- Tampa Bay looked alert for the screen for most of the game. Good scouting there as that seems to be the primary mechanism the Bears use to slow the rush.
- Matt Forte looked great. He ran with patience and vision and made a lot of yards on his own. As has been the case this game was about the Bear running game. Once Forte got going it opened up the pass which the Bears had less success with but which they were able to sue to at least keep moving the ball.
- Speaking of the run, nice game Marion Barber.
- Tampa’s reaction to Forte’s runing was to do what they should have done from the beginning of the game. They started by trying to play seven in the box but eventually they started stacking and crashing the line of scrimmage to stop the run and pressure Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. This made the Bears have to beat them with the pass, something they aren’t as good at.
- Roy Williams had a bad drop but otherwise I thought he had a reasonable game. I particularly liked the block he threw on Forte’s touchdown in the first quarter. Generally speaking I’m not prepared to be too critical of the receivers this game though they continue to be pedestrian.
- I’m sick and tired of seeing the Bears pull lineman in short yardage situations. Its too slow to develop and it doesn’t work. I’m assuming this is how Roberto Garza ended up getting shoved into Forte in the end zone on the safety. Really poor. EDIT: I watched the replay Sunday night and Garza did not pull on the play. He just got knocked back from the center position.
- Tampa Bay really didn’t play that well defensively. They made a lot of mistakes. I’m thinking in particular of the Barber touchdown run where the Tampa Bay safety got caught in the misdirection and failed to fill his gap. Things like that are a killer.
- Generally speaking I once again thought the offensive line did reasonably well today. They got less help in pass protection and still generally protected Cutler OK though there were plenty of gaffes to clean up still. The run blocking was pretty good until the fourth quarter.
- The Bears started in the cover two on first down but they started gradually blitzing more often until the fourth quarter. This actually had an effect on Tamp quarterback Josh Freeman who appeared to me to be looking for it even when it wasn’t there. About midway through the third quarter the Bears stopped blitzing all together and went into the cover two shell almost entirely. This made the fact that the Bucs were allowed to come back and make this into a game at the end particularly inexcusable.
- There was some poor tackling initially but other than that I didn’t think the Bears looked sluggish or jet lagged.
- Freeman really had a bad, bad day. It wasn’t just the interceptions. His accuracy was awful. Much of this probably can be chalked up to the pressure the Bears got on him.
- Speaking of the pressure, it was pretty good until the fourth quarter. That’s when the Bears went into their cover two shell and the Tampa offensive line got comfortable.
- Chris Harris showed his deficiencies once again but I thought the coverage by the defensive backs was generally good otherwise.Charles Tillman stood out.
- Tampa Bay converted too many third downs today.
- I watched this game at a bar so admittedly it was a little tough to hear them but it seemed like Daryl Johnston, Kenny Albert and Tony Siracusa did a good job. In particular it sounded like Johnston’s thoughts were paralleling my own.
- I know you don’t want to kick to Devin Hester but I thought conceding the opening kick off to the forty was taking it too far.
- Tampa Bay punter Michael Koenen was great today. He kept pinning Hester up agains the sidelines and limiting his returns and he hit some booming punts. He and Ronde Barber were maybe Tampa Bay’s best players today.
- I was amazed at the number of Tampa Bay injuries today. I’m tempted to say it had something to do with the way they prepared for the game by staying with free run of a resort but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. It might have just been bad luck.
- I won’t say there were too many drops but the ones the Bears had certainly seemed to hurt. The drop by Roy Williams leading to another by Barber for a pick six was a particularly damaging sequence. Again, the Bears have to clean this up. they can’t have plays like that.
- I won’t say that there were too many penalties, either, but they were really damaging to both teams. There isn’t a worse time to commit a senseless block in the back than on a pick that was taken down to the one yard line.
- There were too many turnovers on both sides. Tampa Bay practically gave the game away with them but the two the Bears had were damaging, too. Again, one of these days someone is going to kill Cutler on those dangerous throws. He’s living on the edge. Nice job by the Bear defense here.
- There are a lot of things I could emphasize in this final point. The running game continuing to carry the Bears offense. The turnovers the Bears finally seemed to start getting. The poor cover two defense that led to the Tampa Bay comeback. But I’m going to choose to focus on something else. The Bears badly need safety help but when Brandon Merriweather started displaying poor discipline, they benched him. Aquib Talib is a very talented defensive back for the Bucs who has displayed a lack of discipline on and off the field but the Buccaneers have chosen to continue to play him despite that. I’d say that it came back to hurt them today as Talib committed a damaging personal foul with 3 and a half minutes to play. Though Johnston chose to frame it as the Buccaneer defense “bailing Talib out” by holding the Bears to a final field goal, that penalty cost the Buccaneers a minute and a half of valuable time at the end of the game. The difference between what you can do with 3:30 left and 2:00 left offensively is huge. Bottom line I’m glad the Bears have taken the stand on Merriweather that they have. Sometimes the game really does come down to what’s right and what isn’t.