Bears Spread the Ball Around in Dominant Win

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com made an interesting point about the Bears game last night:

“Despite the placement of 54 total points on the board, no quarterback threw for more than 200 yards, no running back rushed for more than 100 yards, and no receiver generated more than 100 receiving yards.”

I don’t know if this was supposed to be complimentary (Florio is a Vikings fan) but I took it as a positive sign.

The fact that so many pints were scored despite the fact that no quarterback threw for more than 200 yards is an indication of how well the running game was working, at least for the Bears.

No running back for more than 100 yards?  No receiver for more than 100 receiving yards?  All good.

In particular, much has been made about the Bears’ lack of a receiving threat.  But this game serves as a reminder that there are advantages to that.  If you are an opposing coordinator, who are you going to concentrate on?  No one.  It simply up to Cutler to find the open man and throw it to him.  Lately he’s been pretty good at that.

Michael Vick, “a True Story of Redemption”?

My favorite feature, Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles, has another provocative (and anonymous) quote:

“(The Eagles) had one of the greatest comebacks I have ever seen (against New York). (Michael) Vick is a true story, (a true example of) redemption. They are on a run. Andy Reid keeps looking better by the week. The best football is being played in the East right now — New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.”

Michael Vick “a true story of redemption”?

Let me get this straight.  The guy goes to jail for dog fighting.  He gets out and now his job, his teammates and his family depend absolutely on him staying out of trouble.  So what happens?  He immediately goes back to associating with people who slave their problems with guns.  He goes to a party where his friend shoots somebody literally minutes after he leaves.

How long before this guy finds himself suspended again?  How can anyone depend on his to be their starting quarterback?

Michael Vick has been conning people most of his life by telling them what they want to hear.  He’s Cedric Benson with more talent and more dangerous friends.  In this entire affair he hasn’t once told the truth right up until he went to jail.  I was and am willing to give anyone a chance after they’ve paid their debt to society and by heaven Vick paid more than most of these athletes ([cough]benroethlisburger[cough]).  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore the indications that he is wasting it.

I have no problem with Vick having a job in the league.  I have no problem with him playing.  I have no problem with him period.  He’s fine.  But it will be a long, long time before I’ll believe he has “redeemed” himself.

Game Comments: Bears Vs. Vikings December 20, 2010

Defense

  1. Bears came out with a blitz on the first play.  But beyond that, they correctly anticpated that the Vikings would try to keep it on the ground as much as possible and, though they mixed it up, they played quite a lot with eight in the box in an effort to stop the run.  They played more cover two late as they anticipated that the Vikings would pass from behind.
  2. It was pretty scary for a while in the first quarter as the Vikings literally ran over the Bears, particularly as they attacked the edges.  When a team is running on you and you are stacking the box there’s the potential for real trouble.  Fortunately the Bears tightened things up in the second quarter, playing with better discipline and speed, and they did a better job of stoping the running game.
  3. 50 seconds left in the first half and I was wondering if there was going to be another coverage break down to allow a big score.  There wasn’t.
  4. The Vikings were running at the edges, taking advantage of the Bears stunting their ends inside.  It worked well until the Bears adjusted.
  5. The Bears tackling was awful at times.  Just awful.
  6. The Bears also looked pretty slow and sluggish at the start of the game.  I’d like to see the Bears better prepared to play mentally coming out of the locker room the last few weeks.
  7. Kudos to Henry Melton and Corey Wooton for making big plays.  These are young players that need to show that they can play.  On the down side, Wooton lost contain on Joe Webb’s first ever touchdown.
  8. Webb looked OK but its obvious why he was considered to be a receiver by the Vikings scouts.  He’s quick mentally, throws sharp short passes and he’s mobile.  But, though he’s got a good strong arm, based upon what I saw this game he’s not accurate deep.  Though Brad Childress apparently decided to try, I’m not sure you can coach that.

Offense

  1. The Bears also came out running and did it with some success.  They didn’t do really well, however, until they stopped running inside and, like the Vikings, started running off tackle and attacking the edges )or at least until Matt Forte started finding the holes there).
  2. The Bears offensive line had their usual problems, particularly with the Williams boys, Pat and Kevin, inside.  Generally speaking they were allowing too much penetration inside.  They did better away from the center and that’s where the holes were.
  3. The pass protection wasn’t much better.  There weren’t many sacks but there was a lot of pressure.  It didn’t help that the Vikings anticipated the pass on third down.  It looked like a jail break out there with a lot of blitzing in those situations.  All of it got better as the game went on, as it usually does.  The running game got going and that helped.  But just once I’d like to see them come out and play well immediately.
  4. Johnny Knox’s touchdown was an example of some poor play by safety Madieu Williams.  Its nice to know that happens to safeties on other teams, too.  Tough position to play in the cover two.
  5. Wonderful game by Forte who really ran well.  Maybe the best I’ve seen him all year.
  6. As much as anything, the Bears success on the ground really set things up for success.  The play action worked to perfection and the Beas got some big plays.
  7. Jay Cutler generally looked sharp when he had time, which he frequently did once the running game got going.

Miscellaneous

  1. Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski did their usual great job.  Both Jaworski and Gruden did a nice job of noticing things that other color men often miss or fail to point out.
  2. The kicking game was definitely hurt by the cold weather.  Neither kicker could kick off very deep.  The kick coverage by the Bears was spotty and the first return was particularly long.
  3. The Viking coverage was poor on punts, giving Devin Hester a record for returns for a touchdown.  I’ve no idea why they stopped kicking the ball out of bound and started kicking to him.  In any case, there was some bad Viking tackling out there and some good blocking by the Bears.
  4. Way, way too many penalties.  As usual the offensive line was largely, though not entirely, at fault.  Successive penalties set the Bears back to first and thirty before the long connection to Johnny Knox for the first touchdown.
  5. There were too many drops, possibly because of the cold.  They have to do better than that no matter what the weather.
  6. The Bears did well in the turnover department.  I guess that’s no surprise with Brett Favre and a rookie at quarterback.  Still, its good to see them back on track in that respect.  They need to win the turnover battle if they are going to win games.  Cutler threw a bad interception under pressure.
  7. Kudos to the Bears for winning what admittedly turned out to be a weak division.  Give them credit for doing it despite some obvious weaknesses.  Hopefully they will continue to improve in those areas to get it together for a long playoff run.

Its Vikings Week and You Know What That Means…

It was in 2001 after a particularly tough loss to the Bears when I found this cry from a Viking fan on the Internet.  Long time readers of my blog posts at various sites over the years know that it has been reposted every season since during Viking week.

My admiration for this anonymous fan is almost as strong as my sympathy for anyone who is stuck rooting for what is traditionally one the most gutless teams in the NFL.  I think that, more than any other organization, the Vikings have probably made the least out of the most talent over the last twenty years.  But I will never be able to express that sentiment with the eloquence of this poet.  Enjoy.

I’ve had it! I can’t take this shit no more! I’m done! THIS TEAM IS A  GODDAMN EMBARASSMENT AND I HAVE HAD IT! I BURNED MY VIKINGS FLAG YESTERDAY, CHUCK FOREMAN GAVE IT TO ME WHEN I WAS A KID! I BURNED THE FUCKING THING AND MY WIFE FREAKED OUT SO I ENDED UP FORKING THE FIERY RAG AND THROWING’ER IN THE WEBER GRILL. GODDAMN RACCOONS! AND GODDAMN THE HEARTLESS VIKINGS AND ALL THEIR GODDAMN EXCUSES! I WANT MY DEVOTION BACK! AND ALL THOSE GODDAMN GAMES, AND ALL THOSE GODDAMN HEARTBREAKS!.

I QUIT. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!.

ARE WE CURSED? ARE WE CURSED?!!

As a bonus addition, I’ve added the radio call of the last Hail Mary pass in the Vikings’ (gutless and predictable) loss to the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals in the final game of 2003.  The loss (and the play) knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs.  Just listening will immediately warm any Bear fan’s heart.

Game Winning TD, Vikings-Cardinals, 2003

Turf Talk Distracts from the Task at Hand

Like many of the writers in town, Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times is highlighting the weather conditions for tonight’s game against the Vikings.  This quote from Bears linebacker Lance Briggs caught my eye:

    “‘I’m talking about it now,’ Briggs said Friday, ‘and when we get out there, obviously we’re going to check it out. But once the whistle blows, it’s time to play football.'”

    I simply can’t believe that Briggs doesn’t realize how foolish that statement is at face value.  Worrying about football “when the whistle blows” is too late.  Way, way too late.  The Bears need to be focused on the Vikings and only the Vikings and that needed to start on Wednesday.  Really on Monday.  Let’s hope he didn’t mean it that literally.

    David Haugh‘s column at the Chicago Tribune also caught my eye with this comment:

    “Despite complaints from both locker rooms, the league enthusiastically endorsed TCF Bank Stadium as a viable venue after workers spent the week clearing snow. If there was even a shred of doubt about player or fan safety, this game should have been moved to Indianapolis or Atlanta soon after the snow had stopped falling through the hole in the Metrodome. But NFL officials came to see for themselves and declared it playable.

    “Yet this was 48 hours before Vikings punter Chris Kluwe called the field ‘unplayable’ on his Twitter account after examining it Sunday. Kluwe isn’t the NFL commissioner, but punters know and his opinions can’t be dismissed.

    “‘The field is as hard as concrete an hour and a half after they took the tarp off, and anyone that hits their head is getting a concussion,’ Kluwe posted. ‘I find it interesting that the NFL can claim an emphasis on player safety, and then tell us the field is fine. The problem isn’t heating it, it’s retaining that heat.”’

    What bothered me about this is that in their rush to criticize the NFL, both Haugh and Kluwe ignored the fact that the NFLPA also has a representative on the spot who has approved of the field conditions (via Brian Murphy, Bob Sansevere and Jason Hoppin at the Pioneer Press):

    “A representative of the NFL Players Association met with the grounds crew to monitor progress for Vikings and Bears players, some of whom expressed concerns about playing on a frozen, unfamiliar surface that does not have underground heating coils to prevent it from freezing.

    “‘From what I can tell, I don’t see any reason why this field shouldn’t be perfect for Monday’s game,’ said Ernie Conwell, regional director for the players union.”

    So the union is on the spot and monitoring the situation.  I would strongly suggest that the players trust their judgment and concentrate on the things that they can control.  If it’s not already too late.

    Harris Apparently Finds Peace, Perspective

    I really enjoyed the piece that Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune did on defensive tackle Tommie Harris who has apparently gained perspective as he struggles to perform with knee and leg injuries:

    “He returned to the starting lineup last Sunday against the Patriots for the first time since Sept. 19, the week before he was a healthy scratch against the Packers. The Bears are trying to squeeze something out of the $40 million extension they gave Harris in June 2008, which some in the organization didn’t support because of health concerns.

    “‘It’s the same,’ Harris said of replacing Matt Toeaina. ‘It’s the same amount of plays. It’s just another number starting off the game.

    “‘I’m past that point. That’s something that would have got me years ago. I just want to play football, and any opportunity that is given, I’ll take it.'”

    But the truly revealing thing about Harris is highlighted in a fan question which Dan Pompei, also at the Tribuneanswered:

    “Why is Jay Cutler such a jerk to Bears fans? I’ve seen the team twice this year the day before a game on the road at their hotel and the only player on the whole team who refused to sign anything for fans both times was Cutler. I even saw little kids wearing his jersey hoping for an autograph or picture with their hero who were greeted with a, “It’s not happening,” by the surly QB. Is Jay a jerk to you writers on a daily basis? Why would he be this way to a group of fans who want to love him and for him to do well? By the way, the anti-Cutler among Bears players when it comes to fan-friendliness is Tommie Harris. About a dozen times I saw fans interrupt Tommie while he was sitting down and talking with friends and family for a picture or autograph and he would get up and oblige happily every time. Tommie never refused anything for any Bears fan that I saw, including myself. Even though he might not be a truly great player anymore, it’s nice to know that he’s a great person, which is more important in the long run. Kim Moy, Warren, Mich.

    “I haven’t seen Cutler interact with fans much, so I really couldn’t comment on that. But I can tell you he has very little patience for doing things he has no interest in. One of those things is dealing with the media.”

    It nice to know that this fan also recognizes what is most important in the long run.  You can be a Jay Cutler with all the talent in the world and still not be the man that players like Harris and former Bears and current Redskins starting quarterback Rex Grossman are.  In the end – in the very end – its character that counts.

    Revealing Patriots Victory Over Green Bay Helps the Bears

    Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

    “Hi Dan. Did you see Rodney Harrison‘s take on playing Tom Brady? He said the only way they got to Tom in practice was to play tight press coverage and make him throw it into tight spaces. If the Bears somehow make the Super Bowl and face the Pats, are they capable of this type of gameplan? I’m just looking for some hope after this backhand from reality. Vinny Diemelo, Chicago

    “I did see Rodney Harrison say that on profootballtalk.com. Interesting take. And certainly, it would be worth trying. But I’d be dubious about the chances of it succeeding for a couple of reasons. The Bears don’t have the type of cornerbacks who match up well playing tight press coverage against the Patriots’ smaller, quicker receivers. And with the way Brady is playing now, I’m not sure any kind of defense would slow him down much. The only way to stop him is to put him on his back, and that’s not easy to do either.”

    I didn’t see Harrison say this but I’m not surprised.  I think the only way to prevent the Patriots from using their personnel groupings to generate unfavorable match ups is to play man-to-man.

    I also agree with Pompei that the Bears don’t have the defensive backs to do it.  But for those who watched or reviewed last night’s game, you will note that the Packers do have the type of players that match up will with the Patriots and they gave them a good, competitive game despite a plethora of injuries this year.

    Its good for the Bears that the Patriots won.  If they take care of business tonight, they can clinch the division.  But don’t make the mistake of believing that the Pats are a freight train headed toward a Super Bowl.  There’s still a lot of football to be played and the right kind of team can and maybe will beat them.

    Points of View, December 19, 2010

    Bears

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that Charles Tillman returned to practice Friday.  Tillman had an awful game last week ad he needs to bounce back with a good performance against the Vikings.
    • Biggs also points out that the Bears have among the fewest drops in the league.  This is a very under-rated stat in my opinion.  After penalties and sacks, dropped balls do more to eliminate big plays and put teams in third and long than any other factor.
    • Vaughn McClure at the Tribune reports that Brett Favre has been ruled out for Monday nights’ game against the Vikings.  Joe Webb will officially start.  No surprise.
    • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen reviews some classic cover-two for the Tribune.  Its tough to play defensive back in this scheme, especially safety.  Here’s hoping the Bears do a better job of playing it than they have the last couple weeks when they’ve given up some big plays.

    Elsewhere

    • Aaron Rogers failed to receive medical clearance and will not be starting against the Patriots today.  That’s good news because Flynn is much less likely to beat them (the Bears clinch the division if the Packers lose and they win).  But more importantly it was undoubtedly the right thing to do for a player who sustained his second concussion of the season.  Here’s hoping Jay Cutler avoids a similar incident.
    • McClure also has this quote from Bryant McKinney on his poor performance against Julius Peppers last season:

    “Nobody talked about the injuries I had in that game,” McKinnie said. “I had an ankle injury and I had plantar fasciitis. I couldn’t plant with my left ankle. I didn’t make a big deal about it. I just went out there and played. You catch me healthy and it’s a different story.”

    I sympathize but no one is going to accept that as an excuse.  Few players remain totally healthy through out an NFL season.

    • Mike Kaszuba and Steve Brandt at the Minneapolis Star Tribune report that the Vikings are trying to make hay out of the collapse of the roof at the Metrodome.  They are trying to use it as evidence that a new stadium is in order.  But the political situation is complicated and with a six billion dollar state deficit looming, not everyone is buying in:

    “‘A lot of people want things,’ said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, an incoming assistant Senate majority leader. He said the Metrodome’s roof collapse ‘doesn’t elevate this to a crisis.'”

    I disagree.  Its fairly clear that there are real safety concerns when you have a building in Minnesota that can’t handle snow.

    The Vikings really should be playing Monday nights’ game in Los Angeles so they can get a feel for the place.  They may be seeing a lot of it in the near future.

    One Final Thought

    McClure also provided a somewhat humorous look at what its like to be shoveling at TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota for the Tribune:

    “‘You work for the Chicago Tribune? Man, I’m from Chicago,’ says [fellow shoveler, Keith] Ward, 47, who is in between jobs and came to suburban Minneapolis four months ago to spend time with his daughter.

    “‘Hey, do me a favor? If Jay Cutler plays Monday, tell him that I said stop being so scared in the pocket and release it. … Get rid of it.’

    “Memo to self: Don’t tell Cutler anything, because you know how he’ll react.”

    Yes.  Indeed, based upon what we see on the field, one wonders if he sometimes doesn’t react the same way when offensive coordinator Mike Martz tries to tell him similar things.

    McNabb Vs. the Shanahans in a Classic Conflict

    Mike Florio at expresses an intriguing theory on what’s behind Donovan McNabb‘s problems with the Washington Redskins.  McNabb finds himself as the number three quarterback on the roster today.

    The team has until the day after the regular season opener to make a decision on an option bonus on McNabb.  That would be too late for McNabb to find a good starting job if the team decided not to pick it up:

    “As one league source explained it, McNabb realizes that the team has the power to trade him whenever the Redskins see fit.  And so the thinking is that he’s trying to force the issue by persuading the team either to trade him or to dump him sooner rather than later.

    “The source suggested that McNabb is ‘pulling a Haynesworth,’ but that McNabb has been more subtle in his approach that the suspended defensive tackle.”

    Its an interesting theory but I really don’t think this sounds like McNabb.  He’s not that subtle and I’d be willing to bet that the story is more about football and much more straight forward.

    Rumor has it McNabb isn’t accepting coaching from offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan and head coach Mike Shanahan. That rings true.  Its easy to believe that, as a veteran, McNabb is used to a certain amount of latitude in how he handles his business, latitude which doesn’t fit with the very controlling Shanahan way of doing things.  Eagle’s head coach Andy Reid probably allowed this though I doubt he liked it much, which is possibly one reason why McNabb ended up in Washington in the first place.

    So its really a power struggle.  McNabb is playing it NBA-style, saying, “I’m the talent.  I’ll do what I think is right or you can try to do it without me,” and the Shanahans are saying, “Coaching is more important.  We make good quarterbacks.”.  In other words, they want to prove that they can make a better quarterback out of today’s starter, Rex Grossman, a mediocre player who does what he’s told, than McNabb is now.

    Talent Vs. coaching.  Its an age-old classic debate.  Of course, its also a waste of energy.  Both are necessary and the best can only be brought out of all parties involved are cooperating with each other while working together toward the same goal.  But that’s not likely to happen here where egos have gotten in the way of what’s best for the team.  In that respect I could care less about which individuals “win” this struggle.  Neither deserves it.  But on a broader scale, it should be of interest to see how it plays out.

    Dez Clark Disappearing From Bears Landscape

    Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune enumerates the reasons: why tight end Dez Clark has been inactive so often lately.  This one caught my eye:

      “The Bears have three tight ends with distinct roles. [Greg] Olsen is the route runner.  [Kellen] Davis is the short yardage guy. And Brandon Manumaleuna is the pass protector/run blocker from both the tight end and fullback positions.”

      I see the point and in combination with the others mentioned in the article is does draw a good picture of the current situation.

      But having said that, I would argue that Clark is far and away the most versatile of the three being competent in all of these aspects of the job.  Put him on the field and you never know what he’s going to be doing.  I’m going to guess that offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn’t think that “competent” is good enough to make him dangerous in any one aspect.  But Clark does create mismatches.