The optimistic Chicago Bears fans will say the bounces just didn’t go the Bears way in tonight’s Sunday night nationally televised game against the Atlanta Falcons. The realist will look at the same game and say that the Bears found yet another way to themselves in front of a nationwide audience, losing on the road to the Falcons 21-14. The Bears treat nationally televised games like a child’s trip to the dentist. Lots of fumbling, mental and physical mistakes and stupid penalties marred tonight’s latest sub-par prime time performance. Once again, there is a big question mark hanging over the head of Bears head coach Lovie Smith when it comes to the quality of weekly game-time preparation.
The Bears looked rusty from the outset of tonight’s game, treating the red zone more like a demilitarized zone on the offensive side of the ball. Execution in the red zone, offensively, hurt the Bears tremendously. Bears RB Matt Forte’s two fumbles in a row inside the 5-yard line was the missed opportunity that was the difference maker. Forte began his careers with an amazing 2 fumbles in 480 touches before those 2 consecutive fumbles on the goal line. Defensively, the Bears started strong, with 3 straight three-and-outs to start the game…..until the no-huddle neutralized the Bears defense. Combined with the untimely turnovers, the Bears continued to not just shoot themselves in the foot, but empty the entire clip along the way.
Huge penalties by OT Orlando Pace and OG Frank Omiyale on the final drive of the game killed a promising charge led by QB Jay Cutler and various Bear receivers who are improving with each passing week. Cutler didn’t walk away without his small share of blame, with his 2 ill-timed interceptions and more than a couple of balls thrown behind or overthrown to receivers. At this moment, the Bears offensive line is the glaring weak point of the team. The lack of successful run blocking has stuck out like a sore thumb this season.
At any rate, all the Bears demons came out tonight. Two Sunday night, NBC prime time games, two embarrassing, bone headed performances. Listening to NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth describe the play of the Bears is like listening to a sadistic parent criticize the performance of a shell-shocked, underachieving child. The contrast between his analysis of the Bears and the Falcons was virtually night and day. It’s almost as bad as listening to former analyst John Madden’s love for anything Brett Favre. Something about NBC Sunday Night Football brings out the dark side of once promising, talented analysts. Mr. Collinsworth, if you want to see a top notch analyst in action, tune in to ESPN’s Ron Jaworski for a lesson in expert analysis.
Upon further examination of the remaining Chicago Bears schedule for 2009, there are 3 more nationally televised games left on the schedule, plus the NBC Sunday night flex schedule that could potentially add additional prime time opportunities for the Bears. At this rate, the Bears could be flexed out of the playoffs by NBC and Cris Collinsworth, or their unmitigated, performance anxiety brought about by prime-time television.