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.
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:
- Cutler’s 4 interceptions — pick one, they were all devastating
- CB Nathan Vasher’s blown coverage on Packers WR Greg Jennings 50-yard touchdown, inexcusable
- 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
- WR Johnny Knox and TE Desmond Clark quitting on routes — dumbfounding
- Game management, especially in the 2nd half, burning timeouts including one on a ill-fated challenge on the failed upsnap play.
- 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:
- 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
- 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)
- Tackles Orlando Pace and Chris Williams were blowing people off the ball with their strong play
- 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
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.