vikings fans expect to enjoy this team sober? As a native Minnesotan and current Wisconsinite, I can say the following with expertise...drinking in general is a way of life in these parts--but it's a close second to breathing during football games.

I recently watched an episode from the first season of Friday Night Lights where coach Eric Taylor decided to use a cow pasture to play their playoff game when their stadium had become unusable. Has anyone considered this??? There are tons of cow pastures and unused farmland just outside of the Twin Cities! Ok, that's not a real solution. But, it sure is a fun thought to imagine millionaire athletes running around like kids again on a big, open snow-covered field.

As for the game, the location doesn't really matter that much. Tavaris Jackson has been put on IR, Brett Favre still doesn't have much feeling in his hand, and Joe Webb (who?) has a bad hamstring. In fact, the Vikings just signed Patrick Ramsey. He might actually get the start on Sunday. If the Bears can't beat a just signed Patrick Ramsey or a severely hobbled Brett Favre or some unknown kid with a slew of physical abilities but no experience, then they have no reason to play in the postseason. The defense needs to show up with as much determination as they had against the Eagles. They need to shut down Adrian Peterson, and force whoever is playing QB to beat them. This should happen.

On offense, Jay Cutler and company need to play with some swagger. They looked tentative, cold, and scared against the Patriots. That game is long over. Time to get back to doing what has worked since the bye week--running the ball and converting third downs. The offensive line needs to find a way to slow rushers off the edge. Hopefully Mike Tice can continue to keep fresh bandages on this gaping wound.

If this game is played in Indy, Detroit, or St. Louis, it'll be basically a home game for the Bears. Even if it's played in Atlanta, I have a hard time believing Vikings fans could come close to out numbering Bears fans down there. Any of those stadiums give the Bears an edge due to their team speed. The Metrodome nullifies that with its raucous home crowd. But, as I said, that won't be an issue on Monday night. If the game is outdoors at TCF stadium, I think it will level the playing field a little bit. The Bears, though, are the more talented, hungry team that should be playing for the division that night. Regardless of location, the Bears will win this game. Right? RIGHT?

Bears 20, Vikings 9

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Patriots vs. Bears Preview

After watching the drubbing the Patriots gave the Jets on Monday Night Football, I must say I'm a little tempted to portray the role of Adrian Balboa in Rocky IV in this preview. She stood at the top of the stairs after Rocky agreed to fight Drago and screamed at him, "You can't win!". Unfortunately, the Bears are mandated by the NFL to play every game on their schedule. In boxing, you can simply talk trash in the media while continuing to dodge your opponent (see Mayweather, Floyd Jr.). Our beloved team does not have that option. This game will take on Sunday afternoon in front of a national audience. The last time the Bears faced a hot team at home in front of a national audience was two weeks ago against Philadelphia. That turned out pretty well. I'm not so sure that will happen again. I'm not going to say the Bears can't win, but they are going to have to pull off a Rocky type upset.

The Patriots have the best offense in the NFL. They are averaging over 31 points per game this season, and they are averaging 40 points per game over their last four games. Tom Brady is playing some of his best football, which is impressive considering his long-track record of success. He's thrown 27 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions, he's completing 66.8% of his passes, and his rating is 109.5. He's only been sacked 18 times. If all of that wasn't enough to scare the Ditka mustache right off your face then consider the fact that they also run the ball pretty well (111.5 yds/game). Green-Ellis is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and Danny Woodhead is averaging 5.4 per carry. Can you say offensive line? It takes some real talent up front to pull of those stats, and the Patriots have it.

The scariest part of Patriots offense is that they don't rely on the big play. They are more than happy to check down, move the chains, and control the clock. Their receivers and backs are small and quick allowing them to take short completions and turn them into long gains. This is not a good match up for the Bears. The cover-two is designed to take away the big play, and force short throws and sure tackling. Even if the Bears are able to shut down their running game, I'm still worried Brady will complete 80% of his passes on Sunday. If he does, the Bears can't win.

Given all of this, is there any hope for the Bears? Yes. The Patriots defense has struggled (22.4 pts/game). They can be run on (114.1 yds/game) and, especially, thrown on (276.8 yds/game). They are a very young defense, but they are coached by a true defensive genius in Belichick. I'm sure he'll dial up some exotic blitzes to confuse the Bears enigmatic offensive line. Martz will need to be at his very best to counter some of the things the Patriots will do. If I had to guess, though, I'd say the Patriots won't blitz much. They'll show pressure and bring it from weird places when they do blitz, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that they'll play mostly coverage. Belichick always goes against the grain. The Bears will need to run the ball often and convert third downs at the same rate they've been able to since the bye week. The best defense against the Patriots offense is to keep them off the field.

For the Bears to win, they will need to dominate the time of possession, field position, and the turnover ratio. They'll need to harass Brady the same way they got after Vick, and someone in the secondary is going to have to make a huge play. And, Cutler will have to have another one of those "Wow, I'm glad we traded for him!" games. It's up to the offense to have a monster game because it is unlikely the Bears defense can keep the Patriots under 27 points.

I've picked against the Bears twice (Cowboys & Vikings), and I was wrong both times. That said, I can't just pick the Bears every week because I'm a huge homer. I hope I'm wrong again, but I just don't see the Bears winning this game. If they do, I'll be the first one on the Super Bowl bandwagon and I'll gladly eat crow!

Patriots 31, Bears 20

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bears Tame Lions

I had called this a trap game for the Bears, and I was concerned that they would come out flat on defense against a feisty Lions team. The first half demonstrated my concerns. The defensive line got very little pass rush against third-stringer Drew Stanton, and the sure-tackling most of this year was curiously absent. As much as the Bears talked all week about being focused on the Lions and not taking any games for granted, it is human nature to rest on your laurels after recently accomplishing a significant task (beating the Eagles). I don't really think they took the Lions for granted, but I do think they weren't fired up being on the road against a last place team. It definitely showed early on.

The offense did a good job of staying poised, converting third downs, and scoring touchdowns once they got in the red zone. Cutler was under pretty good pressure all game long, especially on the seven-step drops that Martz called. I was hoping the offensive line would continue to improve, but I think it took a small step back in today's game. The Bears tackles just don't get to the edge fast enough on deep drops to slow down defensive ends. One of the sacks was on Brandon Manumaleuna, but this has been a problem all year long. I don't know if it's a talent issue, an alignment issue, or a reaction-time issue. Regardless, it's going to have to improve. Martz and Cutler have turned the offense into an efficient, balanced unit that can sustain long drives. But, the Bears have the speed on the outside in Knox and Hester to hit some big plays down the field. Unfortunately, Cutler can't get the time necessary to let those plays develop. It's a nice option to have, especially when the defense is off its game like it was for part of Sunday's game.

I thought Martz called an excellent game after the early failed screen passes. After that, though, he took advantage of the aggressive blitzing by the Lions with quick passes and draw plays. Cutler was super accurate, hitting Earl Bennett consistently in tight windows. I also loved the playing calling in the red zone. The misdirection pitch to Forte that resulted in a touchdown is a play I love that should be used more often. It slows down the defense, and it takes advantage of Forte's burst to the edge. The touchdown pass to Manumaleuna was well designed and executed. The big guy doesn't get many balls thrown his way, so they should continue to use him in the red zone and on third and short. Late in the game when the Bears had the ball and the lead, I was really hoping they would just run it to use up the clock. I held my breath the three times Jay dropped back to pass. But, the completions to Olson, Knox, and Manumaleuna proved the offense can move the ball when they needed to. Is there anything better than having the ball with a four-point lead with five minutes to go and not punting it back to the opponent?

As I previously stated, the defense was a little flat in the first half, and Marinelli was calling too many blitzes. They had such success running their base cover-2 last week that they should stick to it. I'm not a huge fan of it, but the Bears are running it well and their secondary just isn't good enough to lock down receivers when they are left in man coverage. But, the defense stepped up huge after Cutler fumbled inside his own 15-yard line. They did what you had to do in that situation--they held the Lions to a field goal. It was a huge point in the game, and the defense rose to the occasion.

The defense can't miss tackles or give up huge gains against the Patriots like they did against the Lions and expect to win. And, the normally sound special teams needs to get back to their dominating ways next week. They, too, had an off game. But, Cutler and the Bears did what they had to do to win a dogfight game on the road against a division opponent. Again, that's what good teams do. They'll have their work cut out for them next week against New England. Their defensive line will need to step up, and their tackling will have to be better because Tom Brady will take those underneath routes and nickel and dime the Bears to death. All of that is for another post, though. For now, let's enjoy being fans of the 9-3 Chicago Bears!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bears vs. Lions Preview

It would be a terrible, overused cliche' to call the upcoming game against the Lions a classic "trap" game. The Bears are coming off their biggest win since their 2006 season and their playoff chances are squarely in their own hands. If they win three out of the final five games, they are in. If they win two out of the final five games, it could get dicey with tiebreakers and such. In order to win at least three with a difficult remaining schedule, they MUST win this game. Since I'm just a fan untethered to the mores of quality journalism, I'm going to scream the overused cliche' from the highest mountaintops. This is a classic "trap" game!

Drew Stanton will be starting for the Lions on Sunday. It seems like the Bears can't get out of the way of good fortune when it comes to their opponents' quarterbacks this season. This will be the third time they have faced either the back-up (Jimmy Clausen) or the third-stringer (Tyler Thigpen). In both of those cases, they dominated on defense. I see Peppers, Izzy, and company putting consistent pressure on Stanton and forcing mistakes. If the defensive line doesn't give the effort they gave against the Eagles, though, the Bears could be in a dogfight. Scott Linehan, Lions' offensive coordinator, runs an offense that can be effective against the cover-2. He'll take the underneath routes, slants, and dump-offs available to him. I doubt they can play mistake-free football needed to actually beat the Bears, but, since I've already called this a "trap" game, I worry what'll happen if maximum effort isn't there on defense.

Stanton does have one very intimidating weapon at his disposal, however--Calvin "Megatron" Johnson. His "drop" against the Bears during the opening game of the season has helped push the notion the Bears have been lucky all year (until last week, that is). They will need to commit all available resources to stopping him (are you out there Optimus Prime?) Truthfully, though, the Bears DOMINATED the Lions in that game, but kept shooting themselves in the foot (four turnovers). The Bears racked up 463 yards of offense while only giving up 168 yards. In many ways, it was the best the Bears looked on offense. The high-flying Martz offense was on full display. Cutler was 23 for 35 for 372 yards. No, seriously. But, the injuries and shake-up to the offensive line put that type of offense on ice for the year. Now, they rely on shorter passes, a solid running game, and a mobile Jay Cutler making plays with his nimble feet. That formula has been very successful during their current winning streak, but I expect Martz to open things up a little bit in this game against a weak Lions secondary. I don't think he'll go crazy, especially with the Lions possessing a poor run defense, but I wouldn't be shocked to see a few more seven-step drops this week. And, Forte will get his second 100-yard rushing game in a row.

The Lions have a good defensive line, and Suh is living up to the hype. The Bears offensive line will need to have another solid game to slow them down up front. Cutler will get sacked a few times, but if the o-line can limit their blown assignments, the Bears should be able to move to 9-3.

I just don't see how the Lions offense can score more than 17 points, and I'm probably being generous with that number. I know I've called this a "trap" game, and I really am worried that the Bears will come out flat, but this team just beat an Eagles team that was soaring. The Bears will take care of business on Sunday, even if it's less exciting than last week.

Bears 27, Lions 13

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bears Down Eagles!

The Bears had a daunting task on Sunday afternoon in front of a national television audience. They had to face the rejuvenated Michael Vick who was leading an explosive Eagles offense that was averaging over 30 points per game. And, they had to a face an aggressive, blitz happy defense that was as good as the Bears at getting turnovers. Most people pointed to this game as a watershed moment for the Bears. If their supposedly "soft" schedule was the reason for their 7-3 record, then this was their chance to show everyone that they belonged in the discussion of upper echelon teams in the NFC. With their 31-26 win, the Bears finally proved that they need to be taken seriously.

For the most part, I think the Bears defense performed pretty much as expected. They probably got more pressure on Vick than most expected, but the secondary kept Jackson and Maclin in front of them at all times, the linebackers tackled well when Vick checked down, and Peppers was everywhere. The front four also did an excellent job of staying in their gaps, which limited LeSean McCoy and kept Vick from taking over the game with his legs. They also picked Vick off for the first time this year (which yours truly predicted!). It was a great play by Tommie Harris to get upfield and tip the ball. Nice to see him step up and make one of the biggest plays of the year so far.

Despite the gaudy passing statistics, which the Bears were more than happy to give up, especially late in the game, the Bears defense was superb. The only real mistake was the late touchdown pass to Brent Celek. Urlacher should've gotten his head around to knock the pass away, but, really, the throw by Vick was ridiculous. Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to the opposition. Great throw, Mr. Vick. Too bad it only made a difference in the fantasy football world.

On the offensive side of ball, Jay Cutler had a fantastic game. He had a 146.2 rating, which was aided by the fact that he threw four touchdowns while completing only 14 passes! Amazing. His decision making was great, his accuracy was good, and he was nifty again with his feet. It was the kind of game the Bears needed from their franchise quarterback. He stepped up big time.

Matt Forte also played a great game, highlighted by a 61-yard run in the first quarter. When he gets to the second level, he is dangerous. The offensive line did a nice job of opening up holes for him and, if that continues down the stretch, the Bears will continue to score loads of points. The line did struggle at times with assignments, but I expect that to happen. But, they continue to show improvement, which is all you can ask for. The receivers also had huge games. All of them. Hester, Bennett, Knox, and Olsen all made tough catches in key situations. Mike Martz has done an amazing of job of keeping defenses off balance since the Bears bye week. He has called shorter passes, which has generally kept Cutler out of bad situations. I was a harsh critic of Martz, especially after the Seattle and Washington games, but he has done an excellent job of learning the strengths and weaknesses of his personnel since the bye week and tailoring an offensive game plan to maximize their abilities.

In my preview, I said the Bears were looking for respect. I'm not sure if they'll get it, but they damn well deserve it. This is a good football team that has just proven skeptics wrong (myself included). The road to the playoffs still won't be easy with the Pats, Jets, and Packers all remaining on their schedule (not to mention the Lions and Vikes on the road). But, their offense just might be finding its groove as they enter the home stretch. If they can continue to build upon their recent success, the sky is the limit because the defense and special teams are championship caliber.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Eagles vs. Bears Preview

In 1967, Aretha Franklin asked for R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This Sunday, the Bears will be singing that same song against the Eagles at Solider Field. Some people (myself included) have been somewhat skeptical of their 7-3 record. Their wins have largely come against the dreck of the NFL (Lions, Cowboys, Panthers, Vikings, Bills), and they've looked completely lost at times on offense. It seems most "pundits" and some fans are saying this game against the Eagles will tell us all we need to know about the 2010 Chicago Bears. No doubt this is a big game, but I don't necessarily think this game is as important as I (and everyone else) originally thought. Yes, it would be great if the Bears stifled Vick, scored 34 points on offense, and looked like a Super Bowl contender. But, if they struggle and lose to a very good Eagles team, they'll still be in good shape to make a push for the playoffs where anything can happen.

They both enter the game at 7-3 and in first place of their respective divisions. The Bears have done it with a defense that has given up the fewest points in the league while the Eagles have scored the second most points in the league with a rejuvenated Michael Vick at QB. Vick hasn't thrown an interception yet this year, but the Bears are second in the league on defense with 15. The flip side, though, is that the Eagles' defense leads the league with 19 interceptions. I hope Cutler has been watching his game film.

Speaking of Cutler, I think he can take advantage of the aggressiveness of the Eagles' corners. Asante Samuel is a gambler. On one of his interceptions on Sunday night against Eli Manning, he showed how quickly he reacts to the underneath routes. The Giants receiver barely started his break when Samuel exploded towards the ball. The Bears should run at least one stutter-step and go against him each series, even if they are simply decoy routes. Hopefully, that will create some doubt in his mind as the game goes on.

On defense, the Bears generally match up pretty well against Vick. They don't play much man-to-man coverage which means all eyes are usually on him. That should limit his ability to break containment and pick-up huge gains running the football. Don't get me wrong, he'll get his yards. But, Urlacher and company should be able to at least mitigate some of those gains. The Giants defense was also effective when it forced Vick to scramble to his right. This means that the Bears should leave Peppers at his normal right end position all game long. If they force Vick to his right, it limits his ability to throw on the run. The Lovie-2 defense should also be effective at preventing DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin from getting down field, which has been a huge part of the Eagles offense this year. Jackon is averaging 19.8 per catch, and Maclin leads the team with 705 yards. Of course, where does that leave LeSean McCoy and his 5-yard per carry average? Honestly, I don't know. The Bears run defense has been stout this year, but they will have their work cut out for them with all of these weapons to defend. Vick, though, is most dangerous when he has ample time to find his receivers down the field. Perry Fewell, the Giants defensive coordinator, consistently dialed up some corner blitzes from Vick's left which limited some of his big play ability. Was Rod Marinelli paying attention to that? A few well-timed, well-designed blitzes could be the difference in this game.

The Bears will need to score more than their average of 19.1 points in order to win this game. In fact, I think they will need to at least match their season high of 27 points (done against the Cowboys and Vikings). I'm not sure how they're going to do that, though. During their three-game winning streak, they've been running the ball, converting third downs, and eating up the clock. But, they haven't been lighting up on the scoreboard. This has been a good formula, but the Eagles are going to get their points. The Bears offensive line will need to give Cutler some protection on a few seven-step drops just so they have the opportunity to hit a few big plays down the field. But, the offense cannot turn the ball over more than once. If they do, I don't see how they can win.

I think the Bears will rise to the occasion and knock off the Eagles. The thick turf at Soldier will slow down the Eagles just enough, and Hester will have a huge return. The defense will pick off Vick for the first time this year, and Cutler will make a few plays of his own with his legs. Am I being overly optimistic? Probably. But, that's what happens when you're on a three-game winning streak. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. On Sunday, the Bears are going to find out what that means!


Bears 30, Eagles 27

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bears are 7-3...No, Really

The Bears went down to Miami and shut out the Dolphins in a game that featured physical play that reminded me of the famed Bears teams from the mid-80s (notice I resisted actually comparing them to a specific Bears Super Bowl winning team). While many of us have been howling at moon about the infuriatingly inconsistent play of the offense, the defense has continued to improve over the past month. Some could say the Bears took advantage of a beat-up Miami team that was starting its third-string QB. That's true. But, the key point is that they DID take advantage of these things. Good teams do that.

Peppers played like a man possessed all night long, and Izzy continues to play at a very high level. I was also impressed with the play of Henry Melton, who shows flashes of true ability. Rod Marinelli has done an excellent job of putting his players in positions to be successful, and they are responding. I still worry about the secondary at times, but the Cover-2 can function well without dominating players back there, especially if the front seven continues to play as fast as they did against the Dolphins.

The offense still hasn't found its groove yet. They've shown occasional explosiveness, but on Thursday they played physical, efficient, hard-nosed football. The passing stats weren't pretty, and Cutler made three more bad decisions. But, the running game was good and Cutler was great on third down. Martz continues to dial back the offense in favor of something more important than gaudy stats...winning. Wow. What a novel concept. Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks. Really, though, I think Martz realizes that his career was resurrected by Lovie and company. He may actually be showing some loyalty. Or, Lovie has shown true leadership by putting the screws the Martz and demanding a running game. Either way, I didn't see this coming after the Seahawks and Redskins debacles.

The Bears will be tested next week against an explosive Eagles team. If they can beat them or even hang with them, then the Bears bandwagon will start to fill-up quickly. Sure, this team has its holes, mostly on offense, but their defense is for real and their special teams is top notch. I say grab your seat now. It's going to be a fun ride down the stretch.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bears vs. Dolphins Preview

The Bears have put themselves in good position to make a push for the playoffs. They are tied with the Packers for the NFC North Division lead, but they beat the Packers in their first meeting. So, technically, they lead the division by virtue of tiebreaker. Plus, they are 3-0 in their division games. These will be key factors later in the season if the Bears continue to compete for the division title or a playoff spot.

Bears vs. Dolphins Preview

I haven't seen the Dolphins play much this year, but I do know that they seem to be a better road team than home team. Four of their five wins have come on the road. I have no idea what that means, but I'm glad the Bears are taking their talents to South Beach on Thursday. Plus, the 'Phins are down to their third QB Tyler Thigpen. Normally, facing a third-string QB is a guaranteed win. But Thigpen has had some moderate success when given the chance to play over his career. This is still a good opportunity for the Bears, but Thigpen being the QB doesn't guarantee a victory for the Bears.

Miami is basically a middle of the road team. Their defense is pretty good (top 10 overall) and their offense is ranked 16th overall. They are -5 in the turnover ratio, so that should bode well for the Bears who are +3. With Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, I'm sure the Dolphins will try to establish a running game while using some sort of Wildcat offense. But, the Bears have been dominant against the run this year. If they can force Thigpen to beat them, it should be another good week for Bears fans.

Devin Hester should be able to capitalize against a pretty bad Miami special teams unit. Their kickoff team is ranked 30th in the league. Maybe tomorrow night will be the night that Hester breaks the all-time return TD record. Even if he doesn't take one all the way, he should be able to help the offense with great field position just like he did last week. I'm hoping they keep him on kickoff returns because he has re-established himself as a true difference maker in that capacity.

The Bears offensive line has allowed two sacks in the past two games, which is stunning. In October, it seemed like they were giving up two sacks per play. If they can continue their solid play, all will be right in Bears land. Cutler has helped, too, with his willingness to escape the pocket and find open receivers down field. He's also done a great job of running when there has been space in front of him. Martz has done a good job the past few weeks with his play calling which has helped keep defenses off balance. This has allowed Cutler to play with confidence. As long as he realizes he can't actually throw the ball through defenders, the Bears offense will continue to improve.

The short week will hurt the Bears less because Cutler will be far more prepared than Thigpen, who obviously hasn't been getting many practice reps this year. Plus, their defense and special teams will be too much for the Dolphins to handle. This would be a big win for the Bears, especially with the red-hot Michael Vick next on the schedule.


Bears 24, Dolphins 15

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bears Win; I'm Officially Confused

The 2010 Chicago Bears are an enigma wrapped inside a riddle. I no longer understand this team. They pretty much dismantled the Vikings even with a missed field goal, a horrible Jay Cutler interception in the red zone, and 11 penalties. I predicted the Vikings to win by four, but I thought I was being optimistic. Instead, the Bears won by 14. Ridiculous. The offense was converting third downs, protecting the quarterback, and even running the football a little bit. Martz called a great game, and the defense was dominant. Wow. I'm stunned. I'm not ready to buy Super Bowl tickets yet, but this game definitely makes me feel more optimistic about the rest of the season. I promised I would let the "gray cloud of pessimism" lift if the Bears won. Well, I'm going to keep my word.

The Bears defense is good enough to take this team deep into the playoffs assuming, of course, the offense can continue its recent improvements. They are flying to the football, jamming up running lanes, and getting hits on the quarterback, even if the sacks aren't coming. The secondary had two awful blown coverages against the Vikings, but they were anomalies in an otherwise great performance. They held Adrian Peterson to three yards per carry, which is an amazing feat. Peppers and Idonije both had great games and the entire linebacking corps did a fantastic job of getting Peterson to the ground. They held the Vikings to 240 yards of total offense. Again, a dominating performance.

When is Dave Toub going to get a head coaching opportunity? His special teams consistently make a positive impact on Bears games. I don't know whose idea it was to put Hester back on kickoff returns, but it was brilliant. Hester averaged 50 yards on his two returns. Plus, Rashied Davis had a huge, heads up return when the Vikings kicked it short. It didn't look like Davis was surprised at all to have the ball in his hands, which is a credit to Toub's coaching. His special teams are always prepared. Hester also averaged 23.5 yards on his punt returns. Anyone else ok with Hester missing some snaps on offense if he keeps doing this on special teams?

Jay Cutler had a great game outside of one horrible, awful, disgusting, puke-inducing interception in the end zone. His throw to Olsen on the first touchdown was so good it hurt. His ability to escape the pocket, roll out, and find an open receiver has really helped take some pressure of the much maligned offensive line. But, what I really liked, is how poised he was in the pocket. The few times the Vikings had pressure, he either stepped up, rolled out, or stood tall and delivered the ball down the field. He didn't look skittish, which is a testament to the improvement the Bears offensive line has shown over the past two weeks. If the line continues to improve or at least play as well down the stretch as it has the past two games, the Bears might make a playoff run. I didn't think I'd be writing those words after the debacles against the Giants, Seahawks, and Redskins.

It's a good day to be a Bears fan, and I'm a little more optimistic about this team.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vikings vs. Bears Preview

Brett Favre travels to Soldier Field on Sunday for the last time (hopefully) in his long, overly dramatic, drawn-out career. I'll be glad when the Bears no longer have to face him. He has caused me more pain than any other opposing player. That 99-yard touchdown pass to Robert Brooks on Monday Night Football still haunts me. I've enjoyed the success the Bears have had against Favre in recent years, but I'm just tired of seeing his mug and listening to his awe-shucks, faux-Southern charm. This guy's been a major dink since his early days up here in Wisconsin. I badly want the Bears and Julius Peppers to dominate on Sunday.

Vikings vs. Bears Preview

The Vikings are an underachieving team that could be on the verge of total chaos. The players, media, and every Minnesotan from Garrison Keillor to Prince can't stand Brad Childress. Their quarterback, the aforementioned Brett Favre, is mired in a controversy that is oddly disappearing from the media's attention. They traded a third round pick to rent Randy Moss for about 12 minutes, and, in case that wasn't enough, their lease is up on their home stadium after next year and there is very little political will for the state to pony up cash for a new stadium. The Vikings ship set sail this season with a Super Bowl destination. By season's end, they may be without their diminutive captain and their aging Nordic warrior while the vessel drifts rudderless towards the smoggy skies of Southern California. Poor Vikings fans.

That being said, this team still scares the bloody hell out of me. Their pass rush has been pretty anemic so far this season, but they broke out against the Cardinals last week with six sacks. The Bears offensive line has demonstrated over and over again that it will be their achilles' heal this year. The good news is the that the Bears have mostly struggled against teams that blitz (ignoring the Giants game), but Vikings defensive coordinator (and former Bear) Leslie Frazier runs a scheme similar to the Bears. They try to get pressure with their front four without blitzing too much. However, I worry that Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards are simply more talented than our offensive line. Jay Cutler may be running for his life once again. Mike Martz will need to have a game plan similar to the one that he developed against the Bills. Lots of runs, lots of short passes, minimal seven-step drops. Cutler will need to get the ball out quickly to his backs and tight ends. Sadly, I don't think the Bears can manage to gain large chunks running the ball, but even short gains will prevent turnovers and chew up the clock.

The Vikings, though, can run the ball. Adrian Peterson is a horse. He has rushed for 857 yards this year (which is more than double Forte's 401 yards), and he's averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He runs with amazing strength and power, which can be a problem for the Bears smallish front seven. The Bears defense has been close to dominant against the run this year, but they haven't faced Peterson yet. They will need to commit eight guys to stopping him, which will open up even more holes in the Bears secondary. This game could get ugly quickly if Peterson is finding holes and Favre can play-action pass.

The Vikings are top 10 in three of the four team yardage stats categories (Offensive Rush Yards, Defensive Passing Yards against, Defensive Rushing Yards against). The Bears are third against the run, but they don't rank higher than 19th in the other three categories. Best case scenario is that the Bears play turnover free football, get a special teams touchdown, and force two to three turnovers on defense (calling Julius Peppers). If that happens, I can see the Bears winning a close game. Yet, I just don't see it going that way. I think the Bears will get behind early, Martz will call wing-and-a-prayer plays, and Cutler will oblige him with some picks due to constant pressure from Allen and company. I desperately want to be wrong because a 6-3 team is in control. A 5-4 team with three straight home losses is a staggering drunk pretending not to be.


Vikings 24, Bears 20

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bears Find Way Not to Lose

If the Chicago Bears travel to Canada and beat a winless Bills team and no one cares, does it still count? Thankfully, for Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo, yes. The game will officially be counted by the NFL as a "win". But, for the rest of us, this game did nothing to allay the fears about the Bears. They are currently not a very good football team. After eight games, you'd think we'd know more about them. But, due to the constant offensive line changes, Jay Cutler's schizophrenia, and Mike Martz's bi-polar disorder, it is actually possible that this team could improve over the second half of the season. But, I don't see it happening. They couldn't run the ball very well against the worse rushing defense in the league (2.6 yards per carry), and they've had to eliminate the deep throw due to the offensive line's inability to pass protect. That is not a formula for success against good teams.

Mike Martz must've gotten a stern talking to over the bye week by Lovie. How else can you explain the playcalling? The Bears ran the ball often, threw short, and kept mistakes to a minimum. That sounds like the formula for success from five years ago. Wasn't that supposed to change with the acquisition of Jay Cutler? The Bears have succeeded in taking a Pro Bowl quarterback and turning him into a game manager...for one game at least. After all the draft picks, big contract, and loads of unmet expectations (so far), we've found that the Bears can win when Cutler does his best Kyle Orton impression. This isn't Cutler's fault. This is the organization's fault. They haven't equipped the offense with the players or coaches needed to take advantage of Cutler's ability. He's not Kurt Warner. He is not the kind of quarterback who has ever needed to learn the intricacies of timing, footwork, or looking safeties off. When a guy's open, he can get it there. When a play breaks down, he can use his feet to escape pressure and make a play. But, he will never reach his potential running the Mike Martz offense. He's a freelancer trying to be successful within a rigid system with a bad offensive line. Martz and Smith may have finally realized this, which is why they've scaled back the playbook in hopes the Bears can win a bunch of 20-17 games the rest of the year.

So, if they stick to a similar plan like they ran against the Bills, can the Bears reach the playoffs? Possibly, but I don't think so. Their offense has looked its best this year when Cutler has gotten protection and he can find guys open down field. Their line will not allow that to happen with any regularity. They will need to run it well, be efficient on third downs and in the red zone, and eliminate turnovers. Sure, that happened against the Bills, but I don't think they can do that against any other team on their schedule.

Plus, their defense showed that is it vulnerable against the pass. Their pass rush still isn't very good, and their secondary is below average. If not for a badly underthrown interception, we'd probably be talking about a Bears loss. Marinelli was forced to blitz often against the Bills, and while it worked at the end of the game, it also allowed for numerous easy completions to wide open receivers. Peppers needs to do more, but, again, I think the system is limiting his ability. The cover 2 allows easy completions underneath the coverage, so quarterbacks don't need to hold the ball very long, which makes it near impossible for Peppers to get to the quarterback. That being said, he needs to do more. Two sacks after eight games is pretty pathetic.

I still think the Bears will struggle to reach eight wins. I hope I'm wrong. But, at least they'll be playing some meaningful games the rest of this month and maybe even into December. If they manage to beat the Vikings next week, I'll allow the gray cloud of pessimism to lift...a little.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bears vs. Bills

It seems like forever since the Bears have played a game. That is probably because I spent a few days in the hospital last week, and I spent the remainder of the week recovering. It was a long week, especially with no Bears game at the end of it to look forward to. I was hoping that my hospital scare would help me cope with my somewhat unhealthy addiction to the Chicago Bears. Watching last week's game in the hospital, I found myself able to not care too much about the fact that they lost and Cutler sucked. But, I fear that as I continue to get healthy, my obsession with the Bears will return in full force. I guess there are worst things to obsess about, right?

Bears vs. Bill Preview

The Buffalo Bills are 0-7, but they have played close games against good teams in recent weeks (Chiefs, Ravens). Ryan Fitzpatrick has a higher rating, more touchdowns, and fewer interceptions than Jay Cutler. Of course, he doesn't have to run for his life during each pass play. But, it's worth mentioning because this team, despite their winless record, is not a push over. They can move the ball a little bit on offense and they are definitely due for a win. In fact, the Bills actually rank higher than the Bears in offense (26 vs. 29) However, their defense is awful (worst in the league in points allowed), which should help Cutler and company get out of their recent slump.

Has Mike Martz been watching the Carolina game? Let's hope so. If he commits to the run even a little bit, the Bears should beat the Bills by two touchdowns. The bye week should help the offense settle down a little bit while giving Martz and Tice the chance to self-scout and find the things they do well. Obviously, Forte and Taylor need to touch the ball more and Cutler has to find a way to prevent disaster when speed bumps occur. It's one thing to throw an interception. It's another thing to throw four interceptions and lose a fumble at the goal line. A leader has to find a way to stop the bleeding, regardless of what's going on around him. He can't rip open the wound further.

The Bears defense should be able to hold this offense under 14 points. I worry that this could be one of those games that defies logic, though. Like, the Bears defense giving up 27 or something. Hopefully not. The Bears need this game because the schedule becomes much harder in the second half of the season. If they lose to Buffalo and fall to 4-4, the playoffs may be unreachable. With games against the Vikings (twice), Dolphins, Eagles, Lions (on the road), Pats, Jets, and Packers, I don't see more than 4 wins in there. Of course, the NFC is pretty weak, so who knows. Maybe the Bears will stumble to an 8-8 record and still make it in. If they beat Buffalo, I think 9-7 is realistic. But, they gotta beat Buffalo first!

Bears 24, Bills 13

Monday, November 1, 2010

And the winner is...

After assigning each follower a number in a spreadsheet and giving extra entries to those who blogged or tweeted about this blog, I went to to get a random number.

Congratulations to "My name is Jonas"! You are the big winner in the Born to Bear blog sweepstakes. I will be getting in touch with you regarding your $50 gift card.

Thanks to everyone who entered! Go Bears!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bears Bye Week

I haven't posted in awhile, partly because the Bears are off this week and partly because I've had a minor (hopefully) health issue. I watched the Bears/Redskins game from a hospital bed last Sunday. I'm not sure which was scarier--being in the hospital or watching Cutler throw four interceptions to DeAngelo Hall. Cutler got more than adequate protection in the second half of that game, but still found a way to almost single-handedly lose it. Cutler's performance was inexcusable, regardless of the offensive line or running game issues. You can't turn the ball over five times. I don't care how bad the play calling is. Five turnovers? Franchise quarterbacks don't do that. But, due to my health scare, it was one of those rare games where I didn't get too wrapped up in the outcome. I watched the game more as a distraction than anything else.

Here's my analysis through seven games. The Bears aren't a very good team, especially on offense. They don't play with confidence, they can't consistently execute, and they don't seem to have an identity. The defense has done a pretty remarkable job most of the season considering the offense. Peppers has made some plays, but he hasn't been anywhere near as dominant as I thought he'd be. Briggs and Urlacher have played really well, especially early on. The secondary is barely average. The special teams, though, are amazing as usual. But, this team will be lucky to eight games this season, and I'll be stunned if they make the playoffs. They've lost back-to-back games at home against below average teams. At this point, I'm not sure they can be beat Buffalo next week. It won't be an easy game for the Bears. No games are easy for the Bears. They had a chance to distance themselves from the rest of the division with the two home games against the Seahawks and Redskins, but they started to show their true colors. If they manage to limp into the playoffs, it might be enough to save Jerry Angelo's and Lovie Smith's job, which is ridiculous considering they should've been fired last year.

If they can find any consistency on offense, they could be a decent team. Just decent enough to barely miss the playoffs or get trounced badly in the first round. Or, it could be a really, really long rest of the season if they keep turning the ball over, failing on third down, and killing themselves in the red zone. As always, I'm hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Redskins vs. Bears Preview

Before I get to my preview, I feel I should clear up a few things from my blog about the Seahawks game. Since this is my first season blogging about the Bears, I now know that it is a bad idea to write a game review within hours of the completion of the game. I made the mistake of letting my frustration cloud my judgment. It has been my goal to write a passionate blog from my perspective of a lifelong, somewhat knowledgeable fan. While I stand by much of what I wrote, I think I need to clarify my perspective on Jay Cutler. After re-reading what I wrote, it sounds like I'm ready to return to Ron Turner and Kyle Orton. That's not what I meant. I think I had unrealistic expectations for Jay Cutler that he couldn't possibly live up to. I remember saying to numerous people that since the Bears won nine games in 2008, then Cutler should be at least a two game improvement over Orton. So, I thought the Bears could win 11 in 2009. I realize now that Jay's skill set, in and of itself, obviously cannot improve the fortunes of a team that has struggled seemingly forever to find a consistent passing game. I still love his potential and he amazes me with some of the throws he can make. But, teaming him with Mike Martz was a bad idea. You don't give a pyromaniac a flame thrower. The Bears should have found a coordinator who would've been willing to run some version of the West Coast offense, especially knowing their offensive line would be a liability. A short passing game is needed to be successful in the NFL today, and it is even more necessary for the Bears due to their woeful protection.

The Bears organization really put themselves in a terrible position by not removing Angelo and Smith this off season. If this season turns out to be Lovie's last stand, then Cutler will have to learn yet another new offense next year. That is the quickest way to stunt the growth of a quarterback. So, I'm stuck with a terrible quandary. I want the Bears to win each week and be a playoff contender. But, if that happens this year, then Lovie and Angelo will be back next year. In the long run, I don't see how these two men can lead this team to becoming perennial contenders. Hopefully, they'll prove me wrong with a deep playoff run this year and a strong off season focused on rebuilding the offensive line. Either way, I'm still happy we got Cutler. The trade was not a mistake. But, he still needs cut down on the bad decisions, and the rest of the offense needs to figure out what the hell is going on.

Redskins vs Bears Preview

I was really hoping that the next time Mike Shanahan was roaming the sidelines at Solider Field it would've been as coach of the Bears. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. He now comes to Chicago as coach of the 3-3 Redskins. They've beaten Green Bay and Dallas this season, just like the Bears. They've got a fairly mobile quarterback with a strong arm, just like the Bears. At first glance, I was really worried about this game. After the Bears 3-1 start, I thought they'd beat Seattle and Carolina, lose to Washington, and beat Buffalo. The Seattle game threw a wrench in those plans. But, now I think the Bears can win this game, mostly because I can't see them losing back-to-back games at home.

The Redskins, like most teams this year, are tough to figure out. They currently rank last in overall defense (420 yds/game) and 15th in offense (336.8 yds/game). The Colts put up a ton of yards against them, so the defensive stats could be a little misleading. They have some talent on defense with Brian Orakpo being the one that worries me the most. He leads them with five sacks this year, so the Bears will need to account for him like they did against Clay Matthews. Landry has made some big plays, too, so Cutler will need to know where he is on every play.

On offense, McNabb continues to be productive, albeit inconsistent. His rating is 78.8 this year and he's thrown five touchdowns and five picks. He'll take chances down the field, and I worry that Moss could get behind the Bears secondary if the pass rush is as anemic as it has been for stretches this year. Peppers needs to make up for his disappearing act last game, and the defense as a whole needs to play with more urgency. I expect a better overall defensive performance, especially from Tillman, who Mike Williams torched on Sunday. The Redskins running game is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, so their offensive line is getting some push. Brian Iwuh filled in nicely for Lance Briggs last week, but he is not a difference maker. Hopefully, Briggs can play this week. Urlacher is having a great season, but they are a different defense when both are in there.

Ok, stop me if you heard this before. The Bears offensive line/protection will be the key to this game. If Cutler can get any time to throw the ball, this is a dangerous offense. Martz, who I've officially broken up with, can't continue to put Cutler in bad situations. Even if the Bears are averaging two yards per carry, it'll still put them in manageable 3rd down situations. This line will not produce 218 yards rushing every game like they did against the Panthers, but Martz can't simply abandon the running game if the score is within seven to ten points. Forte is a long-strider who needs 18-20 carries in order to increase his chances of breaking a long run. Martz also needs to call dump passes to Forte, Olsen, and Taylor more. He needs to put Forte and Taylor in the backfield together more. He needs to stop calling seven-step drops for every pass play. I should just copy and paste this paragraph for every preview. Converting some 3rd downs will help, too. They have three 3rd down conversions in October and all of those came against the Panthers. They are worst in the league (17.6%) at converting 3rd downs. I guess it can only go up from here, right? Right?

The special teams continues to be a serious weapon for the Bears. It's great to see Hester get his mojo back, and Manning is a ferocious runner. I think Manning was a tailback college. I wonder if they've ever considered using him on short yardage carries?

I think the Bears will come out fired up, get some turnovers, and beat the Redskins. This is an important game heading into the bye week. These are the games they need to win especially considering their remaining schedule (Vikings twice, Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots, Jets, Packers).

Bears 24, Redskins 17

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bears Lose, Mike Martz Officially Wears Out Welcome

Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Mike Martz is an arrogant, stubborn, pathetic excuse of an offensive coordinator. I had been cautiously optimistic heading into the season, and I saw some good things during the first few games. But, after the Giants game and the awful play calling against the Seahawks, I'm ready for the Mike Martz/Lovie Smith/Jerry Angelo era to be over. Martz continued to call seven-step drops all game long when it was obvious the offensive line didn't have a clue as to how to stop blitzers coming off the edge. The sad thing is I watched the last Seattle game on NFL Rewind, and they did the same thing. Um, don't NFL teams have access to the internet? Were they not prepared for that to happen? Ridiculous. Throw in the fact that I'm now convinced that Jay Cutler will never be an efficient NFL quarterback. He is a throwback to the AFL when athletic quarterbacks with strong arms would heave the ball down the field and just hope for good things to happen. If you combine his style of play with Mike Martz, you get exactly what you've seen so far this season. They can score in four plays, but they can't sustain drives. They are the worst team in the NFL on third down conversions. The WORST. With all that "talent" on offense (Cutler, Forte, Knox, Olsen), they can't convert third downs? And, they are atrocious is the red zone. Again, all of that is a function of Mike Martz's all or nothing offense.

Seahawks 23, Bears 20

Ok, I just need to get this off my chest. I predicted the Bears to win a close game (26-23). I posted my preview in two separate locations, and everyone said I was wrong and the Bears would win a blowout. Well, this game went nearly exactly how I thought it would. Hasselbeck was efficient, accurate, and wily. The Bears defense couldn't stop a slant, couldn't stop the draw play over and over, and they couldn't generate any pass rush. And, no one thought to tell the d-lineman that when a quarterback is throwing short, get your hands up! I thought there'd be a return for a touchdown, and lo and behold, Hester took one back. Of course, it was too little too late, mostly because of all the reasons I listed in the first paragraph.

The Bears are 4-2. I thought they'd win this game, lose to Washington next week, and beat the Bills after their bye week. That would put them at 6-2. Right now, after this loss and how badly they looked on offense, I'm pretty sure they'll lose next week and probably barely beat an awful Bills team, which would put them at 5-3. That is optimistic. I think the Bears used up all of their magic this season against the Cowboys and Packers. This is not a playoff team. They simply do not pass the eyeball test. How many times have they actually beaten a team and looked good? Maybe the Cowboys game. That's it. They moved the ball well against the Lions, but they turned it over a bunch of times and the defense nearly blew that game. They took advantage of 18 penalties to beat the Packers, and the Panthers game is barely worth mentioning. I have tried to remain reserved in my praise this season because, deep down, I knew this team was bound for 7-9. They might get to 8-8. But, I'm putting this out there right now for all to witness. They will not win more than eight games this season. Yes, I'm a die hard Bears fan, but I'm not a naive homer. I desperately want Lovie and Angelo to be fired this off season. I'm tired of the Cover 2 defense, and I've quickly tired of a Dave Kingman-type offense (either home run or strikeout).

Did anyone notice that the Seahawks offensive coordinator was Jeremy Bates? He turned down the Bears offer to become their offensive coordinator during the off season. I'm guessing it was because he wanted to work for a coach who wasn't corpse-like during gameday. Pete Carroll's team looked enthused and energetic despite numerous roster moves during his short tenure. The Bears looked apathetic and bored, especially on defense. Maybe they missed Briggs, who is a tenacious playmaker. But, Peppers was completely outplayed by a rookie. A rookie! This is why he has a reputation for taking plays off because it looked to me like he took this entire game off.

I'm sickened by their performance, and I can't wait for the Chicago media to thrash them this week. This is an organization that needs to make drastic changes. Lovie looked like a great head coach when his team was simply more athletic than his opponents. But, after the 2006 season, his teams have played barely .500 football because teams have figured out how to beat the Cover 2. Their defense, like I said in the preview, has problems that have been overlooked during their 4-1 start. This is what I was talking about.

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but maybe the Jay Cutler trade was a mistake. I saw him make terrible decisions all game long. He was throwing into double and triple coverage when he had single coverage on the other side of the field. He refuses to check the ball down, even in the rare instances when there is a check down receiver. The Seahawks nearly picked off three passes, by my count, that were simply bad decisions or inaccurate throws. This is what we gave up multiple first round picks for? Yes, he has more "ability" than Kyle Orton. But, I'm not really sure this offense would be any worse under Kyle Orton and, God help me, Ron Turner. Truthfully, I didn't know much about Cutler before we traded for him. I knew his stats, and I saw highlights of his throws, but I never really watched him play much. Whatever opportunity he had to become a great quarterback is quickly diminishing behind an awful line, an insane coordinator, and his penchant for playing for highlights rather than playing it safe. The Bears have taken a quarterback with bad habits and, instead of correcting them, they are making them worse. Now that I've seen him play for about 21 games, I have my doubts about him leading us to the promised land. I decried all of the naysayers when they said he had never led a team to a winning record, and that he wasn't a great leader. Wow, was I wrong. I see the problems now.

I thought I could live with an all or nothing offense with an all or nothing quarterback, but I never thought they'd be this bad on 3rd down and in the red zone. It is infuriating, and I'll be fully prepared to lambaste this team every week, especially if they can't stop simple corner blitzes or if they can't convert a freaking 3rd down attempt.

The only good news is that the Packers lost, too. How sad is it that that is my only good news on Sunday?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Seahawks vs. Bears Preview

The Bears received some good news yesterday when it was revealed that Jay Cutler has been cleared to start on Sunday against the Seahawks. I'm not sure the Bears could have beaten any other team besides the Panthers last week with the performance Todd Collins had, but hopefully that's something we won't have to worry about again. Lovie Smith has not officially demoted Collins to #3 on the depth chart, but I have a hard time believing he'll be backing up Cutler on Sunday. I understand why they have not simply released Collins, even though his performance does not warrant keeping him. They had a hard enough time finding a backup after Hanie got hurt in the preseason, and now that Collins knows the offense (which could be debatable, I guess), is guaranteed his full year salary, and has shown in the past that he can be a capable backup, maybe they should keep him as their emergency #3 signal caller. Truthfully, though, if Cutler and Hanie are out at the same time, the Bears should just run a wildcat on every play.

Seahawks vs. Bears Preview

The Seattle Seahawks are a team in transition. Pete Carroll has re-entered the NFL after a stellar run as the USC head coach, and he is determined to put his own mark on this team. He has jettisoned many players, and made some curious acquisitions (Mike Williams, for example). But, so far, this team is not anywhere near as bad as I thought they would be. Matt Hasselbeck is a wily veteran who has shown the ability to pick apart defenses when he gets time to throw the ball. I've never liked facing him, especially with the Cover 2 defense that the Bears run. Hasselbeck is adept at taking what the defense gives him, and he generally won't force the ball into tight spaces. The Bears defense has played really well this year, but I think the Seahawks could give them problems in the passing game. They are very good on 3rd down (44% conversion rate this year), and I still think that is an area where the Bears struggle, despite the current statistics which have been aided by a sloppy Packers team and a horrible Panthers team. If the front four of the Bears doesn't harass Hasselbeck, he could make it a close game (which I think it will be anyway).

The Seahawks haven't run the ball too well this year, but they have just added Marshawn Lynch to the mix. Lynch will be motivated to prove that he deserves to be a starting NFL running back, despite his lack of playing time in Buffalo the last few years. The Bears defense should be able to shut down this running attack. I'd be surprised if the Seahawks ran for more than 60 yards in the game.

On the flip side, the Seahawks run defense is pretty tough. They are only giving up about 2.7 yards per carry. The Bears proved last week that they can run the ball, if they commit to it. I know Martz won't run as much, especially now that he has his favorite toy back behind center. Seattle likes to blitz, especially with their DBs. If Cutler doesn't see them or the offensive line doesn't pick them up, it could be another long day for Jay. The Bears should try to establish the run early, and get Cutler into a rhythm with short passes and a few screens. Once that happens, then I'm sure they'll open it up down field. Can the line hold up? Chris Williams should be healthy, but the Bears won't move him back to left tackle. It sounds like they are going to play him at left guard. I hope Tice knows what he's doing because here is what the offensive line looked like at the beginning of the season:

LT - Chris Williams
LG - Roberto Garza
C - Olin Kreutz
RG - Lance Louis
RT - Frank Omiyale

Here is what it'll look like on Sunday:

LT - Frank Omiyale
LG - Chris Williams
C - Olin Kreutz
RG - Edwin Williams
RT - J'Marcus Webb

Most offensive lines obtain success through familiarity and consistency, knowing the players next to you and how they'll respond to certain situations. The Bears are completely throwing that notion out the window. It might be revolutionary. It might be a disaster. They are gambling the health of a franchise quarterback on this bet.

Seattle's special teams have been exceptional this year. Leon Washington and Golden Tate are both explosive returners. It should be fun to see the Bears special teams battle against another very good unit. I think there will be at least one return for a touchdown in this game. Let's hope it comes from a Manning, Hester, or Knox.

This is a game the Bears should win. They are pretty healthy, they've shown that they can win without playing at their best, and they are at home. Seattle has not been a good road team this year, having lost their two games away from Qwest Field by a combined score of 51-17. The Seahawks are scrappy, and Hasselbeck can still be an efficient passer, but the Bears should win a close one.


Bears 26, Seattle 23

Sunday, October 10, 2010


FINAL SCORE: Bears 23, Panthers 6

In NFL you have to take wins, especially wins on the road, however you can get them. Was this an ugly win? Sure it was. Their running game looked great in the first quarter, but after Collins threw a horrible interception at the goal line, their offense couldn't do much. Matt Forte had a big game, which the Bears desperately needed. He is an amazing open field runner. Once he gets past the first level, he is a threat to take it the distance every time. I wish he could make more people miss on the first level, though. I doubt Martz will call as many run plays once Cutler comes back, but I think the Bears demonstrated that they CAN be effective running the ball if they commit to it.

Todd Collins should be cut immediately. He simply cannot make the throws necessary to play quarterback in the NFL. He threw four awful interceptions. The protection wasn't great on one of them, but on the other three he simply overthrew, underthrew or didn't see big fat guys right in front of him. Martz ticked me off a few times with his play calling, but Collins simply showed that he can't get it done. I can't think of any other team in the NFL that the Bears would've beaten with that kind of play from their quarterback position. Caleb Hanie lacks experience, but he is mobile, has a stronger arm, and plays with confidence. I am more than comfortable with Hanie as the backup for the rest of the year than Collins. Even if Cutler can't make it back next week, I'd rather have Hanie start. In fact, I'm a little perplexed that Collins remained as the #2 quarterback once Hanie got healthy.

The Bears defense was crazy good. I knew they'd take advantage of Clausen's inexperience, but I thought they'd struggle stopping the run. Outside of the first drive when the Panthers drove down the field calling only run plays, the Bears run defense was stout. They stayed in their gaps and attacked the ball carriers. Very impressive. The five sacks were a welcome sight, too. Peppers interception was ridiculous. I also liked the blitzes that Marinelli was calling. He mixed it up a little bit. He must've felt comfortable going after a rookie. I doubt he'll blitz that much against Hasselbeck next week, but it might not be a bad idea.

Hester and Manning were fantastic returning kicks and punts. They gave the offense great field position all day, which really helped overcome their inept passing game. This unit looks like it's really coming together.

If Cutler comes back next week, the Bears should be able to win two out of the next three games (Seattle, Washington, Buffalo). They need their offensive line to figure out pass protection sooner rather than later, but, even more importantly, Martz needs to put much more emphasis on the run game. They showed that they could run the ball without ANY passing game. If they find some balance, it will definitely help the pass protection.

The Bears are 4-1. No, they are not the most talented or complete team in the league, and I'm still not 100% convinced this is a playoff team. The offensive line will need to show that they can protect Cutler, and Martz will need to demonstrate his willingness to run the ball consistently. But, they have won a few games no one thought they could, and they have beaten teams that they should beat. That can be a formula for success.

I'll be anxiously awaiting to hear who will start at quarterback for the Bears this week because I cannot take another game where the forward pass appears to be against the rules.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bears vs. Panthers Preview

It was announced earlier today that Todd Collins will start in place of Jay Cutler on Sunday in Carolina. I was afraid that I would have to write this sentence at some point this season. I put this squarely on the shoulders of Mike Martz. The offensive line was getting demolished on Sunday, and Martz was still calling for pass plays requiring seven-step drops. If he had gone to three and five-step drops after, oh, I don't know, the first five sacks, Jay would be starting this weekend and I wouldn't be scared to death about losing to the lowly Panthers.


This game will be a real test of the intenstinal fortitude of the 2010 Chicago Bears. In the last five days, Cutler has gotten hurt, the offensive line has become a national joke, Mark Anderson has been curiously released, and a 38-year old journeyman QB will be starting his first game since 2007. Their 3-1 record is not taken seriously by anyone in the national media and, with the Vikings adding the mercurial Randy Moss, everyone is expecting the Bears to fade away like they did last year after a 3-1 start. I want to be optimistic. I really do. But, I'm not sure the Bears are equipped to pull up from this sudden tailspin. They have a coach who is as lifeless on the sidelines as a Ken doll, and too many question marks at key areas such as the offensive line and secondary. That does not give me confidence moving forward.

The good news is that on Sunday the Bears are playing against a team that appears to have a lame-duck coach, a rookie QB, and no healthy receivers that can break open the game (assuming Steve Smith doesn't play due to an ankle injury). The Panthers will have to rely on their running game, which can be quite formidable, and a defense that showed a knack for getting turnovers last week against the defending World Champion New Orleans Saints. I watched most of that game, and a few things were obvious. Jimmy Clausen has the physical skills to be a good QB someday. He has a strong arm, and he acts like he belongs in the NFL. But, he lacks polish and experience, which the Bears defense should be able to take advantage of. Clausen will see lots of zone coverage, and I'm not sure he is patient enough or wise enough to check the ball down when needed. The Bears should be to get a few turnovers once he starts forcing the ball into tight windows.

The Panthers running game is something to be taken seriously. DeAngelo Williams is an explosive runner with good vision and excellent quickness. Jonathan Stewart is powerful workhorse who can wear down defenses. Their offensive line seems above average. The Bears struggled stopping the run against the Giants last week, and I think this Panthers team will give the Bears similar problems. Maybe the newly acquired Charles Grant can help shore up the run defense. The Bears were excellent against the run in the Lions, Cowboys, and Packers games, but those teams abandoned it so quickly, the Bears were never really tested. As the Giants game wore on, the smallish front seven of the Bears got tired and the Giants pushed them around fairly easy. The Panthers aren't likely to abandon their running game with a rookie QB behind center.

Can Todd Collins make the all throws in the Mike Martz offense? No, he can't. Whatever arm strength he had at one time has obviously diminshed. He can't throw the deep out or split the safety and corner down the sidelines. But, can he make enough throws to give the Bears a chance to win? Yes, I believe he can. Martz MUST tailor this week's game plan to include shorter throws, more screens, and much more running. Moving the ball efficiently is more important that gaudy stats or highlight plays. Winning is what matters. If Martz comes out and consistently calls deep routes out of seven-step drops with Todd Collins at quarterback then we'll know once and for all that his massive ego cannot be held in check, and it will eventually cost Lovie Smith his job. As I stated previously, I have mixed feelings about that. If the season goes down hill quickly, then I know at least Lovie and probably Jerry Angelo won't be back next year. But, that means I'll have to endure another season of crappy football and no playoffs. I'm on the fence.

Julius Peppers will be able to wreak havoc in his homecoming return against a rookie QB . The Bears should be able to get a few turnovers that'll put the offense in good position to score points. Even with Collins starting, the Bears are the better team. Can they win on the road against an inferior opponent after such a troubling week? I hope so. I fear what'll happen if they lose this game, even with Cutler sidelined.

Bears 16, Panthers 12

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Even if Bears Lose, You can Win!

Gift Card Giveaway!

In a very transparent ploy to beef up the number of followers to this blog, I am giving away a $50 gift card! All of the entry information is below. Basically, I am looking for people to publicly follow this blog and possibly link to it from their blog. Hopefully, I can tap into the very large pool of passionate Bears fans lurking out there. Good luck and Go Bears!

GIVEAWAY: ONE (1) winner will receive a $50 gift card.

Mandatory Entry:
Become a public follower of my blog (current followers will be automatically entered). If your blogger profile is not public, please make sure to leave your email address in your comment under this blog post so you can be notified!

Bonus Entry: Blog or Tweet about this giveaway with a link to my blog and come back and leave a comment with the link to your blog post or Tweet. (Mandatory Entry must be completed for this to count)

Giveaway ends Oct 31, 2010 @ midnight CST. Winner will be chosen at random, using and notified by e-mail. Alternate winner will be chosen if winner does not respond to notification email after 48 hours.

Bears Release Mark Anderson; Jerry Angelo Now Consulting Magic 8-Ball for Personnel Decisions

The Chicago Bears have released defensive end Mark Anderson. Wow. This is a stunning move that reeks of desperation. The Bears are taking this "accountability" pledge too far. This move, along with Tommie Harris being inactive against the Packers, demonstrates the chaos that is taking place at Halas Hall. There is no doubt that Mark Anderson has been a huge flop since his double-digit sack rookie season, but releasing him now after choosing not to resign Adewale Ogunleye and releasing Alex Brown in the offseason really speaks to the an organization that is in free fall. I can actually see Jerry Angelo sitting at his desk making a list of all the "moves" he has made since last January in a feeble attempt to show Ted Phillips and the McCaskey family how much he changed things after three playoff-less seasons. The sad truth, however, is that Jerry Angelo has failed in his attempt to build a team through the draft. And, Lovie Smith has failed to develop the talent he has been given, especially along the defensive line and secondary.

The Bears have also reportedly signed Charles Grant from a UFL team's roster to replace Anderson. Grant couldn't make an NFL team this year, but he's an upgrade over Mark Anderson? Alex Brown sure would look good in a Bears uniform right about now.

An organization that prides itself on stability is coming apart at the seams. I can only imagine the negative impact this move will have on the Bears locker room. If you couple this move with the constant changes along the offensive line and in the secondary, players are going to start pressing even more, which will inevitably lead to more mistakes. It is one thing to hold players accountable. It is another thing to panic and start running your team like a drunken fantasy football owner.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bears Lose...Badly

FINAL SCORE: Giants 17, Bears 3

It is one thing to lose a game. But, last night was a total debacle. Football is supposed to be a form of entertainment. I wasn't entertained. I was stunned by the total ineptitude I witnessed. Even though the score was only 3-0 at halftime, it never felt like the Bears deserved to be on the same field. They made the Giants defense look like the 1985 Bears, which is stupefying. There is ample blame to go around, and I will get to that shortly. But, the good news is that the Bears are capable of winning two or three of their next four games, which will put them in good position heading into the second half of the season. That is assuming, of course, that Cutler isn't dead.

Everyone knew the offensive line was going to be a problem this season. The Bears brought in Mike Tice and the hope was that he could take some raw talent, a few marginal players, and some crafty veterans and turn them into a legitimate group of blockers. After 10 sacks and two quarterbacks lost to injury last night, I'd say that Tice hasn't earned his money. But, I can't blame the offensive line problems all on Tice. If you give an Iron Chef meat from a carcass that's been rotting in the sun for six years, he's not going to be able to serve you Filet Mignon. That is exactly what Jerry Angelo has done, however. The Bears have drafted ONE offensive lineman in their last 23 picks that have taken place in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Angelo has almost criminally ignored these positions in his tenure. I was screaming for offensive lineman after the Super Bowl season knowing that Ruben Brown, Fred Miller, and John Tait didn't have many productive years ahead of them. Jerry Angelo, even me, an idiot fan living in the middle of Wisconsin, saw this problem coming years ago.

Mike Martz, mad-genius, had me feeling so hopeful after that Cowboys game. When the line was getting Cutler killed after the first few possessions, he made crucial in-game adjustments that allowed the ball to get out of Cutler's hand quicker. Last night, though, he stubbornly kept calling for seven-step drops and long developing pass plays. Cutler had taken eight sacks through most of the first half, but Martz was still dialing up bombs. Finally, the ninth sack of the half looked to be the one that took Cutler out and cost the Bears any chance of winning. Thanks Mike. I knew all along that this would be a high risk, high reward offense. But, if the offense can't handle the most basic blocking assignments against a largely four-man rush, then there is NO hope that this team can reach the playoffs this year. Martz will have to dial it back, run more, and call for fewer seven-step drops for the Bears to have any chance this year. In fact, Lovie should put some restrictions on Martz by only allowing for two pass plays per quarter that utilize seven-step drops. Does that sound ludicrous? Maybe. Is giving up 10 sacks in ONE GAME ludicrous? I think so. One other thought. Does it really make sense to keep rotating offensive lineman in and out of the game? I'd think continuity on the offensive line would be an important goal as the season goes on. Again, what do I know?

Cutler needs to take some of the blame for a few of the sacks. He held the ball too long, and didn't recognize hot reads on corner blitzes. This is basic football 101 stuff. I worry, though, that the punish he took not only last night but during the first four games of the season is starting to impact his decision making and ability to see the field.

These things will not be corrected quickly or easily. As teams start to see more and more game film of the Bears woefully inept offensive line, it will only cause more problems for Cutler and the passing game. It is up to Martz to devise a scheme that will protect Jay and give the Bears a chance to win the game. Let's see if Martz is finally able to learn from his mistakes of the past. If he doesn't, the Bears season will be lost, Lovie and Jerry will be fired, and a whole new regime will take over. Wait, maybe I DON'T want Martz to learn from his mistakes after all...

If Cutler can't play against the Panthers, I don't see them winning. In fact, I don't think the Bears can win against any team (except maybe the Bills) without Cutler. Let's hope his "concussion" is mild. I fear the worst.

So, as I said earlier, it's only one game. The Bears are still in a good position heading into these next four games. But, the cracks are starting to show big time, and there isn't any indication they'll be fixed soon. I'm not ready to write off the season, but if they don't start running the ball better and limiting opposing teams to about two sacks a game, this team will be at home during the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Here is what Lovie Smith had to say today. "The reality is we're 3-1," he said. "Last night we didn't get it done. No more than that."

Sure, it was only one loss, but don't tell me that types of losses don't matter. And last night was not the type of loss a team easily comes back from. Yes, they're 3-1. But, if you think that is all there is to know about this team, then please share with me whatever you and Lovie have been smoking.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bears vs. Giants Preview

The deactivation of Tommie Harris Monday night before the Packers game was stunning. Lovie Smith said that he wasn't trying to send a message and that Harris had done everything they asked out of him. It was simply a matter of performance. Lovie felt like other guys deserved a chance to see what they could do. That is baloney. No, Harris had not played that well in the first two games of this season, but he certainly wasn't bad. And, yes, his talent has diminished since 2006 due to leg and knee injuries. But, I can't see how they can justify deactivating him for a game and claim that it was because they wanted to see what other guys would do. Tommie Harris has been paid like a top-level defensive tackle for the past few seasons, even though he hasn't played like one since early 2006. There is not a doubt in my mind that Lovie was sending a message. I don't completely agree with it, though, because Harris is still capable of making impact plays. Plus, if Lovie thinks his defensive line has enough talent that they can actually deactivate a former Pro Bowl player, then why not simply rotate guys more often? That way, you can still give Harris the chance to make plays while giving younger guys a chance to prove themselves. If the Bears feel like Tommie Harris didn't give them a better chance to win than Matt Toeania on Monday Night Football against the Packers when first place was on the line, then why not simply part ways with the malcontent? I'm not sure Tommie Harris is the type of player who will respond positively to this type "non-message" from Lovie Smith.


Does the upcoming game against the New York Giants on Sunday Night qualify as a trap game for the Bears? The Giants are favored in Vegas by about three points, which basically means that they have homefield advantage. Most experts are split on this game according to, Yahoo, and CBS Sportsline. At first glance, the Bears look like they should win and win easy. The Giants have committed a ton of turnovers and penalties. They look like an undisciplined, ragged team led by a headcoach who doesn't tolerate those types of mistakes. There have been whispers around New York that Tom Coughlin is losing his players, that they are tuning him out. After last year's 5-0 start, they finished 3-8 down the stretch, and are off to a 1-2 start this year. As I said, the rejuvenated Bears should be able to defeat a team that is clearly reeling.

But, this Giants team is talented. Eli Manning played well on Sunday against Titans despite the one horrible interception in the red-zone when he tried to make a Brett Favre-type play by throwing the ball with his left hand while falling to the ground. His other interception early in the game bounced off his receiver and fell perfectly into the waiting arms of a Titan. That one wasn't his fault. Overall, the Giants offense moved up and down the field on the Titans. Manning was finding Manningham, Hicks, and Boss consistently open. When they were covered, he dumped off to Bradshaw, their dangerous, fleet-footed running back. Their offensive line generally protected Manning well, and Bradshaw also looked good running the ball. But, the offensive line had a bunch of penalties, and Bradshaw fumbled inside the Titans 10-yard line, negating yet another drive for the Giants into the red zone.

What worries me is that the Titans looked like they were running a lot of Cover 2 zone against Manning, which, of course, the Bears run about three quarters of the time. They had success getting to Manning when they blitzed, so maybe the Bears saw that, too, and will increase their pressure a little bit this week. Julius Peppers should be effective on the edge against an offensive that doesn't appear to be overly athletic. The Giants running game has been good this year, so the match up against the Bears number-one rated rushing defense will be important. If the Giants do get a little bit of a running game going, it will open up their play-action pass to tight end Kevin Boss down the middle of the field. Urlacher will have to get enough depth in his coverages to limit Boss in the passing game. Overall, the match-up does favor the Bears defense because they have shown the ability to prevent big plays while forcing the offense to play patient, mistake-free football. The Giants have not been able to play mistake-free football so far this season, which means the Bears should be able to get a few turnovers.

The Bears offense also appears to match up well against the Giants because they run a very similar scheme to the Bears--lots of Cover 2 and zone. Cutler and company saw this defense all through training camp, so they should be well-prepared. And, I'm sure the offensive line will be happy to play against a 4-3 defense after having to deal with 3-4 defenses the past two weeks. But, the Giants defensive coordinator, Perry Fewell, was actually Lovie Smith's top choice to become the Bears coordinator this past offseason. Fewell chose the Giants over the Bears, I suspect, because he likes to mix up his coverages and blitzes a little more than Lovie prefers. That could give the Bears some headaches. In fact, I expect the Giants to be even more exotic this week on defense given how desperate they are to win. They will send cornerbacks and linebackers on blitzes frequently to try and rattle Cutler. Jay will have the opportunity to make some plays down the field, and Matt Forte should be able to get decent yards on the ground if Martz remembers that a running game starts with actually have a running back in the backfield!

The Bears are on a roll, and the Giants are struggling. After all of the excitement surrounding the Bears after their third straight win on Monday, especially against the hated Packers, the new Monsters of the Midway should stroll into the "swamps of Jersey" and dominate the Giants by at least a touchdown. But, this is the NFL. Every team has talent and immense pride. This will be a tough, physical game between two evenly matched teams on national television. I think the Bears will squeak by with a win due to their defensive line and running game.

Bears 24, Giants 23

Tuesday, September 28, 2010



The 2010 Chicago Bears are currently in first place in the NFC North and remain the only unbeaten team in the NFC. Wow, I didn't think I'd be writing that sentence after their first three games. It is a good day to be a Bears fan. Beating the Packers is a sweet treat whenever it happens, but it becomes a decadent dessert when it occurs on Monday Night Football during a season in which everybody and their sister predicted the Packers to win the Super Bowl. Who knows, that may still happen. But, the Bears showed at the very least that they'll be more than a speed bump in the NFC North.

Their offense got off to a pretty good start moving the ball, but deficiencies with offensive line (again) and a crazy, blitz happy Packer defense kept the Bears off the scoreboard for much of the first half. I was waiting for Martz to use some screens or dump offs early in the game to slow down the pass rush, but that part of the Bears game was oddly absent last night. Instead, Martz insisted on seven-step drops and long developing pass routes. I like the confidence, but he did the same thing early against the Cowboys last week and nearly got Cutler killed. I thought I was seeing a repeat in this game. Hey, Mike, why not start with some easy throws from short drops? Or, why not try to run the ball on consecutive plays? There is no doubt Martz brings some unique game planning to the Bears, and an offense that will have its fair share of explosive plays, but I'm starting to see why some people call the offense pass-whacky. If this team will go anywhere this year, Martz is going to have realize he doesn't have an offensive line that can consistently block pass rushers during seven-step drops. They've dodged many bullets these first three games, but it won't keep happening if Cutler continues to get hit as often as he did last night.

Cutler regressed last night. Whether it was the pressure of the Packers blitzes or their tight man coverage or playing in primetime (which Jay hasn't done well in his career), he reminded me way too much of last year's Jay. The interception was not only a bad pass, it was a bad decision. He was trying to hit Greg Olsen on a seam route between the linebacker and the safety. Olsen was covered so well, he basically stopped running his route. It would've taken a perfect throw and unbelievable catch to make that completion, assuming Olsen could've gotten to his spot. Cutler cannot continue to take that chance, especially inside opponent's territory. Inexcusable. Then, late in the game, he got bailed out by penalty after penalty. I won't say too much about the interception that got called back when he was crushed as the let it go. It clearly impacted the flight of the ball. But, that last interception that was called off due to the pass interference was HORRIBLE. You are driving late in the game to kick a field goal to win it, and you just heave the ball up towards your receiver who was pretty well-covered by a defensive back who also had safety help over the top? Seriously, Jay, what is wrong with you? That is pick-up game material. You're an NFL quarterback. STOP THROWING "HOPE" PASSES! On the other hand, he made two great throws to Knox early in the game and a great throw to Olsen late in the game. I guess I'm going to have to live with 2-3 mistakes a game.

Julius Peppers looks like he's going to be a force all year. That blocked field goal was HUGE. He's not getting sacks, but he's drawing penalties and forcing teams to account for him. I started to see some of the other lineman breakthrough in the second half. If they start to take advantage of their opportunities, their pass rush should improve. I'm still confident in the run defense, but their pass coverage is just horrendous. I understand the concept of their "Cover 2". Keep all of the passes in front of you, force long drives, and hopefully they'll make a mistake and turn the ball over. It happened exactly that way last night. But, at some point, defensive backs have to make a play on the ball. Most of Rodgers' completions last night were so easy because the Bears play such a soft zone coverage. I hate the Cover 2, which will be a recurring theme in this blog. It is effective for 3rd and long situations, but it is so frustrating when teams can complete six and seven yard passes at will. The Packers had a few really long drives basically paying pitch and catch between QB and receiver. Mix it up a little. Play some man under. Zone blitz. Corner blitz. Hell, even throw a 3-4 out there just to confuse the offense on occasion. Look at what Dom Capers does with the Packers defense. They never had the same look on consecutive plays and it held the Bears to 13 offensive points.

Is Devin Hester back? It sure looked like it last night. He almost broke loose on his first punt return, and his touchdown was a reminder of how electric he can be with the football. If he can continue to get upfield quickly after fielding punts, he may take a few more to the house this year. The blocking was tremendous, and it helped that the punter outkicked his coverage unit by about 15 yards. Amazing play by Hester and their special teams!

There is no doubt that this Bears team is flawed. They can't run the ball at all, and their offensive line continues to struggle with consistent pass blocking. Their red zone offense has been atrocious. Cutler is still prone to mistakes, and the Martz offense will be high-risk, high-reward all season long. The defense needs to make more plays against the pass, and the special teams needs to continue to make big plays, especially against good opponents. But, they've shown they can win tough games against talented teams by taking advantage of mistakes. That is a good formula for success, especially early in the season. As I've said previously, if this offensive line improves at all, they could be a dominant team. It hasn't happened yet.

The next five games are winnable (Giants, Panthers, Seahawks, Redskins, Bills). They could be 7-1 or 6-2 after they crush the Bills. Of course, anything could happen between now and then, but this is turning out to be a very interesting season!