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Chicago Bears Beat Themselves, Green Bay Packers Are Beneficiaries

Posted by sportsmaven on September 14, 2009

Chicago Bears fans, welcome to the Jay Cutler era.  Don’t you wish you had QB Kyle Orton today?  It is incredibly easy to put all the blame on the horrific play of QB Jay Cutler, but he had plenty of help from his teammates and the coaching staff tonight in a 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers.  This truly was a total team effort.  The Bears made key mistakes on offense, defense, and special teams.  There was bad playcalling, missed blocking, tackling and coverage assignments, dropped balls, receivers quitting on routes.  The expectation is that no team in the NFL plays an entirely perfect game, but the totality, timing, and magnitude of the mistakes is startling and alarming.

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

The Bears dominated the Packers statistically tonight, but overcoming the many mistakes that were made tonight proved to be beyond the realm of the Bears performance tonight.  Glaring mistakes include:

  1. Cutler’s 4 interceptions — pick one, they were all devastating
  2. CB Nathan Vasher’s blown coverage on Packers WR Greg Jennings 50-yard touchdown, inexcusable
  3. Upsnap from long snapper Patrick Mannelly — the boneheaded play of the game, giving the Packers an easy FG with the Bears leading by 2 points
  4. WR Johnny Knox and TE Desmond Clark quitting on routes — dumbfounding
  5. Game management, especially in the 2nd half, burning timeouts including one on a ill-fated challenge on the failed upsnap play.
  6. TE Greg Olsen — where were you?

I don’t want to take anything away from the Packers, they had to capitalize on the errors the Bears were making.  They didn’t capitalize on every mistake, but the Bears kept them in the game, giving the Packers opportunities time and time again to convert, and I don’t think any Bears fan was comfortable when the Bears kicked the last field goal to take the lead 15-13 with 2:36 left in the game.

So what did the Bears do right?  I liked a number of things:

  1. Receivers played better than expected.  WR’s Devin Hester and Earl Bennett had nice games.  Knox had a good game minus the bailout on the slant pattern
  2. The Bears have a pass rush!  Defensive Line coach Rod Marinelli gets a game ball for getting this group of lineman to constantly pressure Packers QB Aaron Rodgers into an average night (until the last, late TD pass)
  3. Tackles Orlando Pace and Chris Williams were blowing people off the ball with their strong play
  4. SS Al Afalava had a strong game, with 4 tackles and a sack.  Afalava has a nose for the ball and plays big, something the Bears defense needs
  5. P Brad Maynard punted out of his mind tonight, pinning the Packers with bad field position, with 4 punts for 49.5 yard average with 2 punts inside the 20.  Maynard is definitely a weapon for the Bears.

So what do you think the Bears (we hope) learned tonight?  Hopefully plenty:

  1. Jay Cutler can’t win games all by himself.  He needs help and didn’t get much from his receivers (especially the TE’s), early play-calling, and early blocking from a OL that came out of the gate creaky.  Cutler’s bad decisions led to disaster tonight.
  2. Nathan Vasher is not nearly the same player that he was in his 2005 Pro Bowl season.  He is back-up material at best.  Get CB Zackary Bowman in there, early and often.  The Bears secondary leaves Green Bay with the same questions it had going in to Green Bay.
  3. Receivers can’t quit on routes and need to get on the same page with Cutler pronto.  There play wasn’t good enough tonight, especially Olson and Clark.  Clark quitting on that pass in the end zone in the first half was absolutely inexcusable.  He keeps running, easy TD.
  4. Even coaches need to work on fundamentals.  Bad offensive play calling through most of the first half, the ill-advised challenge in the second half on the upsnap play marked and the general look of unpreparedness that seemed to hover around the team, especially the offense.

The Bears play their home opener next Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and may have to play without the heart and soul of their defense, LB Brian Urlacher, strong side LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, and backup CB Trumaine McBride.  The offense needs to step it up three notches and the defense another notch to compete with the Steelers.  Only time will tell if that is realistic, or if the Bears move through the toughest part of their league’s easiest schedule with more blemishes.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Chicago Bears 9-7 Season Clouds Failures In Judgement

Posted by sportsmaven on December 29, 2008

The Chicago Bears are not the Detroit Lions, but at the completion of today’s play, they have gotten as far as the Lions did this season, which to say, is out of the playoffs.  That comparison is certainly extreme, as the Bears do not have the same amount of holes that the Lions have, but a 9-7 finish that surprised many have clouded severe failures of judgement made by the football leadership of this team.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Perhaps the most glaring failures are with a Chicago Bears defense that opened the season very motivated in a win over the Indianapolis Colts, but sunk to maddening lows in crushing defeats by the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings amongst others.  Bears head coach Lovie Smith was asked about replacing defensive coordinator Ron Rivera shorly after the Bears loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.  This is where Love broke out his now infamous “Trust Me” speech.

“You should trust me as a head football coach to put us in the best position to win football games,” Smith said. “It’s as simple as that.”

And that was Lovie’s reasoning to why he chose to replace Ron Rivera with BFF Bob Babich.  Since Rivera was replaced, the Bears defense has plunged to embarassingly low depths in both prestige and performance.  In 2006, teams feared and respected the Bears defense.  Ask the Arizona Cardinals, despite then-Coach Dennis Green’s post-game rant.  Now, teams just run over the Bears defense.  Case in point:

  • The Houston Texans racked up 455 yards of total offense and 31 points in a Week 17 victory.
  • The Packers ran the Bears for 427 yards and 37 points in Week 11 pasting of the Bears.
  • The Vikings racked up 439 yards and 41 points in a Week 7 loss to the Bears.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran up 454 yards and 27 points  in a Week 2 Bears debacle.

These are numbers that nearly all Chicago Bears fans find unacceptable.  It should be unacceptable to Lovie Smith as well, but somehow, it isn’t, which leads back to the Trust Me speech and the fact that I can no longer trust Lovie Smith to make correct decisions when he has yet to acknowledge that the two biggest staff decisions of his coaching tenure were complete and utter failures (remember the Terry Shea mess?)

Secondly, the Bears personnel decisions and evaluations are skeptical at best and leave even casual fans wondering if the Bears are able to effectively evaluate talent.  Consider the players the Bears kept:

  • WR/KR Devin Hester signed a $40M contract extension and was made a WR, neutering his return skills (0 TD’s)
  • LB Brian Urlacher was given a lucrative contract extension for 88 tackles, no sacks, and no Pro Bowl selection
  • DT Tommie Harris signed a large contract extension only to play about a half season due to injury/ineffectiveness
  • WR Earl Bennett was drafted to compete for a starting position; he ends up catching 0 passes for the season.

and the players the Bears decided to let go:

The Bears have also missed on numerous players in the draft as well, as noted in past posts.  The level of talent on the Bears has receded dramatically since the 2006 Super Bowl season, which means that the Bears braintrust has not made moves in personnel and coaching to build off their success.  Now Bob Babich is on the hot seat.

The Bears clearly need to admit that they made severe errors in judgement in replacing Ron Rivera with Bob Babich.  They need to admit that they made errors in personnel and they need to correct these errors in the offseason.  A 9-7 record is something to build from, but if the failures of judgement are not corrected, this may be the best it will be under Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith.

Extras:

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Chicago Bears Don’t Take Care Of Business Yet Again

Posted by sportsmaven on November 30, 2008

These are the games that kill the Chicago Bears….kill them in so many ways.  The Bears had a prime opportunity to take the drivers seat in the division, establish momentum going into a 3 game homestand, build on a win over the St. Louis Rams, and show a national television audience that your team is for real.  The only thing standing in the way was the Minnesota Vikings, or the Bears themselves.  The Bears played a fairly strong 25 minutes in the first half.  The rest of the game was a unmitigated nightmare.

Chicago Bears Lose to Minnesota Vikings 34-14

Chicago Bears Lose to Minnesota Vikings 34-14 (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The most upsetting aspect of tonight’s game is the Bears complete lack of fundamentals of the game of football.  Numerous missed tackles, dropped passes, lack of blocking, blown coverages, bad reads by the quarterback, bad playcalling, poor coaching decisions.  If it was bad, the Bears did it, and did it on national television.  These are the games that people remember when asked about their opinion of the Chicago Bears.

Tonight’s game was turned on two plays, the 4th down stop by the Vikings on the 1 yard line and on the ensuing play, the 99 yard touchdown pass from Vikings QB Gus Frerotte to WR Bernard Berrian.  Two plays, game over, on both sides of the ball.  From the Bears performance tonight, there are 5 key takeaways:

1.  If you can’t gain a yard on 4 plays for a touchdown, you don’t deserve to win any games, period.  Any play that takes away touches for Bears RB Matt Forte is a bad play, especially on the goal line.  Take that fullback handoff and put it in the shredder, right now.  Give your best players as many chances as possible to succeed.  So, the right call is Forte three times and if that doesn’t work, if you’re on the road, take the points, always.

2.  It doesn’t matter how fast your players are if they can’t catch the ball or make tackles.  The problem tonight wasn’t getting to Vikings RB Adrian Peterson.  The Bears actually did that very well.  It was getting him down that was the problem.  Peterson was throwing Bears off of him like little rag dolls.

3. Coaching out of fear leads to coaching not to lose games, leads to losing games.  Poor playcalling on the offensive side of the ball leads to pressing and non-confidence.

4.  Bears RB Matt Forte is the MVP of the Chicago Bears and is the only Chicago Bear player that consistently looks ready to play every single week.  For long stretches of the game, Forte was matching Adrian Peterson step for step, with the same toughness.  Forte had 96 yards rushing and another 29 yards receiving with a touchdown, against a Viking team that gives up 70 yards rushing per game.  Forte plays hard, looks prepared and ready to go and is the Bears most consistent and valuable player.  What would the Bears record be without Forte?

5.  The Bears appear to be undersized on both the offensive and defensive lines, not a successful formula for winning football.  Bears C Olin Kreutz is 290 lbs.  G Josh Beekman is listed at a generous 300 lbs. and G Roberto Garza is 300 lbs.  All are listed a 6’2″.  Vikings DT Pat Williams is 6’3″ 317 and DT Kevin Williams is 6’5″ 311.  Bears DT Tommie Harris is 6’2″ 290 up against Vikings DL that weigh more than 315-325 lbs.

Two extra nuggets — Bears QB Kyle Orton was making great progress in becoming more than a serviceable quarterback until his ankle injury against the Detroit Lions 4 weeks ago.  Since the injury, Orton has been shaky at best, missing a game, returning too early for the Green Bay loss, looking very average in the St. Louis game and having his worst game of the season in tonight’s game.  As of tonight, it appears that the injury has put Orton nearly back to square one in his development.  Secondly, another note on the Vikings 99 yard TD,  the Bears have given up the longest TD passes in both Monday Night Football (a 99 yard TD pass from Brett Favre to Robert Brooks of the Green Bay Packers in 1995) history and Sunday Night Football history, auspicious records for a team to hold.

So where do the Bears go from here?  First, the coaching staff needs to better prepare the players.  The one constant is that the Bears don’t seem to be a team that is consistently prepared week to week.  Part of the problem is that the Bears players may not be executing consistently week to week.  If that’s the case, the coaching staff needs to do a better job of identifying the players that make plays and get them more prominiently into the game plan, especially on the offense.  Do more with Matt Forte, WR Devin Hester, and TE Greg Olsen.

On defense, having a physical secondary is worthless when defensive backs never play press coverage.  This has been a glaring weakness that Bears opponents have taken advantage of in their game planning.  When the Bears use the WR screen offensively, its almost never effective because the opposing defensive backs are playing up on the Bears receivers, pressing them and forcing them downfield.  When the Bears play the WR screen defensively, it almost always works for the opposing team because the Bears don’t press opposing receivers, sometimes playing as much as 8 yards off the receiver before the snap.  This was witnessed firsthand tonight, when the Vikings converted two third downs via the WR screen and the 99 yard touchdown was thrown to a WR that was allowed to run free from the snap.

Ultimately, these are coaching decisions that contribute to what has been a very average season to date.  December is the time of the year to begin the work in developing sound game plans and executing them as flawlessy as possible.  December is the time where good teams become great teams and contenders become pretenders.  It’s a time to step up your play to another level and to a man, coaches included, with the exception of Matt Forte, nobody on the Bears has stepped up, and Matt Forte can’t do it all alone.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sportsmaven’s 2008 Fantasy Football Team Rosters

Posted by sportsmaven on October 1, 2008

I’ve been asked by more than one person about my prowess in fantasy football.  I have two teams and through week 4, my records are 4-0 in one league, and 3-1 in the other.  For those interested, below are my 2008 Fantasy Football team rosters:

Team 1: The West Coast Offense 4-0 record:

Team 2: Windy City Bombers 3-1 record:

Thoughts?  I tweak my rosters constantly, so these are not the exact teams I began with, nor will they be the teams I finish with, but the core players will remain the same.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Top 5 Reasons Why The Chicago Bears Lose Football Games

Posted by sportsmaven on September 22, 2008

The Chicago Bears have lost yet another game in this young season that they should have won.  Today’s loss makes two in a row, where the Bears have enjoyed statistical dominance, only to be trounced by late and furious comebacks by teams that are arguably average teams from the NFC South, in a weak National Football Conference.  Why are the Bears losing games to average teams that they should have closed out and put away?  There are 5 main reasons to explain the malaise this Bears team is facing after a very solid opening performance against the Indianapolis Colts to start the season:

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

1. Bears team unable to close out games – two weeks in a row, the Bears have lead games going into the second half.  Two weeks in a row, the Bears offense has chances to extend drives to put games away and don’t execute.  Two weeks in a row, the Bears defense has let teams come back to score the points that cost the Bears victories.  The 4th and 1 play against the Carolina Panthers last week, the 3rd and 2 play in today’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both situations and lack of execution on those plays highlight the Bears inability to close out games.  Then the tired Bears defense gets steamrolled by comebacks two weeks in a row.

The Bears need to develop some killer instinct and execution to put teams away, especially at the end of games.  The Bears should be 3-0 after this week, but instead they are 1-2 and play a very tough Philadelphia Eagles team this coming Sunday night.

2.  Too many mistakes and execution errors/lack of discipline – 22 penalties for 166 yards (average of 7 penalties for 55 yards per game), 4 key turnovers in the last two games.  Missed blocks, missed tackles, untimely penalties wiping out big offensive gains.  CB Charles Tillman’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the OT was a gamebreaker today.  In today’s game, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer makes a key mistake on the TD by Bucs TE Jerramy Stevens by not taking away the inside route.  The same mistake was made on the TD pass to WR Ike Hilliard earlier in the game.  TE Greg Olsen fumbling the only 2 balls he touches in the Carolina game, both because he failed to tuck the ball properly after making the reception.  These mistakes were minimized or hardly apparent in the opener against the Colts, but have been glaring the last two games, costing the Bears two victories against key NFC opponents.

3.  Questionable play calling and coaching – when Special Teams coordinator Dave Toub is calling more effective plays than your offensive coordinator, that could be a  sign that your team could be in trouble.  When Toub bailed out Ron Turner on yet another failed 3rd and 1 call this afternoon with the fake punt, 38 yard run by RB Garrett Wolfe, he did two things that Turner has yet to master this season: he called a play to pick up the yard, and he figured out a way to get Garrett Wolfe into the game.   RB Matt Forte is quickly emerging as a star.  Forte touched the ball on 46% of the offensive plays in the Buccaneers game, but on a crucial 3rd down and 2, he was nowhere to be found.  San Diego puts the ball in RB LaDanian Tomlinson’s hands in that position.  Minnesota gives it to RB Adrian Peterson when they absolutely need 1 yard to extend an offensive series.  Ten times out of ten, Turner needs to put the ball in Forte’s hands in that position.  Two weeks in a row, he has failed to make the correct call.

Lovie Smith failed to challenge the Darrell McClover strip in the Tampa Bay game.  Smith has had difficulties managing the challenge process and today was a glaring example of that difficulty.  Defensive coordinator Bob Babich made virtually no adjustments at halftime, particularly in stopping the Tampa Bay slant plays.  Buccaneers QB Brian Griese threw that slant for at least 15 completions today, mostly on 3rd and long situations.  The Bears have yet to stop that play.  The high marks the Bears staff received in preparation for the Colts game has been virtually wiped out by the Bears performance the last two weeks.  Of course, it is way easier to be prepared with you have six weeks to prepare for that first game.

4.  Inability to get key playmakers more touches – The Bears have 3 playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, WR Devin Hester, Forte and now WR Brandon LloydQB Kyle Orton may or may not be a playmaker, but that can’t be determined because the play calling has yet to establish Orton as a playmaker.  Until the second half of today’s game against the Buccaneers, the Bears have done a poor job of getting Lloyd more touches.  The Bears have also neglected to get Forte into more touches in key moments of the games, moments that would put games away.  Hester has yet to be a significant part of the weekly offensive gameplan and now he is injured.  Again, Turner has weapons that can be devastating with a little applied creativity.  Hester should get about 15-20 touches a game, and not just as an outside receiver.  The Bears need to use Hester like they use Forte – lineup in the backfield, receiver screen, slot receiver, on the end of the line at TE.  They need to make defenses have to game plan to stop the perception that Hester might be used.  This is a HUGE missed opportunity that needs to be exploited more going forward for the Bears offense to have any chance of winning.  Turner needs to unleash Orton more often.  The interception that Orton threw in the end zone of today’s game was actually not bad; it was nice to see Orton actually throw the ball down field.  Turner needs to move Orton around, roll him out a bit more, get the moving pocket working.  Orton took three sacks today, standing up as a statue in the pocket.  His best moments were in the 3 and 5 step drops where he can move the ball quickly.  The Green Bay Packers move QB Aaron Rodgers around all the time, with great success so far.  Give Orton a chance to make some plays.  I hate that the Bears set him up to “manage” football games.  That has to change if the Bears are going to move the offense to the next level.

5.  Lack of a NFL caliber offense – this is perhaps the biggest reason of all reasons that the Chicago Bears lose football games.  The offense is too bland, too conservative when it needs to be more dynamic.  The lack of playmakers is evident in the skill positions.  The most dynamic WR on the team is Hester, who also is the WR with the least amount of touches.  The most dynamic playmaker on the offense is Forte, but the Turner fails to get Forte the ball in key short yardage situations and on the goal line in consecutive weeks. The defense put the offense in great position on the first two series of the game, only for the offense to crawl into it’s conservative shell of bland, uninspiring playcalling, settling for two field goals when we really needed touchdowns, particularly on that first possession.  Comcast Sports Chicago pulled an interesting statistic today regarding the TD reception by Forte.  It was the first receiving touchdown the Bears have intentionally thrown to a RB in the last 116 games!  Turner has proven to be conservative to a fault precisely at the times where more dynamic touch is necessary. The Bears offense seems very predictable, with virtually no deep game to keep defenses honest.  This allows defenses to pick up tendencies before they happen, and with no deep game, defenses stack the line and box, forcing the Bears offense to work much harder for lesser output.  This explains how the Bears are so challenged at times to gain a yard on 4th and 1 situations.

The Bears have lots of work to do to reverse the disturbing trends of the last two weeks.  The big fear the Bears faced was losing the hard earned respect by the league that was garnered by the Colts win.  The Bears could either prove they were for real with a 3-0 record, but with every loss, the Colts victory becomes more of a fluke rather than the decisive victory that signaled that the Monsters of the Midway are back.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »