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Monday, August 31, 2009

Bears/Broncos Notes

Walkin' away from Denver again..
So after the Bears impressive 27-17 victory over the Broncos (or the Spurned Lovers, as Al Michaels would call them), here's just a few thoughts on the good, the bad, the ugly:

The Good:

-Jay Cutler. I saved him for last last week, but I'm gonna put him up front where he belongs this week. After a slow start where it was fairly obvious he was nervous (and being, you know, bottled up in his own end zone both drives didn't exactly help), he rebounded to put together some nice scoring drives, topping off with a 98 yard touchdown drive to end the first half, where he went 7-10 for 85 yards and a touchdown. This week the line was struggling to give him the time needed to look downfield, so he did a great job of finding the tight ends (including a throw down the seam to Greg Olsen that was just zipped) for 5 catches and 77 yards. He also did a great job putting the touchdown throw to Forte right where Matt was the only one who had a shot at it.

What really impressed me, however, was Jay's two plays to avoid safeties early in the first quarter. Was anyone else so conditioned by the parade of quarterbacks the Bears have had who completely lacked anything resembling pocket presence (sorry, Rex), flinching every time you saw a rusher coming at him from behind? Both times Jay stepped up into the pocket and got the ball out to Forte. It was nice to see a quarterback without much of a pants-shitting complex.

-Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. The wide receiver corps has actually looked somewhere around adequate the last two preseason games, but these two will still be the focus of the passing game, at least for a while, and both looked good tonight outside of one drop by Clark. Olsen's really mastered the seam route, which is the most important one for any tight end to run.

-Earl Bennett. The guy made a couple great catches in traffic, and definitely seems to have good hands. I didn't put much stock into the "they played together at Vanderbilt four years ago, so they've gotta click this year!" line when training camp began, but I'm starting to.

-The defense. The run defense was absolutely stellar in the first half, limiting the Broncos to just 9 yards on 8 carries. This forced the Broncos into plenty of long yardage situations, and the defensive backs were able to play off the ball and prevent the Broncos passing game from gaining first downs with the short stuff. The Broncos were forced to punt on 5 of their 7 first half possessions. It'll be good to see how the defense looks once Tillman and Bowman are back in the lineup at corner. One thing that was also reassuring was to see Tommie Harris get significant playing time and see him get some penetration in the backfield on a few of the running plays. If they can keep playing that well against the run, they're going to win plenty of ball games.

The Bad

-Devin Hester. He continued his incosistent preseason. One the one hand, his kick ass punt return was classic Hester, and he made a couple catches and didn't seem to have any communication issues with Cutler this week. On the other hand, he really screwed the team's field position on his first few punt returns. He fair caught one that he definitely should have let go, he let go several that he should have caught, and he put the team in awful starting position.

-Orlando Pace. I'm not going to be too rough on the big guy, since he's played well in the first two preseason games, but last night the much smaller and faster Elvis Dumervil beat him badly on several plays. Fortunately most of the defensive ends and linebackers in the NFL are grown up size, so hopefully he'll match up better against them. If not, Kevin Shaffer is a reliable insurance plan.

The Ugly-

-Denver fans' Bitterness. Let it go, people. It was hysterical following the liveblogs and comment threads around the internet as Denver fans guaranteed a Cutler interception or safety every time the Bears were buried deep in their territory, and to hear them explain how Cutler just isn't a winner (and its not the defense's fault, either, they mave have allowed 374 yards and 28 ppg last year, but that was all because Cutler turned the ball over, which he did mostly after they'd already given up the lead so I just don't see...whatever). The people wearing the Cutler jerseys with the diapers and the binkies were awesome, too. I hope their asses froze to the seats.

-Kyle Orton. God damnit, Josh McDaniels. I know Orton isn't a deep ball thrower (which I still maintain has Less to do with his arm strength than it does his release, as he has too much of a wind-up on the deep ball), but the man can throw it at least ten yards. I've know watched every snap Orton's taken in three preseason games with Denver and can't honestly remember seeing him attempt a pass Beyond the first down marker on a 1st and 10 or 2nd and 10. I wasn't hoping he'd play that well against the Bears, obviously, but it'd be nice if I didn't have to go back to constantly defending the Patron Saint's arm strength.

To summarize: Cutler looked great under pressure and god I hope the first team defense we've seen the last two games isn't a preseason mirage, because this team looks like a god damn winner right now.

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