Points of View, December 22, 2010

Bears

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune mentions that Virginia McCaskey was at the game in Minnesota and was apparently quite lively.   Kudos to her.  My grandfather is 89 and let me tell you, there’s no way I’d be able to get him out in that kind of weather to watch a football game.
  • I’m not one to criticize referees but I thought the officiating was uneven to say the least in the Vikings game.  It didn’t cause anyone to win or lose the game but the guess here is that the film won’t look good on review at the league office.
  • After Brett Favre came back to start on Monday, most people attributed it to his miraculous healing powers.  I doubt that his shoulder got better quite as fast as his desire to try to play through it did.  With the Bears getting ready to take the field I’m guessing that the old blood got flowing and Favre decided to try one more time to prove to himself that he could or couldn’t play.  In the end, he couldn’t survive it.

I wouldn’t have a problem with this is it weren’t for the fact that it sets a dangerous precedent.  “Out” really should mean “out”.  I couldn’t prove that Favre was better physically than he appeared Saturday.  But given his history, I think its safe to say that he got the benefit of the doubt because he is who he is.

“The Bears won’t acknowledge it, but there is a direct correllation between Devin Hester’s reemergence as a lethal kick returner and his diminished role on offense.”

“Take it for what it’s worth that ESPN analyst Matt Millen enthusiastically endorsed the Bears as Super Bowl contenders, saying they could beat the Saints or the Falcons on the road in a playoff game. Millen was one of the best analysts in the game in his first stint on TV, but his credibility took a hit with the disastrous run as president of the Lions.”

Say what you want about Millen but his credibility can’t possibly be any worse than Bill Cowher‘s.  Last week Cowher not only predicted that the Bears would miss the playoffs but said that they wouldn’t win another game all season.

  • The Bears attracted the usual large TV audience (via the Chicago Tribune) we’ve come to expect for their national games.  I always take pride in this but at the same time it does nothing to help the cause of keeping Bear games on Sunday afternoon and out of prime time.

“Not much in the way of a Bernard Berrian sighting, was there? Look for the ex-Bear to potentially become an ex-Viking in the offseason. He has fallen way out of favor there.”

I’m not sure what Berrian’s problem has been.  Its possible he could become a Bear again if he came at the right price.  But if he does he’s going to have to be more physical.  Ask Devin Aromashodu.

Elsewhere

  • Biggs also mentions some of the political talk that went on this week as the Vikings seek a new stadium:

“Certainly NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand trying to get support lined up.

“‘I think there’s a recognition that we need to find a long-term solution for the Vikings here to get a new stadium built,’ Goodell said. ‘We met with the business community. We met with the legislators. And we met with the governor-elect. So we’re all going to be working hard to try to find the best solution to keep the Vikings here in Minnesota.’

“Keeping the Vikings in Minnesota would be good for the rivalries in the division, that is for certain.”

I would agree.  But I’m not holding my breath that a deal will be made unless the Vikings and the NFL kick in a substantial portion of the money needed to build a stadium.  It’s a bad time to be asking for money at any level of government, let alone from the Minnesota legislature with their impending $6 billion deficit.  The state isn’t going to put money in unless they are absolutely convinced that they will break even in terms of job creation and tax revenue.  Its a tough sell.

“‘Football should be played outdoors,’ Wilf said before the 40-14 loss to the Bears, ‘and for the Vikings in the past, the weather has given the Vikings a big advantage.'”

  • Aaron Rogers has passed all of th necessary test and will be back for the Giants game according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com via Greg Rosenthal at profootballtalk.com.  They’re going to need him.  They need to win their last two game sot make the playoffs, starting with the Giants this week.  The Giants will certainly have sufficient motivation themselves.  They are in the playoffs with a win.
  • Kevin Goheen at the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (via benmaller.com) head coach Marvin Lewis‘ response to a profootballtalk.com report that the Bengals were considering making Terrell Owens inactive for the last three games because of his attitude and performance:

“Lewis denied the report, which was attributed to an anonymous league source.

“‘Pro Football Talk? Enough said. I don’t need to address it,’ said Lewis. ‘Have I ever addressed anything in here from Pro Football Talk? No. I don’t even know where it is.'”

Lewis has apparently been taking lessons from Lovie Smith on how to answer reporter’s questions.  This could have easily come from him.

In any case, even though the reporter called it one (twice), those of you who are paying attention might note that failing to address the report is not a denial.  Just sayin’.

  • Donovan McNabb feels “disrespected”.  But presumably not enough to quit and give up any money he might have coming to him.  Mike Shanahan waited until Thursday evening to tell him he wouldn’t be starting last weekend.  Maybe McNabb should get on board and do what the offensive coordinator asks him to do.
  • The Lions won a road game last weekend and, though the significance of it went by most of us, Jamie Samuelson at the Detroit Free Press points out that they did it with their third string quarterback.  With three quarterbacks who can play ball, the Lions enjoy a luxury most teams would love to have.

The Lions are a team worth keeping an eye on the last two games.  If they finish strong it could be taken as an indication that they will be ready to turn the corner next year.

One Final Thought

Its Potash day here.  He got this interesting comment from Rashied Davis regarding Devin Hester after he set the record for career returns for a touch down:

“Asked the best thing he could say about Hester, Rashied Davis had an interesting answer:

‘‘’He’s a good dude,’ Davis said. ‘He respects what we do, which makes us play harder, because he doesn’t think it’s all him. He knows we have a huge part of it and gives us credit. So we definitely. appreciate his attutude toward what he does.'”

Posted in Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Points of View | Leave a comment

Bears Must Continue to Work to Improve

Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Sun-Times makes a debatable point about what the Bears should do with their last two games:

“The battle cry might be that winning the division title is just one step, but you can’t help but wonder if you might be able to find a shortcut to the Super Bowl by settling on the No. 3 seed and calling it a day on the 2010 regular season.

“Yes, it is a great betrayal of the integrity of the league and might leave an indelible stain on the franchise. It also might work out just fine.”

I know that there are always health concerns when it comes to playing football games.  Most coaches believe that you keep your guys healthy and rest them before the playoffs whenever you can.  I understand that.  But I think Mulligan might be taking it a bit far in this case.

Before the season began I said that this year was going to be one where self-improvement was going to be the theme.  At the time I thought the Bears would have eight wins.  But the fact that they’ve got more than that and are on their way to the playoffs doesn’t change my opinion.  They need to continue to improve if they are going to make a deep playoff run.

New England taught us that the defensive backs need to get better, particularly in man coverage.  There are young defensive linemen that need to improve if they are going to take maximum advantage of Julius Pepper‘s presence.  And more than anything else the offensive line has to continue to develop technique and work toward attaining better cohesiveness.  Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune did his weekly film review and also found a number of aspects of the Bears play against the Vikings that need to be cleaned up.

Three weeks is forever in the NFL.  All of these things and more need to continue to improve and they can do so dramatically if the team continues to put the correct amount of effort into the games they have left.  If they are going to be able to look in the mirror after the year is over and be able to say that did everything they could and played their best when it counted, that’s what they have to do.

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Steve Johnson Twitters a Picture of His

Buffalo wide receiver Steve Johnson sent a picture of his johnson to his Twitter followers (via benmaller.com).  The photo can be found at Media Take.  Johnson says it was an accident but that’s beside the point.

Someone familiar with the mentality of the average NFL player is going to have to explain this to me some day.  Really, I don’t care how proud you are, do they really feel the need to take a picture of it?  Can’t you just look in the mirror?  For heavens sake, can’t you just look down pretty much any time you want?

The NFL is unlikely to be amused, particularly given that you might expect this guys to be a bit extra careful after the Brett Favre flap.

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Bears Offensive Line Improving, Deserves More Respect After Win

Every once in a while I’ll quickly write up game comments and put them up, then sleep on it and regret some things I said.  Well, probably more common than every once in a while.  Last was one of those times.

Steve Rosenblom at the Chicago Tribune makes a good point that I probably should have emphasized more strongly:

“The offensive line has been the biggest reason to doubt the Bears this season. On Monday night, the line was perhaps the biggest reason there was no doubt they’d beat the Vikings.”

You can say a lot about the team that the Bears beat last night.  The offense was banged up with their best player, Adrian Peterson, on the sideline.  They got more beat up when they had to put in their third string quarterback.  But there’s not much wrong with the Viking defense beyond the fact that they just plain aren’t play well.  And even that isn’t true of defensive tackles, Kevin and Pat Williams.

Like the rest of the team, the Bears offensive line starts slow.  That biases people like me for the rest of the game because, like most men, we see what we expect to see.  Though I did say that “all of it got better as the game wore on”, the offensive line deserved better than I gave them last night.  They allowed the team to attack off tackle on the ground and everything flowed from there.  The pass protection got better as they were allowed to run more play action.  Despite the fact that the Vikings kept on blitzing, they plugged the holes and gave quarterback Jay Cutler a decent amount of protection.

The line is still a weakness.  They still make too many mistakes, especially early in games, and they commit too many penalties.  But it appears to me like they might also be coming together and there really is hope that in a few weeks they’ll be good enough to carry this team into a deep playoff run.

I sincerely hope so.  Last night they were a big reason why this team succeeded.  But as Rosenbloom points out, one bad game in the wrong spot and they could also be the biggest reason why they won’t.  It that important.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings | Leave a comment

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.

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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.
Posted in Game Comments | 2 Comments

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

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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.

    Posted in Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings | Leave a comment

    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.

    Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment