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.