A win tonight gives you a two-game lead with four games to go.
Play like you know that.
No pep talks.
No fight songs.
No passionate pleas for a passionate performance.
Just win the goddamn game. Whatever it takes.
I’ve already written about the schedular (new word) and spiritual significance of Sunday night’s game in Minnesota (ad nauseam) so I’ll shift today’s focus to actual football.
Here's four things. You guys to fill in the rest.
NO LONG RUNS
In three meetings against the Chicago Bears, Adrian Peterson has seven touchdowns – with 54, 67, 73 and 35 thrown in there. Short yardage rush touchdowns happen but if the Bears want to control the pace of play in the Metrodome, Mike Brown and Kevin Payne must keep AP from exploding through the third level. They do that and they’ll be able to force Sweet Gus to beat them in the red zone.
PRESSURE SWEET GUS IN THE RED ZONE
Gus isn’t going to elude a pass rush and make plays with his legs so it’s imperative that the front four get into the backfield and force him into bad decisions. When they played this team earlier in the season, Gus was being anointed the savior of the offense. That dog don't hunt no more. A lot of pressure on Adewale Ogunleye - who delivered a stat-padding, Yankees third baseman-like performance against a weak opponent a week ago.
Steve Rosenbloom and David Haugh each wrote about this game somehow being a referendum on Matt Forte’s ability to put the Bears on his back. I just don’t see it. If the Bears expect to simply line up and run up the gut, they’ll find themselves in long yardage situations all afternoon. This game will be about Kyle Orton’s ability to spread the field early and find mismatches in the not-so-good Viking secondary. Use both tight ends. Test their safeties with Hester deep. Hit Davis on the slant. Give Lloyd a couple jump balls.
BRAD MAYNARD, HOW 'BOUT IT?
Maynard simply hasn’t been good punting the ball all season, especially in big situations deep in our own territory. This is the kind of team that will capitalize on short fields and struggle going 80 or 90. I don’t quite know how to evaluate punting stats but I know that Maynard is 4th in total punts, 21st in net average and 31st in overall average. My eyes tell me those stats are probably pretty accurate.
MY ANSWER: I think the Bears are going to deliver their finest performance of the season Sunday night. I'm not sure why but I have the same feeling I had on the Wednesday before the season started.
Chicago Bears 33
Minnesota Vikings 13
After two record traffic months, I want to thank Bears fans everywhere for migrating towards our little site here. I’ll be back on Friday and Saturday with a preview of Sunday night – a game which is building within me emotionally as the minutes pass. I have a feeling we here at headquarters are on pace for a sleepless Saturday night.
This has been a bizarre season of blown leads and blown calls. Of injured ankles and injured egos. Of Cover 2s and cover nobodies. But here’s the question. Who – what single, individual one of us – would not have signed up for a division lead (tiebreaker or not) after eleven games? Even I, your optimistically fearless leader, would have put my name on the piece of paper that gave the Bears an opportunity to control their own playoff destiny with five games remaining.
And that’s not the only thing we have to be thankful for today. For the Bears have in their horn aplenty things we have not had in many-a-year.
Like a quarterback…
With his remarkable poise and control at the line of scrimmage, Kyle Orton has provided reason to believe the Bears have found a stabilizing force under center.
Like a running back…
Has any young offensive player inspired this much confidence since Neal Anderson? Rashaan Salaam had a nice rookie year rushing the ball, Anthony Thomas wrestled a job away from James Allen and Cedric Benson sure looked like a future horse but Forte’s versatility, humility and toughness bring a smile to every one of us who considers "Sweatness" the best there ever was.
Like Mike Brown…
He’s still playing...after eleven ballgames.
Like the left tackle…
John St. Clair ran a gauntlet of tremendous defensive ends early in the season and held onto his starting job even with the resurrected back of first round draft pick Chris Williams. St. Clair has been the ultimate symbol of arguably the most surprising unit in pro football this year.
What else is there? This is a league where getting into the postseason means you have shot, even the slightest shot, of winning it all. The Bears have that shot on Thanksgiving.
I’ve already taken some heat for declaring Sunday night’s game in Minnesota something other than a “must win” and I understand the dissenting opinion. With a division dead-locked and only five games remaining on the schedule, every game feels like a must win. But the logistics of the situation are simple. (1) A loss would only even the season series between the Vikings and Bears. (2) The Vikings end their season against the Cardinals, Falcons and Giants – they’ll be underdogs in all three. (3) A win Sunday night would mean absolutely nothing should the Bears lose to the Packers at home on December 22nd.
But who cares how we define Sunday night? Good teams, contending teams don’t care about the context. Good teams, contending teams smell blood in the water and close quickly. If the Chicago Bears want to make a serious run at a return trip to the Super Bowl, they begin Sunday night. This is the team that used a Sunday night in Indianapolis to surprise a media and fan base that came not to praise but to bury them. They used a Sunday night against Philadelphia to re-affirm their ability to mount a solid defensive effort, featuring a tackle to be forever known as "the clothesline". Now they must use the Sunday night pulpit to preach their intention to contend. Not just for the division but for the conference and league championships.
Crazy, you say? Crazy may be. I mean, seriously, THIS Bears team representing the NFC in Tampa Bay come February? But just consider what you’ll be feeling Monday morning should the Bears dominate the Vikings and fly home with a 33-10 win under their belt. Consider where your mind will wander should the defensive dominance in St. Louis look like less the exploitation of a bad club and more like a resounding response to a pathetic performance in Packerland. Consider how high you’ll believe the ceiling should Matt Forte hit triple digits, control the clock and out-rush the great one in purple.
So maybe this isn’t a “must win” ballgame. It IS a “can win”. And that should be more than enough inspiration for the Chicago Bears to play like their season depends on it.
I was lifeless Sunday watching the Chicago Bears beat up on one of the worst football teams I've ever seen on a television screen. Lifeless is really the only word. Victories simpy are not as much fun when the only emotion they spawn is overwhelming relief. Relief is something you should get from Rolaids and hard-throwing right handers. Not from beating the St. Louis Rams in the middle of November.
The Bears proved two things Sunday, both positive (1) They're not terrible. The Rams are terrible. (2) Their offensive future is currently on this roster at quarterback (Kyle Orton), running back (Matt Forte) and wide receiver (Devin Hester).
And its the latter that provides a genuine reason to watch these last five football games with eager anticipation. Even if you don't believe the Bears can go into Giants Stadium and win in January or even out-last the Packers/Vikings down the stretch, any fan would be foolish not to recognize that the Bears currently have their finest collection of young offensive talent in more than a few generations. These next five games will be about putting that unit under the microscope.
Starting Sunday. In Minnesota. In front of the country. This is not a "must win" game if the Bears are to make the postseason but it is for the Vikings - whose schedule simply won't allow them to overcome a third loss in the division. While the defense deals with the best back in football, the offense will have the opportunity to knock out a division rival.
Everything to this point in the season has been unexpected. Now the expectations soar. What the quarterback, running back and wide receiver do in the next five weeks might tell us everything we need to know about the next five years of Chicago Bears football.
Not Jeff. Jeff is in New Jersey today. It’s the Reverend.
While Jeff is hiding, here are some quick thoughts on the game:
• Judging by the number of comments (less than 50 after averaging well over a hundred the last 5-6 games) I guess everyone else was feeling the same way I was. This was a game you couldn’t get excited about. Losing brings despair for ’08 but winning, well it’s just the Rams. Still JV opponent or not it was a solid win and hopefully a much needed boost to the Bears tumbling confidence.
• Back in the early days of this blog I used to do a huge numbers column and Jeff used to laugh at me about how long it always was. Not going to go crazy on numbers today but there is one that has to be noted. Not his greatest performance but KO set a franchise record today with 185 consecutive passes without a pick. For a team that’s gone through the Rex rollercoaster and the Griese, Quinn, Hutchinson days that’s a pretty awesome record to see set. The fewer time Kramer appears in the Bears record book the better. (That said if we had played anyone other than the Rams KO would have had at least one if not two INT’s today.)
• Jeff and I discussed this. Clearly it seemed the Bears were trying to emphasize Hester’s role in the offense and he did a great job there but maybe they should pull him off punts too, at least for a little while. Looked like he was trying waaaay too hard on punt returns. He should never have fielded that first and Manning was looking great. He was one poor block from taking that one to the house.
• Finally the D-line showed up. Five sacks, all from the line. The Prince returned from whatever vacation he’d been on since Indy. Harrison was in the mix. Alex Brown played well and even Tommie decided to grab a couple. Seemed like we weren’t being quite so predictable with our pressure.
• That pressure led to four picks and the back-up QB. Proving that this team lives and dies by the turnover and just can’t get them without the D-line. Still, almost felt like the old Monsters of the Midway. Of course that will probably fool Babichpatch into thinking our D is what they thought it was. We aren’t, we still gave up some passes we shouldn’t but we weren’t letting them get the yards after the catch and Peanut, Vash and Graham seemed to be playing much tighter coverage.
• Matt Forte. What a beast. Awesome performance today. What he means to this team was summarized in the third quarter when on third and long and backed up to the goal line he took a little shovel pass and willed his way to a first down on a play I swore couldn’t gain a yard. Of course he shouldn’t have been playing at that point. The Bears are risking running him into the ground. They have apparently given up on Kevin Jones but the real AP was running well in the second quarter and with the game already well in hand I’d have saved his legs.
• Loved the aggressive, and for the Bears incredibly inventive, play calling by Ron Turner in the first half. An end around the actually worked (with a key block by KO who had no business blocking with that ankle.) some direct snaps to Hester, great stuff. And I was fine with dialing it back in the second half. We have a critical game next week no sense burning out all that innovation against the Rams.
• The concern as we look forward to the Vikings in primetime Sunday: injuries. KO is looking better and better but still dinged up. Mike Brown left with a lower leg injury and no one at Josies could figure out when and what caused it. Vasher didn’t finish. And I don’t think Des did either.
But overall we came out of this game with hope and after last week that’s good enough for me.
There will be no fight song today. No rah rah. No pep talk. Go out there and beat up a bad team. I'll be sitting at the Silver Bell Tavern in North Arlington, New Jersey - hoping for an easy afternoon. Give me a reason to be enthusiastic on Monday morning.
Lovie On the Rocks?
Steve Rosenbloom has the Chicago football writer line of the season: "Smith doesn't think extreme measures are needed, perhaps because he might be one of them." It didn't occur to me until reading this but if Lovie Smith & Company manage to lose to a brutal St. Louis ballclub Sunday, there's going to be an outpouring from fans and writers calling for Lovie Smith's firing - including myself. But let me say this: even though firing Lovie would be a completely legitimate football matter; firing a black head coach two years off a Super Bowl appearance would quickly become a racial matter. It would take a courageous organization to make that move. In other words, the Chicago Bears are not making that move.
Can the Chicago Media Please Stop?
I get it. Devin Hester is not having a good season returning kicks. But is that really worthy of being the lead football story in both the Sun-Times and Tribune? My answer is no. On my list of issues facing this organization over the last six games of the season, Hester's inability to break a big one on special teams actually ranks below Ron Turner's seemingly midsguided usage of #23 at wide receiver.
Can We Make Them All Shut Up?
The Sun-Times blog has an interview with Lance Briggs. Don't read it. Here's what you need to know. (1) The Bears can stop teams when they start wanting to. (2) It's not cute when teams can run and throw at you at will. (3) "So at some point we're going to have to grab ourselves and do something about it, or continue to be on other peoples' highlights.” It seems to me that every time this defense plays...all they do is grab themselves.
Last week I went out of my way to pick the Chicago Bears in a game I never believed for a single moment all week that they would win. This week I face the opposite problem. I’m trying to find a way to pick the Chicago Bears to lose a ballgame they’d have to go out of their way not to win.
Here are ten things the Bears have to do wrong to not beat the St. Louis Rams.
(1) Alex Brown and Mark Anderson have to fail to exploit a shaky left tackle position, now that Orlando Pace has been essentially ruled out for the next month.
(2) Kyle Orton has to continue to be hobbled by the bad ankle that plagued him throughout the debacle of a week ago.
(3) Ken Darby and Antonio Pittman have to gain yards on the ground. If they do, clean out the lockers at Halas Hall before the team gets back.
(4) The offensive line has to allow Leonard Little...
You know what? Forget it. The Rams lost to the 49ers last week by 19 points. They lost the week before to the Jets by 44 points. They stink. They worse than stink. They sub-stink. If the Bears are a team willing to fight like dogs over the next six weeks to win the NFC North and get themselves into the postseason with momentum, this game will be meaningless in the fourth quarter. If they’re not, they’ll allow Marc Bulger to throw uncontested all afternoon and have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to beat a team that lives there.
I have more faith than that...but not much more.
Chicago Bears 34
St. Louis Rams 10
And the other Sunday game of note…
Adrian Peterson should have a big game against the 20th ranked Jacksonville rush defense but when he doesn’t break long ones, Minnesota hasn’t had the easiest time putting the ball in the end zone (13 TD passes, 12 INTs on the season from their quarterbacks). Jax allows 21 points a game. The Vikes allow 23.4 points a game. That works. Jacksonville 23, Minnesota 21.
We're not going to waste a ton of time this week looking at the thirty-two clubs and the legion of football beat writers employed across the country. Instead we're taking a look at the last six weeks for the three leaders of the NFC North and discerning if any of the teams has a legitimate advantage.
It is time to forget, Lovie Smith believes. Forget these first ten games of the up-and-down 2008 campaign and concentrate on the six-game season in front of us. It is time to forget that in the five games since beating the Lions 34-7, the Bears have allowed 144 points. No. Lovie's right. It is time to forget.
Forget the golden years of Papa Bear and 73-0.
Forget Richard Marvin Butkus, once called by Sports Illustrated "the most feared man in the game."
Forget 85, 46 and the Buddy Ryan Monsters of the Midway.
If the Chicago Bears are going to make the postseason in 2008, they're going to have to do so with offense. Explosive offense. No more clock control and field position. No more "running off the bus." It's time to spread it out. It's time to involve everybody. It's time to put the season on Kyle Orton's big shoulders and fragile ankle. It's time to throw out the paradigm of "Chicago Bears football" and acknowledge this fact: if you don't score a lot, you're going to lose.
This starts against a Rams team that can't put the ball in the endzone but will. A Rams team that has no passing game but will feature a rejuvenated Mark Bulger Sunday. This Rams team also happens allow more yards than any team not playing in Detroit or Kansas City. They allow more points than anybody else in football. The Bears need to gear it up for the homestretch and Sunday provides the perfect opportunity.
A new philosophy takes the stage in St. Louis. Score. Every time you get the ball. Score. Because rest assured...the other team will score every time they get it.
Rick Morrissey had the following quote from Mike Brown in his Trib column. I'm staying true to my word and not adding anything of my own regarding this defense.
Our perception is that we have a good defense. The reality is we don't.
Our perception is that we have a good defense.
The reality is we don't.
The most honest and pointed criticism I've read all season from the only player who showed up yesterday.
I'm through writing and talking about the defense. The coaches stink. The scheme stinks. The players stink. So I'm no longer surprised when they let receivers run free in the secondary and allow quarterbacks forever to throw the ball. The not-stopping-the-run thing is new but not surprising. Stinky defenses will always find new ways to stink.
So this is it. I'm done. Not a word about these guys until something changes.
I'll have something of substance later.
Let me put something to bed right now: I want to go to the playoffs. Even if we have to back in with an 8-8 record and a collection of tiebreakers, I want to go to the playoffs. Even if the Chicago Bears lose in the first round, I want to go to the playoffs. Playoff football is unlike anything else on the planet and I just like being a part of it.
And let me also say this...I still love Packer week. It jazzes me up. It puts a little more strength in my wrist as a lift those pints of American beer to my mouth. It might have a little less luster without #4 under center but I still hate that team. Still hate that city. Still hate the concept of placing cheese on one's head in support of a ballclub. So the question...
Will the Chicago Bears beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday?
I don't know.
And that's the plain truth. I think this Bears team is better than this Packers team but I have lost faith in this defense and lost faith in this defensive coaching staff. I believe we'll score Sunday and score often, especially with a returning Kyle Orton and a dessimated Pack defense eager to be gashed by the Double Deuce. But I wonder if we can stop Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver from moving the ball down the field at will.
That's it, isn't it? Stop the pass. Stop the other team from completing the ball whenever they want and you'll win. Rivalry week is going to come down to not allowing the Rodgers to do what the Griese, the Ryan and the Collins did - look like a future Hall-of-Famer. Stop the pass. That's it.
I'll assume that won't happen...and pick the Bears anyway.
Chicago Bears 35
Green Bay Packers 34
And we're off...
Chicago @ Green Bay
I don’t want to talk much about this game (yet) but with the Packers losing Nick Barnett to a season-ending injury, the Bears should have a solid game on the ground. The Packers don't run it themselves and the Vikings managed to harass Aaron Rodgers in the pocket all day – sacking him four times and causing him to go 1 for 11 on 3rd downs. I repeat what I wrote yesterday: The Packers are against the ropes late in a fight and a loss on Sunday can knock out their season. Deliver the right hook.
New York Jets @ New England
I feel confident declaring this the most important game of the 2008 season thus far. Why? (1) It is essentially for the division title in the AFC East and possibly for the #2 seed in the conference. (2) This is the game the Jets acquired Brett Favre for and there isn't more pressure on a single player in the league this week. Failure and he'll face his first firing squad of the New York media. (3) There aren't two teams in the league that like each other less.
Denver @ Atlanta
The Denver Post runs a startlingly underwritten article on the salary cap's impact on the NFL. There are two sides on the issue: those who love parity and those who miss the dynasty days. I'm with the former. I love a league where fans for 32 teams enter every season believing their team can win it. Well...31...I mean....people in Detroit can't be stupid, can they?
Minnesota @ Tampa Bay
Mark it down. November 16th 2008. Scoreboard watching season officially begins for Chicago Bears fans. Hey Gruden and Garcia...get it down at home, please.
Baltimore @ New York Giants
I'm not a stats guy. But the Giants rank 4th in total offense and 2nd in scoring offense. They rank 3rd in total defense and 6th in scoring defense. If you gave me Giants or the field to win the Super Bowl, I'm taking the Giants.
Detroit @ Carolina
Apparently when you lose every single game, you completely lose your mind as well. This from Rod Marinelli:
“You’re in this dark tunnel and you’ve got no way out...You’re waiting for light, and you see that light, what do you do? What do you do? You start digging and getting out. … I’ve always believed you stay in the tunnel and you keep digging when you expect no light. You have the same faith when you expect no light. You have the same belief in what you’re doing when you expect no light. … It’s dark and I’m going to dig through. My shovel is sharp and my pick is sharp and my will is outstanding.”
My shovel is sharp?
Philadelphia @ Cincinnati
I know I hate the Eagles. My brother reminds me every time we talk football on the phone. "You hate the Eagles," he says. Well the folks covering the team don't have a ton of respect for them either. Best part of the article: "The Eagles' five wins this season have been against teams that, as of Monday, were 18-26. Their four losses have been against teams that are 24-12." Those are just facts. By comparison, the Bears have beaten three teams with winning records, including the Eagles.
Oakland @ Miami
Chad Pennington - MIA - 66.5% - 2,200 yds - 244.4 per - 8 TDs - 5 INTs - 92.6 rating
Brett Favre - NYJ - 68.8 % - 1,979 yds - 219.9 per - 16 TDs - 12 INTs - 89.8 rating
Which one goes to the Pro Bowl? (Answer: Chad Pennington)
New Orleans @ Kansas City
And the Josie Woods Awards for Best Bar in New Orleans goes to Coop's Place. Whether you're gorging on the rabbit and sausage jumbalaya or downing one of Fay's pitch-perfect hurricanes, there just isn't a French Quarter spot more perfectly suited for dancing around a pool table to Reba McIntire's version of "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."
Houston @ Indianapolis
With the Colts reaching the favorable part of their schedule, how odd is it to think the two wildcards teams in the AFC could be Indy and New England?
St. Louis @ San Francisco
Is there was a way to track the individual game ratings on DirecTV? Because this is the only game being played this week where neither team has any possible hope of making the playoffs.
Arizona @ Seattle
Remember in 2006 there was this big debate over Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler? The three teams that drafted those guys are starting Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins and Jay Cutler.
Tennessee @ Jacksonville
Apparently Jags defenders were laughing at how bad the Lions are this past week. You know what? Jacksonville is 4-5. That's a losing football team. Relax.
San Diego @ Pittsburgh
Don't care. Know I should. But I don't.
Dallas @ Washington
For those of you who didn't see Cowboys corner Mike Jenkins wave lazily at Derrick Ward of the Giants as he ran to the endzone, the video is here and it is pathetic. So how does Wade Phillips respond to a player who clearly needs to be made an example of? "Players sometimes think it's all negative from coaches and you gotta watch that. It can go the other way. We try to talk about positive things, too."
Ladies and gentleman, some head coaches stink for a reason.
What is it about leaders from the state of Texas that makes them sound like hopeless morons when they say phrases like “stay the course.” President George W. Bush – he of the approval rating south of post-Watergate Nixon – said that “those who don’t want to stay the course side with the terrorists.” He was talking about the Iraq War, not the Bears beyond-porous pass defense. Lovie Smith – he whose tone often equates any and all critics with terrorists – said, “stay the course and things will be okay.” He was talking about his failing defensive scheme which has led offensive coordinators to abandon their run games early and throw on every down. Why? Because it works.
Albert Einstein is famously quoted, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” He also once said, “I don’t know much about this relativity business but I know you gotta pressure the quarterback.”
Sunday - against Tennessee - the Chicago Bears defense illustrated clearly what the Chicago Bears offense has been hiding all season long. They're not very good. The Bears have yet to win a ballgame where they've scored less than 24 points. Read that sentence again. You don't want to? Too bad. The Bears have yet to win a ballgame where they've scored less than 24 points. Here's a sad fact: the defense allowed less points a year ago. Remember a year ago? When they had their entire secondary injured?
With apologies to Susan Powter, it is time to stop the goddamn insanity. The Bears must adapt from their stubborn philosophies or risk blowing a prime opportunity to reach the post-season. They have their three most difficult division contests and the game's most prolific offense in the final two months. If they insist on waiting for "things" to be "okay" they'll be doomed to an 8-8 year (at best). If this team fails to win the division, a convincing case can be made for the firing of their head coach.
The Packers are against the ropes late in a fight and a loss on Sunday can knock out their season. Deliver the right hook. Knock these cheese-loving pricks out. Send the house at Aaron Rodgers. Treat this rivalry like it's important to you because it's damn sure still important to us. Play defense with an offensive mindset.
Either that or you'll wake up Monday morning in third place in the NFC North.
“You have to let him work through some of the things.”
That’s how Lovie Smith described Rex Grossman’s performance yesterday.
“You have to let him work through some of the things.”
Work through some things? I’m not going to waste a ton of time today breaking down Rex Grossman. He missed wide open receivers all over the field all day long. You know why? He’s terrible. Yesterday the Bears needed a quarterback to win a winnable game against a good team. They didn’t have one. If I’m the Bears, I start Caleb Hanie if Kyle Orton can’t go next week. Not because he gives us a better chance to win but because I don’t want to see Grossman play sports anymore.
By the way, Lovie Smith, here’s a warning. You’ve been beaten by Brian Griese, Jake Delhomme, Matt Ryan and Kerry Collins. Not exactly a Mount Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks. I didn’t mind seeing Delhomme make perfect throws and Calvin Johnson win jump balls in the endzone. But Kerry Collins was throwing to wide open receivers on third down every time I looked up. Sunday you’ll face the most dynamic passing offense you’ve faced all season and unless you and “Not” 2B come up with creative ways to get to Aaron Rodgers, you’ll be looking at a 40 on the scoreboard.
There were a lot of positives yesterday. Mike Brown and the rush defense were brilliant. Matt Forte is incredible. Devin Hester made a great catch. But ultimately I can’t put much stock in a loss that involves #8. They allowed 21 points – which defenses are allowed to do – but couldn’t find a play from under center. The Bears need to survive however long he’s in there and gives themselves a chance to win the division. That starts Sunday.
This is Packer week.
Here’s what the Tennessee Titans want to do: run the football on every single down (34.1 times a game) and keep your offense out of the endzone (top scoring defense in football). It’s clock control. It’s field position. It’s making a play or two in the passing game late to give yourself a chance for a winning field goal. It’s 8-0.
The Bears will beat the Titans by doing what they’re supposed to do every week: stop the run and make plays. So it’s pointless for me to preach about the importance of Craig Steltz’ tackling in Mike Brown's spot and the push from the middle of the offensive line. Sunday is not a complicated game.
It'll come down to three individuals:
With Brandon Lloyd supposedly returning from a quietly serious knee injury, Hester’s role on Sunday should be as similar to his 2007 role as possible. A couple deep shots down the field to loosen the defense and a renewed focus on the return game. This is the first time all season the Bears have needed a big time performance from their return game. He breaks one, they win.
His botched kick late against Detroit was eerily reminiscent of Peanut’s personal foul and Squibgate. Neither of these teams is going to have much success dealing with 80+ yard drives and if Maynard can pin the Titans inside the five a few times, the Bears defense can change the game. He needs to deliver his best performance of the season.
Listen, I love Robbie Gould. He’s the most accurate kicker in the history of the franchise and has improved tremendously on his kickoffs, knocking balls routinely to the goal line. But I’ve got the feeling we’re going to need more than 48 out of that right leg on Sunday. The questions is...can Robbie do it?
Last night in the shadow of Soldier Field in the city of Chicago, a black man addressed thousands as the elected President of the United States. On a great night for the greatest of countries, a Bears fan took the highest office in the land. America has captivated, shocked, frightened, angered and confounded me over the years. Last night...America impressed me.
I woke up this morning, nursing a Heineken headache, to the realization that I write theatre for a living. I woke up knowing that across the country, thousands have come to this site for the legally-given right to speak their mind about the team they love. I live in a country that has allowed me to be what I want to be, do what I want to do and love what I want to love...as long as that's not a man in the states of Arkansas, Florida and California. (We're not there yet.)
Whether you voted for him or not, take note: this is an amazing moment for this country. As you're watching the Bears beat the Titans (with Kyle Orton possibly at quarterback), raise a glass to the new America.
And when the Bears kickoff a playoff game in January, there'll be rooting interest in the Oval Office.
Note: Vote. Seriously...it's quite a cool thing we got going on here.
What has to be wrong with an individual's personal existence for them to boo the back-up quarterback of a first place football team when he comes into a game in an attempt to lead the team to victory? What has to be missing when he/she looks in the bathroom mirror each morning?
Rex Grossman is not a great quarterback. Hell, he might not even be a good quarterback. But it looks like Sunday he is going to be the quarterback for the Chicago Bears. If you plan to attend Sunday's game and trash him, do me a favor: sell your damn tickets to someone else. Sell them to some kid who relishes every opportunity to see his ballclub play. Sell them at discount to the out-of-towner who considers a visit to Soldier Field like a trip to the Holy Land. Hell, I don't care if you sell them to a Titans fan. I just don't want you there.
Brian Urlacher says about Rex, "Lucky for him he's resilient and he came back and led us to two scoring drives. But man, it's tough." The question is simple: would you rather win Sunday or see Rex fail? If the answer is the latter, you're not a fan of this team and I'd prefer you spend a few minutes each day somewhere else. If you want this team to win a big game against a big time team, let #8 know you're behind him Sunday. Even if only for a few weeks.
In the meantime, take another look in that mirror. Maybe it's not Rex you hate so much.
P.S. Seriously...go vote.
Rex Grossman will start Sunday for the Chicago Bears, barring an unexpectedly miraculous recovery from Kyle Orton. Rex Grossman will start at home in front of a fan base just dying to shout obscenities in his direction. He’ll start against the top defense in the NFL and the only undefeated team remaining. He’ll start for a team no one believed would find themselves protecting a first place lead halfway through the season.
As good as the Titans are, they don’t match up particularly well against the Bears. They run on first-and-ten. They run on second-and-seventeen. They run on third-and-twelve. (I saw all three of these situations against the Packers.) They have a racio-alcoholic statue quarterback with a long delivery and a receiving core that features Justin “I’m total crap” Gage. They want to run the ball and the Bears can stop the run. So Sunday – at Soldier Field – the Bears will have an opportunity to win the football game.
But if you think Jeff Fisher and Albert Haynesworth are going to allow Matt Forte to repeat his second half performance, you ain’t watched the Titans play. If the Bears are going to win they’ll need a play or two from #8. Just a play or two. That’s all.
And call me crazy…but I think they just might get it…and announce themselves as contenders in the NFC. At least until they have to defend the pass again.
Sometimes you just have to take the win and get ready for the Tennessee Titans. That's how I'm approaching this hapless first half performance that was punctuated by the injury to our emerging franchise quarterback. Take the win and get ready for the Tennessee Titans. I'm also approaching in this manner because my body is worn out by five terrific days spent throughout the American southeast and the city of New Orleans.
Ten quick ones...more tomorrow.
1. Call me crazy but I don't think Kyle Orton is going to play any time soon.
2. That second half performance by Matt Forte - when his team desperately needed it - is the reason I think the Double Deuce is going to a star for a long time.
3. Fix the field. That was a tragedy.
4. So is the deal that we CAN'T stop both the pass and the run? There are two Packers games and a Saints game left on the schedule. All three are definite losses should this not get fixed.
5. Good to see Tommie Harris look like a force up the middle.
6. When we look back at 2008, two terrific defensive plays may have saved the season: Lance Briggs' tackle and fumble recovery & Craig Steltz picking off a ball on the goal line.
7. Good for Rex Grossman. He held his own in a difficult situation in front of a fan base that wants his head. What's his reward? A likely start against the best unit in the league.
8. Nathan Vasher might just need to get the hell off the field. He looked lost all game long. It's okay for a corner to allow a completion but not behind him in the endzone and not without attempting to make a tackle.
9. Brad Maynard's punt had the ring of Charles Tillman's personal foul and Lovie Smith's squib kick...I just thought the game was over. Lance Briggs disagreed.
10. We'll know a lot about the Chicago Bears in seven days.
See ya tomorrow...
Your 2008 Chicago Bears
You've had a week off, how about some defense and a win today boys?
Jeff, feel free to fire me as your erstwhile contributing reporter – deadline for me was Friday to do a pre-game post, and life intervened. Was going to do it last night, but with #1 Texas going to Lubbock to see #6 Tech, that game took precedence over my treasured but unpaid second (actually about 5th) job. And what a heartbreaker it was – (in best Brent Musbergian tones) – “Folks, if you missed that game, you missed a doozy!”
On to more important things – today’s matchup. [Hubris Alert – Warning to the Superstitious – Stop Reading Here] This game is going to be nothing but pure, unadulterated joy if you’re a Bear fan. Nothing to worry about, nothing to fear, everything to look forward to. The question isn’t whether we win, it’s by how much and in how pretty a fashion. It ain’t next week’s Texas vs. Baylor but it’s closer than you think. The Lions have NOTHING to play for except pride, and if you’re a Detroit Lion, pride pretty much snuck out of your duffel bag about two days after you had the unfortunate luck to be added to the team. You know things will get better in the future because the NFL’s version of Isaiah Thomas was finally exorcised, but the future is not now – now you’re playing out the string, looking for one win so you keep your good name out of the Record Books of Hell but you’re not looking this week – not against the Bears, not at Soldier Field, not after the much-needed bye week. In this game you’re just looking to get out of the arena with all of your body parts in place.
So given my premise that there’s nothing to worry about here, what should we focus on today?
1) Kyle Orton’s continued march to the top of the NFL quarterbacking ranks. If he keeps going like this and the Bears make the playoffs, he’ll be in the running for MVP. And that’s pretty amazing. Today’s a day to pad the stats, although Kyle would never give one thought to that – he’s good that way. Not at all self-absorbed. And built like a winner. Getting better by the game.
2) Devin Hester gets off the schneid – returns one for a touchdown. These aren’t going to be kickoffs either – Lions aren’t going to get to score much in this game, so we’re talking punts, and a lot of them. His first return of the season will come on a punt return, and it’ll come in the first half. The second will come in the second half. Two for the game.
3) Looks like this may not be the week for Brandon Lloyd to come back, so that ruins that storyline. So this week, it’s Devin, Rashied, Marty – can Devin continue his undeniably consistent progression into a real receiver, and can Rash and Marty play important roles by being sure-handed?
4) Greg Olsen continues his ascendance as a top flight NFL receiving tight end. Watch for him to add more big catches to his already good season, and watch him to continue to improve his YAC, which was moribund at the beginning of this season but is now improving week to week.
5) Watch the pass rush get to the Russian. I think most would agree that this unit has been the most disappointing on the D, since they have by and large had their health yet not gotten to the QB. To their credit, we’ve played against some pretty stout offensive lines of late. Lions don’t have one of those. Orlovsky has been a mistake-minimizer (is he kind of like the Kyle Orton of 2005 – but without any D to win games for him?) but today he’s going down. Line’s going to play like a beast.
6) How does Nick Roach do in place of an injured Hunter Hillenmeyer? There’s been a lot of low-key dissension around here about exactly how good Hunter is. I’m with Jeff on this, I think he’s better than we think – but I’m certainly not sure about my opinion. Let’s see how the younger Roach does. If he stinks I guess we’ll get to see some Jamar too.
7) Vasher is NOT losing his job to Corey Graham. I’m not sure where that rumor popped up, but Vasher at 100% is the second best corner on the team. He hasn’t been 100% for a while so maybe that’s the rub. But it looks like he’ll be on the field. Time to do something to bring back the long-shelved “Interceptor” nickname.
8) Matt Forte. Nuff said.
Fire up yer brats, ice up yer Old Style, grab yer nuts (well not in front of the kids) – and watch a (new-style) Old Style beat down of the Detwa Lions.
3 offensive tds, 2 Hester ST tds, 1 defensive td, 42-3.
(Oh, and Packers get pummeled by the Titans)
Bears move to 5 -3. Sole possession of first place.
BEAR DOWN AMERICA!!!!!!