...The Bears still stink! I didn't have to go far Monday to find criticism of the Bears in the media after they beat Denver 37-34 in overtime.
Larry Mayer, a writer on the Bears website: http://www.chicagobears.com/ wrote: "Plagued by drops and general ineffectiveness..." That's pretty harsh criticism of the Bears offense considering it came from their own website. Then Mike Nadel in the Rockford Register Star wrote: "Assisted by his incompetent linemen and butterfingered receivers, Rex Grossman had played down to expectations."
Nadel's article at least touched on the reason I initially thought the Bears would lose against the Broncos: Their defense. It wasn't until Wednesday or so that I heard much said about the defense. Maybe that's why it took so long for me to get this blog out. Or maybe I was just being lazy. Maybe I had too much tryptophan left in my system after four turkey dinners in seven days' time. Who knows?
Getting back to the Bears, let's start with the positives:
Game ball #1 goes to Devin Hester, who I was penciling in as the goat after he swatted that punt and caused a turnover that led to three points for the Broncs. But truly great players follow up mistakes with brilliance. And Hester proved to me that he is truly a great player. We all know he's no mental giant, but he knew he blew it and was determined to make amends. And his 14-point third quarter turned the tide for the Bears. And I love how Brendon Ayanbadejo put it: "It didn't sting Seattle, it didn't sting the Raiders. But oh my goodness, someone took a baseball bat and hit the Denver Broncos upside the head and his name was Devin Hester." Poetry. I would say "Too bad he won't see another returnable kick all year," but coaches these days are so darn arrogant I wouldn't be surprised to see someone else kick to him.
Game ball #2 goes to Adwale Ogunleye. He made eight tackles, got the only two sacks for the Bears in the game, forced a fumble, and recovered a fumble. You may have also noticed that he didn't get burned on any of those annoying pitch plays. Although he was completely taken out on a couple option plays. Ogunleye is officially the anchor of the D-line. He is the only reason that unit isn't a complete joke. With Tommie Harris and Darwin Walker playing hurt, and Mark Anderson and Alex Brown playing as if they were AWOL, Ogunleye has almost single-handedly provided the Bears with a pass rush. I don't think he's received enough credit for his play the last few weeks.
The other standouts on defense were Hunter Hillenmeyer, who the Bears credited with twelve tackles, and Brian Urlacher who was credited with ten tackles.
Hey, did you notice that Charles Tillman picked off his first pass of the season? Welcome to the 2007 season, Tillman. You finally showed up after signing your big contract. Better late than never, I guess. Nice job blocking that punt, though. That was really big.
On offense, there wasn't much to crow about either, but they came through in the clutch so it's hard for me to dump too much criticism on the entire unit.
Rex Grossman did a good job of emerging from a pressure-induced funk and making plays when his line finally decided to block for him. I think it would've been easy for him to fold with the start he had. But he didn't. I was listening to the game on the radio in the fourth quarter, but I heard the pass to Bernard Berrian in the end zone at the end of regulation was beautiful.
Adrian Peterson didn't have gaudy numbers, but he proved that the Bears could plug any running back into that system and they'll gain around three yards per carry. I liked the fight he showed on key runs too. He knows how to keep his legs moving to get a couple extra yards, and I think he's actually harder to bring down than Cedric Benson. Is Peterson the answer at running back? No. But at least it looks like he's putting forth an earnest effort. He was the Bears steadiest receiver too, with five catches for 41 yards.
Robbie Gould was magnificently consistent in nasty conditions. Clutch kicks. Clutch kicker.
Ron Turner made some nice play calls at the end of the game, folks. The play call to burn Champ Bailey in the end zone was perfect, as was the play action pass to Desmond Clark in OT. There are times when Turner shows us how good he can be as a play-caller.
Now for the negatives...
Is there a starting tackle in the league that better defines the word "futility" than Fred Miller? His two holding penalties and fifteen-yard facemask penalty just killed the Bears. One of his holds cost the Bears a touchdown. He can't block any defensive end with speed. He's not run-blocking well, either. Did anyone notice how much better the line played once John St. Clair entered the game after Miller was "hurt?" Geez. Why didn't the Bears make that switch after the bye week? Miller's been bad all year, but he's been awful lately.
If Miller starts against the Giants (and their formidable pass rush) this week, Bears fans will not only get another look at Brian Griese, but probably Kyle Orton as well. Do the Bears have a fourth QB? They might want to sign one just in case...
Seven dropped passes in the game for the Bears. During the game, we learned that they're number-two in the league in dropped passes this year. I guess it makes sense to say the Bears' receiving corps is number two and leave it at that. That was childish, wasn't it? Sorry, but when I watch the leader of the receiving corps drop a ball that hits him in the hands at face level it makes me want to throw things at the TV. I don't mean to pick on Mushin Muhammed, because Berrian, Greg Olsen, and Clark were all guilty of dropping passes that were well thrown by Grossman.
Somebody can correct me if I'm wrong here, but I saw at least one missed tackle on almost every touchdown the Broncos scored Sunday. With the exception of Ogunleye, Hillenmeyer, and Urlacher, is there any pride left on the Bears defense at all?
The only possible exception on missed tackles leading to touchdowns was the pass play where Ricky Manning Jr. was torched for 68 yards... Brandon Marshal was untouched. And here I thought there was no way I would miss Trumaine McBride after the Seattle game. Way to prove me wrong, Manning.
When the other team is scorching your defense with simple outside pitch plays and freakin' option plays in the NFL, you have serious issues.
Adam Archuleta does not belong in the NFL.
If there is a goat of this game, I think it has to be Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan. Letting head-case/super flake punter/kickoff specialist Todd Sauerbun kick to Hester in the middle of the field after he already returned a punt 75 yards is unconscionable. Was it hubris? Temporary insanity? Not that I'm complaining, but I hope Bears fans realize the gift Shanahan gave them Sunday. Sports Illustrated realized it, and called it one of the worst mistakes of week twelve. I whole-heartedly agree.
Grossman alluded to the fact that, while the Broncos didn't resort to a per-se prevent defense, they started to play softer coverage at the end of the game. This allowed the previously yardage-challenged Bears offense to march down the field in the final moments of regulation to tie the game. Why didn't Shanahan stick with the defense that was making the Bears look stupid all game? If someone knows the answer, please enlighten me.I like Mike Shanahan. I think he's a good coach. But he really blew it against the Bears Sunday. Maybe we can count on another gift from Tom Coughlin (who I think is a moron) this week. That's the only way the Bears will get back-to-back wins, because even when they win a game they look awful.