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.
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.