The Bears on Sunday played a Dickensian game. Basically it was “A Tale of Two Halves”…the second half being the best of times, first half being the worst of times.
(I promise that’s the last time I’ll use the word “Dickensian” in a football post.)
I’m a bit torn today about the Bears win. They improved to 3-1, which I predicted they would be through 4 games, they scored 48 points despite 2 of their top 3 WRs getting hurt, and the defense was lights out in the second half.
Yet somehow, I’m not 100% satisfied with the win. And it’s going to eat away at me for TWO weeks now as Bears fans enter the worst part of the NFL season: the bye week.
Look, I know I’m probably being overly critical because a division win is huge…even against the Lions (remember they swept the Bears in ’07 and they sucked then too). Laying a number like 48 on any team in the NFL is a feat. And the return game was unreal. But part of me, a large part, can’t get too excited because of how the defense played in the first half. They couldn’t stop the run or the pass and were committing crucial penalties to help Matthew Stafford sustain multiple long drives…including one starting at their own 2 where the first series should have been halted after the 3rd and 7 play.
They rebounded beautifully in the second half stifling both Stafford (who eventually left the game) and Megatron. Caused turnovers. Finally got pressure and sacks. Multiple tackles for loss in the running game. I just don’t understand why both halves couldn’t have been played with that same focus and energy. It’s not a good trend.
A win is a win. And this one was certainly prettier than the Seattle game. And the worst the Bears will end up after Favre Bowl 2K9 tonight will be in a tie for second in the North. Not a bad place to be.
Another solid game from Cutler. Not a flashy 300 yard game, but another multiple TD (2 passing, 1 rushing) and +100 QB rating effort for the Santa Claus, IN native. His yards total is deceiving at 141 because the Bears starting field position averaged at the LIONS 46. Hard to put up numbers on a short field…other than on the scoreboard.
Cutler’s big highlight was when he went all “Elway” on that first quarter rushing touchdown…the Bears only first quarter points (up until that point) all season. If you’re anything like me you’re happy Cutler has the drive to score but hope he never does anything like that again. I saw our season flash before our eyes…and it wasn’t pretty kids.
Random blast: Cutler’s initials are J.C. Coincidence?
Running Backs: B
Yes, Matt Forte finally go over 100 yards. Yes, Forte broke two big runs against the Lions. And, yes, normally a 121 yard, 1 TD, 10.1 rushing average game would garner an “A” from me…but take away those two runs and it was the same old plodding running game we’ve seen all year. You cannot discount his touchdown run or his 61 yard scamper in the first series, because when it comes down to it one 61 yard run is just as good as twelve 5 yard runs. But I’m still not 100% happy with the way the running game is progressing.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
No one put up big numbers (again: short field) but 7 receivers caught passes yesterday and when you can spread the ball around like that it’s a good thing. The Cutler bootleg to Olsen inside the 5 is quickly becoming the most predictable, yet still unstoppable, play in Ron Turner’s playbook…it’s like the one play in Madden that always works and you almost feel bad for using it as a crutch. And I’m becoming more of a Kellen Davis fan every week…how can you not like a 6’7” TE with catching ability? The wide receivers played well again…I cannot remember any significant drops this week for the second week in a row. Solid all around.
Offensive Line: B-
Last week I stated the O-Line wouldn’t get a grade higher than a C until they showed me some run blocking. They showed some…just some. So they get a little bump in the grade. The Lions were still able to get fairly successful pressure onto Cutler in the passing game…one time leading to the fumble lost by Jay. And Kreutz stepped on Cutler’s foot during a then crucial third and goal once again stalling a red zone running attack. The fact that our plays within the 5 are almost always passing (at least the successful ones) means either Turner has supreme confidence in Cutler scoring with his arm or feet and likes having the option…or there isn’t any confidence in our O-Line’s ability to provide enough push to score in the trenches. Still need to see more. Still think Omiyale is a second string player.
It’s hard to be too critical of a third string middle linebacker because, well, he’s a third string middle linebacker. Roach played OK…in the first half the Lions were attacking him with impunity and doing so successfully with the running game and passing game, primarily to TEs up the middle of the field. The Lions ability to move the ball at will in the first half was embarrassing, especially going 5/9 on third downs with a rookie QB. Like the rest of the defense it was a tale of two halves, so for one horrible half and one great one the LB corps gets a C+.
Lance Briggs played out of his mind once again and is a big reason for the C+ grade…without him you can remove the “+”. He led the team, tied with Manning, with 9 tackles…1 for a loss according to ESPN, leading me to think they missed a couple on the stat sheet. The bye week should be very helpful in getting Tinoisamoa healthy and possibly Hillenmayer back on the field.
Defensive Line: C+
Like with the LBs it was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the D-Line got not pressure, couldn’t stop the run, and couldn’t pressure Stafford in the passing game. 2J asked what my grade for the defense would be at the half and I responded with a J-.
However, the second half was a completely different story. Sacks (5 total for the game), fumbles, interceptions, stuffing the run…it was a thing of beauty. After putting 21 on the Bears in the first half, the Lions could only manage 3 points for the rest of the game. If the defense could play like that for 60 minutes they’d be one of the most formidable in the league. And they might need to step it up against Matt Ryan and Michael Turner after the bye week.
I hope Harris spends the week off resting and healing up…I still need to see him at 100% to have a full effect on the game. Idonije had a minor knee procedure performed today, but should be ready for Atlanta…Izzy is, in my opinion, the greatest bargain at D-Line in the game.
Not to be redundant, but it was also a tale of two halves with the secondary. The defense as a whole, particularly the secondary, made Stafford look like Joe Montana yesterday in the first half. He was picking apart the Bears at will and eventually ended up with just under 300 yards on the day before leaving, the lion’s share (pun entirely intended) in the first half. Between Stafford and Culpepper, the Lions racked up 308 passing yards, which is just way too much. After the halftime adjustments and with the help of an effective front 7, the passing game was shut down for the rest of the game salvaging a C for the unit. Tillman took over the duties of covering Calvin Johnson and held him to 14 second half yards.
Special Teams: A+
I haven’t seen a game so thoroughly dominated by special teams in a long time. The return game was so good the Bears average starting field position was at the Lions’ 46 yard line. That’s ridiculously good. No matter if it was Knox, Bennett, Manning, or Hester ,the Bears returners sliced open the Lions ST unit at every turn. Robbie Gould hit a 52 yard field goal despite the announcers harping on how he is terrible from beyond 50, finishing a perfect 2/2 on FGs and 6/6 PATs. Brad Maynard was sticking the Lions up against their own goal line all day long. Dave Toub’s unit completely dominated the game.
Lovie lost another dumb challenge but that’s really the only sore spot I can think of in this game as far as coaching decisions. The defense played horribly in the first half but the adjustments righted the ship at halftime and they returned to form playing well the rest of the way. The offense was efficient and had some semblance of a running attack. I cannot really attack Turner this week as his phase accounted for 35 of the 48 points on Sunday.