Kevin Patra at nfl.com on the bad day that Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant had against Panthers cornerback Josh Norman:
“Norman was clearly in Bryant’s head early. When Panthers safety Kurt Coleman picked off [Dallas quarterback Tony] Romo on the first drive of the game, Bryant and Norman stood behind the play yapping when it appeared the Cowboys receiver could have had a chance to stop a touchdown, if he made an effort.”
Wide receivers are, as a group, not known for being level headed. But, as with most things Cowboy, this goes a bit beyond the norm. Add owner and general manager Jerry Jones‘s continued defense of remorseless animal Greg Hardy‘s behaviour towards even his own coaches and Dallas is eccentric to the point where they lack both discipline and character. That lack kept them from overcoming the loss of Romo at quarterback as they lost seven games in a row without him. And that lack played a big part in killing their slim playoff hopes on Thursday.
You can make a deal with the devil. But the bill always comes due.
Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times cites the “statistics” on the Bears defensive effort.
“According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears’ composite defensive rating against the Packers on Thursday night was minus-18.8. It was minus-3.2 in Week 1, when [Aaron] Rodgers had a 140.5 passer rating and threw three touchdown passes in a 31-23 victory.”
Do I really need to comment?
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune documents the process by which Bears quarterback David Fales because the primary back up behind starting quarterback Jay Cutler. Fales got offers to join the rosters of both the 49ers and the Ravens before choosing to remain with the Bears after they agreed to promote him from the practice squad to the roster.
“‘Yeah, but it’s all about being in the right system,’ Fales said. ‘Eventually you are going to get an opportunity and no one knows when that will come. It doesn’t matter if you are not in the right spot.'”
San Fransisco is starting Blaine Gabbert, whose long-term future as the starter is questionable. Former starter Colin Kaepernick had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and his future with the organization is in serious doubt. The Ravens were probably following up on the recommendation of former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, now their offensive coordinator. Starting quarterback Joe Flacco is out for the season after suffering a serious knee injury November 22.
Both of these teams were searching for someone to be a back up after starters became unavailable. But Fale’s popularity around the league, which is why the Bears had to add him to the roster, makes me wonder if he doesn’t have the potential to be a starter. When former Bears general manager Phil Emery drafted him, Emery said it was with the idea that that Fales had the potential to be a solid back up, thus setting the ceiling for him. But does anyone ever draft a player anywhere with the idea that he’ll never be more than a backup? Could it be that Emery was just trying to publicly re-assure Cutler that he wasn’t drafting his replacement even while he took a swing at doing so?
Regardless, Fales may have been given a gift by starting with such apparently low expectations. He’s had the chance to develop slowly behind other quarterbacks rather than being thrown into the fire too early. It’s debatable but this is the way many of us still believe it should be done. No greater example of the benefits could be seen than in the person of Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler, who beat the Bears and was named AFC offensive player of the week after a solid first start last week.
I’ve very consistently claimed that the Bears need to draft a quarterback of the future sooner rather than later. And I still believe that. But drafting quarterbacks in the first three rounds is a risky business. At minimum Fales may be a good fall back option if the process requires more than one bite at the apple. But you also have to wonder if the Bears aren’t eventually going to find that they were forced to add the quarterback of the future to the roster by necessity last week.
Both the best and the worst thing about watching football on Thanksgiving is that you get to watch it with family. Surrounded by almost 20 of the closest people in the world to me, many of whom grew up watching football with me, is one of the greatest pleasures I get all year. But concentrating completely on the game and taking notes was simply impossible. I might as well have been watching in the middle of a hurricane. So my notes on this wonderful Bears victory will be brief and to the point if for no other reason than I don’t have as much as usual to say.
- The Packers game plan was clear from the outset and they never deviated from it. Play three wide receivers, thus forcing the Bears into nickel, then obliterate them and wear them down with Eddie Lacy up the middle over and over and over again. Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, on the other hand, must be one of the most stubborn men on earth. As with Adrian Peterson two weeks before, he flat out refused to do anything special to stop Lacy. This was the battle of wills that was waged all night. Lacy had over a hundred yards rushing but it wasn’t enough.
- Give the defensive backs a lot of the credit for this win. Though Lacy continually took chunks of yardage up the middle, whenever Aaron Roger dropped back to pass, it was a tough exercise. Over and over again Rogers made time with his feet as he avoided the pass rush. And over and over again, right down to the last play, he still could not find open receivers. It was a wonderful display by a unit that, at least up until now, I didn’t consider to have much talent. Like a lot of things about this team, I’m now going to have to re-assess this.
- As most regular readers know, I’m not much of a Jay Cutler fan. Repeatedly over a period of ten years, Cutler has flat out quit in tough games, especially in Lambeau. He’s still the guy who quit on Denver so long ago. And he’s still the guy as late as last year who gave up against New Orleans to the point where he was actually benched for the now departed Jimmy Clausen.
But fair is fair. This is the game that I was pointing to all year as Cutler’s watershed. Based upon past history, it’s exactly the type of game he should have collapsed in. When the Packers came out swinging, confused him, put a lot of pressure on him, and forced him to throw a near interception early in the first quarter, I thought that’s what was going to happen. The offense started with repeated three and outs and I was convinced the Packers were going to wear the courageous Bears defense down to a nub.It didn’t happen. Cutler hung in there and the Bears re-grouped. It was ugly but they managed to possess the ball and keep the defense off the field. And it was largely due to Cutler and his mobility and the fact that he kept calm and adjusted.It’s going to be very hard to continue to trash Cutler from here on out. This was a big game for him.
- Give credit to some of the lesser known receivers who stepped up in this game. Marquess Wilson and Marc Mariani both had big catches throughout the game. Due largely to their efforts along with the return of Alshon Jeffery, the Packers had a great deal of trouble getting the Bears off of the field on third and long, especially late. Wonderful job.
- The Bears offensive line had a tough time handling the Packer defensive line. I credited a lot of the Packers success Sunday against the Vikings to the deplorable state of the Minnesota offensive line. But the Packer defensive line is pretty good and the battle in the trenches was enjoyable to watch. The Bears had just over 100 yards rushing. Not as good as you’d like but also not a complete shutdown.
- Want to know why Cris Collinsworth is the best color man in the game? Look no further than the wonderful job he did pointing out how the Packers defensive linemen were shooting inside to beat the Bears on stretch running plays. I’m convinced that there are few others that would have picked it up despite the obvious penetration that the Packers were getting.
- Special teams weren’t good enough. They allowed at least one huge run back that set the Packers up and the Bears 30 yard line. You can’t ordinarily get away with that against the Packers anywhere, especially in Lambeau.
- If you had told me that the Bears were going to win a game against the Packers where they had 12 penalties to their three, I would have refused to believe it. The officiating left a lot to be desired but to be fair, the poor calls were on both sides. The Bears aren’t going to get away with that often.
- As is their habit, the Packers had a lot of drops. They’re finding it harder to overcome them than usual this year. Jeremy Langford had a particularly tough time catching the ball in this game. If it was the rain, he’d better learn to adjust. He’s got a lot of wet football ahead of him.
- Not surprisingly, the two Packer turnovers were huge in this game. In contrast to last Sunday, the Bears didn’t have one. This is especially notable in regard to Cutler. Nice work, there.
- I’m in the state of shock and its not going to go away any time soon. Time after time I would watch Eddie Lacy carve out huge chunks of yardage and shake my head. But then I’d look up at the scoreboard and the Bears were still ahead. Honest to heaven, I still can’t figure out how it happened.
Up until this game, my assessment of the Bears has been one of a talent deficient but well-coached team, especially on defense. But how talent-deficient can they possibly be and still beat the Packers in Lambeau? It’s obvious that I’m going to have to spend some time re-assessing this team. I’d still like to see more but based upon the last two games against two of the better teams in the league, I might be under-estimating them.
Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune reflects my thoughts exactly after the Bears loss to the Broncos Sunday at Soldier Field:
“[I]t’s hard to get mad about losing to a better Broncos team with the league’s top defense.
“It’s even hard for me to get mad at [quarterback Jay] Cutler for his regularly scheduled interception and sack-strip. It’s what he does an average of once a game, even if that truth runs counter to other people’s happy storyline.
“But hey, at least he’s not doing it in a Super Bowl season.
“This should be one of those times when you stop, breathe, and remind yourself to chill because it’s going to get better, and probably without a lot of the guys you were watching, maybe even Cutler.”
I know it’s frustrating watching the Bears lose. But they were so badly out-manned by the Broncos that it took a game played so cleanly that the Bears had no penalties to just keep it close.
People need to tone down their expectations for this team. When they play good teams with more talent, they’ll always have a chance to win. But only if the other team plays a bad game. That especially goes for Green Bay Thursday where the Bears are eight point dogs in a divisional matchup. Realistically, all you can do at this point is just relax and hope that the talent gap doesn’t show too badly in a blow out loss. If the Bears keep playing like they are, it won’t. But even if it does, try not to be too upset. It’s time to stop thinking about wins and to start thinking about the future.
Jon Greenberg at ESPN is revising his expectations for the Bears:
“In the beginning … we predicted 6-10 for the Chicago Bears and it seemed just about right.”
“But then Jay Cutler returned [from injury] ahead of schedule and things settled down, and now, weeks after fans stopped watching games between their outstretched fingers, this looks like, knock on Mike Ditka’s pompadour, it could be a wholly respectable team with a longshot chance of making the postseason.”
The Bears are on a hot streak and Cutler is certainly a big part of that. But Cutler or not, I’m sticking with 6-10.
The Bears are 4-5 and at this point in the season, I think that’s great. But let’s not forget that they are the same team that lost to the Lions a month ago. They’ve won two games since then but they’ve gotten a lot of help from two teams that, frankly, played well below their talent level. Such things have a bd habit of evening out and more often than not, given decent coaching and a good environment, teams end up right where their talent level says they should.
I’m not disparaging the Bears here. I think they’re a well-coached team that is making progress every week. But Denver is a much better team that is unlikely to give the game away with poor discipline in the same manner that the Rams did. And I don’t care how badly the Packers are slipping at the moment, I can’t believe that they won’t pull it together and beat the Bears on Thanksgiving. I also see the Vikings as a loss in Minnesota. After that, the Bears are still a team that’s going to be no more than a coin flip against Washington, San Fransisco, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. If they win half of those, that’s two more wins. And that’s where I’m still sitting.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. Biggs thinks the Bears will move Hroniss Grasu back to center this Sunday and that Matt Slauson will find his way back to left guard. Slauson did a good job filling in at center but I would agree that it’s about getting your best five on to the line at once.
“The unknown right now is right guard. Vladimir Ducasse has a team-high eight penalties and has had a ninth called against him declined. It’s a situation now where Patrick Omameh might get a shot at right guard in place of Ducasse. Stay tuned on that. What’s impressive is line coach Dave Magazu and offensive coordinator Adam Gase have transitioned rather seamlessly with a handful of different changes on the line this season.”
like most of head coach John Fox‘s staff, Magazu and Gase have, indeed, done a good job in the face of quite a bit of shuffling. The players, of course, deserve a great deal of credit as well.
Having said that, neither Ducasse nor Omameh is a great option to be starting anywhere on your line. Both are decent back ups at best, Ducasse perhaps a little worse than Omameh.
The question of where the Bears should go in the draft is already coming up a lot among fans. It’s a given that getting a quarterback of the future should always be the highest priority. Defensive pass rusher should be high at all times, as well. Usually I would put left tackle in this category, as well, but the Bears seem to have a glut at the position at the moment.
Those considerations aside, interior offensive line tops my list. It doesn’t have to be in the first round but the Bears need at least one starting guard.
The headline says, “Suddenly, the Bears secondary is becoming a primary strength”. But when you actually read the article, its not what Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune actually says:
“Don’t look now, but the Bears appear to have a secondary that doesn’t make your eyes bleed.”
I’ll go along with the second quote. But the Bears secondary is far from being a strength. It’s true that Tracy Porter has been a great help and they’re better as long as he’s healthy. And Kyle Fuller us getting better. And Adrian Amos is starting to appear around the ball more in coverage, though still not as much as I’d like.
But to my eye the defensive backs still aren’t what you’d call a strength. For instance, Antrel Rolle hasn’t gotten younger and still appears slow to me. And the truth is that the Bears got a lot of help from quarterbacks the last couple games, especially from Nick Foles, who has since been benched by the Rams. Foles threw some terrible passes to otherwise open receivers last Sunday. Had they been completed, the performance of the Bears defensive backs may have appeared in a different light.
So don’t get me wrong. The Bears defensive backfield better and will continue to get better. But a strength? That’s a bit of a stretch.