- It was evident that the Bengals had their choice of paths to attack the Bears. A. They could attack Jay Cutler by offering tight man coverage and forcing him to release the ball early and trust his receivers, something he’s yet to show he can do. Or B. they could defend the West Coast Offense in the typical manner with a soft zone, keeping everything in front of the defensive backs and forcing the offense to execute by taking yardage in short chunks. My guess B, was the direction the Bengals chose to go in.
- The Bears started executing OK on offense. They did make mistakes with drops and penalties but they overcame them. For instance, on the drive leading to the first touchdown by Martellus Bennett, Matt Slauson’s ineligible man downfield penalty should have killed the drive. But sloppy play by the Bengals defensive back field let Brandon Marshall surge forward past the linebacker covering him underneath for a first down.
- Speaking of Marshall, I love the way the Bears moved him around. Putting him in the slot in the first quarter with Matt Forte on the outside put Forte up against Leon Hall, a cornerback, with Marshall covered by safeties and linebackers.
- Nevertheless, it was evident that the Bengals were keying on Marshall. They figured, correctly, that when Cutler is under pressure or when he needs a play, he’s still going to try to go Marshall’s way.
- Having said that, the zone the Bengals played most of the time played into Cutler’s hand in that he’s much more comfortable throwing against that kind of a defense and he had a decent game with good accuracy. Because the Bengals rushed four most of the time, he wasn’t under tremendous pressure, a tribute to the offensive line.
- The zone defense did, however, stop the Bears for most of the first half after the nice start. Executing mistake free football where every player does his job is the challenge in this kind of game. Significantly, the Bengals did a good job of stopping the Bears on first down.
- Cutler went to Alshon Jeffery a lot today. He did a great job of taking advantage of his opportunities. That was good to see.
- If Earl Bennett was out there, I didn’t see him much. He didn’t have much of a role today after missing most of camp. He had one catch in the third quarter.
- I saw Jermon Bushrod get pushed into the backfield to stop a running play at least once. But other than that, I thought he had a good game and lived up to his billing. Overall the offensive one had a good game. There were a few growing pains on the part of the rookie right side but nowhere near what I expected. A good sign for the Bears although blitzing wasn’t much of the Cincinnati game plan. That right side is going to face bigger challenges.
- Interesting that the Bears left Matt Forte in the game in the red zone in the third quarter. He rewarded them with a very nice power run.
- It also looks like that stretch play is going to be a staple run for the Bears this year.
- Third and seven, third quarter. Bengals come with an all out blitz. Cutler, instead of quickly getting rid of the ball to a hot receiver, takes off with the ball and the play becomes a Chinese fire drill. He completes the ball to Martellus Bennett on the run for a first down. The good? It worked. The bad? This isn’t how its supposed to work. Cutler and the Bears offense will have arrived when they execute in this situation correctly. If they can.
- On a related note, also interesting that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was apparently upset that the Bengals let Cutler out of the pocket on second and twenty in the fourth quarter for a long run. A disciplined pass rush is one of the keys to stopping Cutler. You have to put pressure on him and force him to throw from the pocket.
- The Bears came out mixing it up with more blitzing than we saw last year. For instance, the interception by Charles Tillman was forced by a Cris Conte blitz that came free.
- I thought the long completion to A.J. Green setting up the Bengals first touchdown was interesting. Second and four. The Bears put Charles Tillman in what amounted to single press coverage on A.J. Green with no help. That’s something that would have never happened in the previous regime. Andy Dalton has struggled in the past with his arm strength and his ability to complete a long pass has been questioned. Kudos to him for throwing a nice pass to Green on that play.
- Speaking of Dalton, he had a great game. So much for not being able to make the big play. He and A.J. Green are a dynamic combination that is going to win the Bengals a lot of games.
- Speaking of Green, I was disappointed by how much of a hard time the Bears cornerbacks had with the sizable Bengals receivers. The defense was getting beat with some standard routes that they really should have been able to defend. Charles Tillman had a rough, rough game. He could have used some safety help and, in fact, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker eventually gave him some. It didn’t seem to help much as Green appeared to continue to do what he wanted.
- I didn’t notice much of the Bears using the defensive linemen in this “jack” position where they stand and can either rush the passer or drop into converge. Didn’t see much zone blitz, either. They may be saving it for later or the right situations may not have popped up.
- Anthony Collins name wasn’t called much. That’s good for the Bengals as he drew his first start since 2011. He was blocking Julius Peppers and did a good job.
- Stephen Paea had a nice game as I saw him get penetration quite a bit.
- On the other hand, Henry Melton didn’t cause much disruption after remising most of camp.
- Nickel back Isaiah Frey’s name wasn’t called much. That’s a good sign for him and the Bears.
- D.J. Williams looked winded on occasion but otherwise I can’t see that he had a bad game depute missing much of training camp.
- I thought the tackling needed some work. The Bengals seemed to be breaking far too many of them to pick up extra yardage after contact.
- I was underwhelmed by the Bears pass rush. Dalton was getting rid of the ball fast but when he went long, he had a lot of time. Other than the blitz from Conte I mentioned above, it didn’t succeed much. Certainly not as much as it needed to.
- I can see that we might be on our way to yet another year where I’m gong to be constantly told I’m too soft on the announcers. Nevertheless, I thought Jim Nantz and Phil Simms did a nice job. Nantz has a particular tendency to let you know which relevant players are on the field where and Simms, though nowhere near the best teacher on TV, does tend to pick up nice, relevant facts that fans might not typically notice. A good example was on the Bengals quarterback sneak where Simms pointed out that the Bears had only a single nose guard to stop Dalton and the Bengals simply took the play that was given to them.
- One pick that I have a particular problem with. Nantz said that the Bears “didn’t elect to resign” Brian Urlacher. They, in fact, offered him double his market value as a free agent and Urlacher chose not to accept it.
- Bears special teams were pretty good though the day could have been easily marred by a long Adam Jones return that was called back for a block in the back. Robbie Gould hit a massive 58 yard field goal near the end of the first half. Adam Pdlesh had a particularly good day inside the 20 yard line. The Bengals did a good job of handling Devin Hester either kicking away from him or pinning him to the sideline.
- Two Charles Tillman interceptions gave the Bears the edge on turnovers. They could have had a fumble after Tim Jennings stripped the ball and kicked it out of bounds.
- Martellus Bennett had a big drop to start the game. Matt Forte dropped one. Not a horrible day in this respect.
- Too many penalties, especially by the Bengals, marred this as the first regular season game. The Bengals lost some big plays to them. The Charles Tillman was forced to commit a pass interference on A.J. Green basically gave the Bengals a touchdown. Martellus Bennett had a couple costly holding calls. Rey Maualuga had an inexcusable personal foul which effectively ended the game for the Bengals. Both teams need to clean this up.
- On a similar note, both teams occasionally didn’t look well organized during the game. Cincinnati used their last time out with 8 minutes left because they had 12 men on the field. Again, first regular season game… need to clean that up…. blah, blah, blah…
- Overall this was a marvelous start for the Bears against a very good football team. Not that they didn’t make a lot of mistakes – they did. But it was good enough to win a game that I freely admit I didn’t think they’d get. They’ve got to clean up the penalties and M. Bennett is going to have to stop with some of the bone-headed errors he committed. If the defense didn’t look quite as good as last year, it wasn’t far from it. It was a reasonable offensive performance against a reasonable game plan executed by a good football team. It’s a start.
- The first day of the NFL season is one of the highlights of my year. I’m not a big fan of most other sports. Not like football. Today is when I can finally concentrate on something I really love after a long off-season.
There are so many variables, so many things to find out, there’s so much to look forward to. It provides a focus that blocks out all of the troubles that I face during the week and allows me, if only just temporarily, to live completely in the moment. Those times are rare and I’m grateful.
So many people think it’s about whether their team wins or loses. It’s not. It’s about the journey. And today, just for today, I’m among the happiest men on earth.