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)
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 Lloyd. QB 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: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Bob Babich, Brandon Lloyd, Brian Griese, Carolina Panthers, Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears, Darrell McClover, Dave Toub, Devin Hester, Garrett Wolfe, green bay packers, Greg Olsen, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Ike Hilliard, Indianapolis Colts, Jeramy Stevens, Kyle Orton, LaDanian Tomlinson, Lovie Smith, Matt Forte, NFC, NFC South, Philadelphia Eagles, Ron Turner, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 2 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on April 26, 2008
There have been countless mock drafts, endless expert analysis and general watercooler, beer garden, happy hour sports conversations on what exactly the Chicago Bears will do with their draft picks in today’s NFL Draft. The consensus? Nobody knows exactly what the Bears will do…..and that’s exactly the way that Bears GM Jerry Angelo likes it.
ESPN’s expert NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper thinks the Bears will go with a offensive lineman, specifically Vanderbilt OT Chris Williams. Todd McShay from Scouts, Inc is going with Boise State OT Ryan Clady (personally, I think he’ll be long gone by pick 14). Fox Sports analyst Jay Glazer has the Bears picking Illinois standout RB Rashard Mendenhall. And finally, the guru of all mock draft analysts, the most accurate mock draft expert, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning Star has the Bears choosing Virginia OG/OT Branden Albert. Other late circulating rumors have the Bears entertaining trade offers and the possibility of moving down in the draft (which is real, since Jerry Angelo seems to prefer that strategy over all others.)
One thing is certain about this draft: This is a make or break draft for Jerry Angelo. He has to hit big in this draft and he has to hit big with picks on the offensive side of the ball. The Bears have many holes to fill: OT, OG, WR, RB, possibly QB. The Bears need at least 2 starter grade picks out of this draft and and probably 4-5 major contributors in order to compete in the NFC this coming season.
The NFC will be a vastly improved conference this coming season, and in particular, the NFC North Division. The Minnesota Vikings look drastically improved with the addition of WR Bernard Berrian to strengthen the offense and DE Jared Allen to a underrated defense, the Detroit Lions look to make a step up from last season if they play their draft cards correctly and the Green Bay Packers are the reigning division champions, who many feel will drop off after the retirement of QB Brett Farve. (I believe the Packers will be in contention for the division title all season long.) In addition, teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks are bulking up to compete for the NFC crown.
The Bears hold 11 draft picks and 4 of the first 100 picks. The Chicago Tribune ranked the top GM’s in the NFL in terms of draft picks that went on to become starters in the league. The top GM was, surprisingly Arizona Cardinals GM (and former Bears Director of Pro Personnel) Rod Graves. The Bears Jerry Angelo made it into the top 10 at #10, mostly on the strength of his defensive picks. Offense has not been good to Jerry Angelo draft picks, which puts even more pressure on hitting this draft big. The Bears need playmakers, explosive players, football players, not combine gym rat types. Jerry Angelo stated this week that this was a 10 man draft at the top, which is not good if you hold the 14th pick. While I don’t envision Angelo trading up, it wouldn’t surprise me if he traded down. The OL pick in the first round seems to be the majority opinion in mock drafts and analyst opinions. Which means that it’s most likely Chris Williams. 2nd round RB and third round WR/OL. After that, it’s more of a crapshoot, which makes predictions a waste of good time. Good luck, Jerry Angelo……you’re going to need a lot of it.
By the way, some of the players I like in this year’s draft that I would be thrilled to see the Bears pick:
RB – Rashard Mendenhall, James Stewart, Ray Rice, Matt Forte
WR – Mario Manningham, Malcolm Kelly, Eddie Royal, James Hardy, Jordy Nelson
OL – Ryan Clady, Branden Albert, Chilo Rachal, Duane Brown, Anthony Collins, Chris Williams
QB – Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, Dennis Dixon
Safety – Tom Zbikowski
DT – Marcus Harrison, Pat Sims
LB – Jordon Dizon, Xavier Adibi
Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: 2008 NFL Draft, Anthony Collins, Bernard Berrian, Branden Albert, Brett Favre, Chad Henne, Chicago Bears, Chilo Rachal, Chris Williams, Dallas Cowboys, Dennis Dixon, Detroit Lions, Duane Brown, Eddie Royal, ESPN, green bay packers, James Hardy, James Stewart, Jared Allen, Jerry Angelo, Joe Flacco, Jordon Dizon, Jordy Nelson, Malcolm Kelly, Marcus Harrison, Mario Manningham, Matt Forte, Mel Kiper, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, NFC, NFC North, NFL, Pat Sims, Philadelphia Eagles, Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice, Rick Gosselin, Ryan Clady, Seattle Seahawks, Todd McShay, Tom Zbikowski, Xavier Adibi | 3 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on October 8, 2007
22After the Dallas Cowboys160167 game a couple of weeks ago, I began to doubt whether or not the Chicago Bears 161168had a jinx of their own. It seems as though the Bears can’t win a game on national television. The Bears record on Monday Night Football has been an atrocious 18-32 going into the 2007 season. Their record on Sunday Night Football has been a little better, 2-1 going into last night’s game with the undefeated Green Bay Packers162169.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
With the Cubs death spiral in the playoffs, as well as the 1-3 start for the Bears, going into last night’s game, many thought it would be a long winter for sports in Chicago. After the first two drives, it was going to be a REALLY long winter, as the Bears looked about as bad as you could look. But they were still in the game, trailing only 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and 17-7 going into halftime. The Packers somehow couldn’t get past the Bears, keeping them in the game with turnovers, penalties, and mistakes.
ESPN made some references to airing Lovie Smith’s halftime speech to the Bears, but it never made any mention of it after that teaser and I fell asleep waiting for it, so I never got to see it, but whatever he said, it must have worked, as the Bears finally showed up in the second half, played good football, and won the game 27-20.170
I have to admit that the Bears didn’t look very dominant in any phase of the game last night. They looked over-matched both offensively and defensively in the first half. The defense came out much tougher in the second half and the offense did just enough to capitalize on sloppy play by the Packers, but I felt that the the outcome wasn’t so much a Bears victory as it was a Packers loss. I am still not convinced that the offense is much better than it was. Bears QB Brian Griese171 had a good game and the Bears TE had great games. (Finally — TE Greg Olsen172 gets involved and it pays off!)
The Bears defense needs some work, as they let the Packers run on them all night. They did a great job of picking it up in the second half, but I have yet to see the Bears play a complete game this season and we are entering week 6. I am optimistic that the Bears are moving in the right direction and the Packers win was the biggest of the season. We have the Minnesota Vikings173 at home this week and we need to make this game our next make or break game of the week. At 2-3 we are still 2 games behind the Packers and need to close ground every week now. Like it or not, every divisional game is a must-win, that’s the situation we’re in.2
Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: Chicago Bears, Chicago Sports, football, green bay packers, NFC, NFL, pro sports | 3 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on February 6, 2007
I know what you’re thinking, that the Chicago Bears were thoroughly dominated statistically in yesterday’s Super Bowl XLI. I beg to differ with my own Super Bowl analysis — the Bears were actually in it until the end. So what did the Sports Maven see in the matchup between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts? I saw plenty to be disturbed about and things that are very encouraging for next season. My disturbing thoughts are:
1. The Bears played way too conservatively offensively. The Bears were 6 1/2 pt. underdogs coming into the game and had nothing to lose. When Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, first time in Super Bowl history that has happened, and the fastest score in Super Bowl history, the momentum of the game immediately swung to the Bears. When Chris Harris intercepted Peyton Manning on the Colts first offensive series, the momentum for the Bears was off the charts. I thought Ron Turner’s offensive gameplan was too concentrated on running the ball out of the gate and not using the pass to loosen up the Colts 8-9 man fronts. In their most successful offensive games of the season, the offense started by going deep early and establishing the passing game early. Then it became easier to pound the ball. I felt that Turner played into the Colts hands with his gameplan. Too many 3 and outs (15 possessions, 48 plays, for the game, and average of 12 3 and outs and 3 drives of 4 plays.) The Bears offense should have attacked after the Manning INT. Instead, it was 3 and out, momentum leaving the Bears. All and all, a ridiculously poor game plan from the offense. This play to not lose mentality has got to go. Despite all this, the Bears are still only 5 points down midway though the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.
2. The Bears played way too conservatively on defense too. Bears played as though they were trying not to lose the game. My friends at dabearsblog.com said it best. Where was the blitz? When the Bears blitzed, Peyton Manning looked rattled. It was certainly effective, but problem was that it was rarely used. The bend but not break philosophy also has to go. Another game plan that played into the hands of the Colts, particularly Peyton Manning. Giving n Manning an opportunity to establish rhythm was the WORST thing the Bears could have done and they did it. This game was an opportunity to attach Manning, make him uncomfortable, but that never happened, as the defense played scared. I felt the Bears defense watched too many Colts players catch balls in front of them and then didn’t make plays. The Bears defense not stopping the Colts on third down was equally important as the Bears offense’s failure to run more than three plays at a time. Despite all this, the Colts couldn’t score offensive TD’s and the Bears are still 5 points down midway though the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.
3. Third down conversions on both sides of the ball were not in favor of the Bears. The Bears couldn’t stop the Colts on third down. The Colts were 8 of 18 on third down, while the Bears were 3 of 10. Enough said on this one.
4. Turnovers and poor tackling hurts the Bears. The Bears committed 5 turnovers and missed more tackles than a Pop Warner little league team. Five turnovers in the Super Bowl? You gotta be kidding me….
5. Rex Grossman needs much work, more improvement, and some competition. Rex couldn’t hold the wet ball. Rex couldn’t take a snap, despite the fact that he took about 99.5% of all the snaps this season. Rex threw two costly interceptions, one with the Bears down only 5 points with most of the 4th quarter remaining. Rex is too much of a gambler. He wants to make the big play, and is very impatient. If there is one person Grossman should take cues from, it’s the guy across the sideline from him, Peyton Manning. Grossman is immature. He is immature in how he plays the game. He is immature in how he handles the media. He is immature in what comes out of his mouth. He needs to grow up. Shut up and play. Rex is too talented to be as wildly inconsistent as he displayed this year.
My encouraging thoughts are:
1. Bears return 19 of 22 starters. Nineteen of 22 starters under contract. The lone 3 are Pro Bowl OG Reuben Brown, who has expressed a strong interest in coming back, an interest shared by Bears management, Pro Bowl LB Lance Briggs, who will most likely be “franchised” if a new contract is not worked out, and DT Ian Scott, who inherited the starting DT position when Pro Bowl DT Tommie Harris went down for the season with a torn left hamstring.
2. Mike Brown and Tommie Harris will be back from injuries. The jury is still out on how they will play after injury. Tommie Harris is still young and many notable players have come back from a torn hamstring and been effective again. (Ray Lewis being one of them). Mike Brown’s Lisfranc ligament tear on his right foot is the more concerning of the two injuries, as players who have historically injured that ligament have difficult time returning to a high level of play. Nonetheless, the two stalwarts of the Bears D should be back in time for training camp.
3. The NFC North Division should once again be weak — the Bears will still have the most talented team in the division. They will not be playing a last place schedule next season, but 6 games against division foes should ease that pain. Of course, the Green Bay Packers will be improved with the announcement of Brett Favre’s return, so if anything, show up for BOTH Packer games.
4. The Bears are $23.9 million under the 2007 Salary Cap — this is a good thing, as the Bears will have a short laundry list of needs going into next season.
So the end of a good season cut short with a Super Bowl loss….lets finish the job next year for the bandwagon for Glendale, AZ begins today. Next up, the NFL Combine in Indianapolis (of all places) and the 2007 NFL Draft, where the Bears will have the 31st pick of the draft.
Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: 2007 NFL Draft, Brett Favre, Chicago Bears, Chris Harris, Devin Hester, green bay packers, Ian Scott, Indianapolis Colts, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, NFC North, NFL Combine, Peyton Manning, Pop Warner, Ray Lewis, Rex Grossman, Ron Turner, Ruben Brown, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLI, Tommie Harris | 3 Comments »