Monday, October 19, 2009

Breaking Down the Breakdown

Guh. You have to say this about Bears' losses the last two years: they're the most god damned frustrating losses you've ever seen. 7 of the 9 games the Bears have lost since the start of last year have been by 7 points or less, with an average of 5 points. The missed opportunities are so god damn aggravating it could drive lesser men than me to madness. Iggins! is still piecing together his sanity after the fourth or fifth time Ron Turner called a pointless run on first down for no gain or a loss that ended up setting up Another 3rd and long.

The important thing to note is that this game was a tough loss, against a great opponent, on the road and outside of the division. When I made my initial projection of the Bears finishing this year at 11-5, this was one of the ones I marked down as a loss. There's certainly no reason to panic or throw in the towel because with most of the major contenders in the NFC (Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Packers, 49ers, Cardinals) all looking vulnerable in many places, the wildcard is certainly still open, and even though the Vikings keep skating by, they're soon to enter a tougher part of their schedule and the division race may open up a bit. This week's game against Cincinnati has become a must win, however. If the Bears can take it to the Bengals in Cincinnati, then come home and handle two games they Should win at home against the Browns and Cardinals (although the Cardinals are certainly a dangerous team), they'll finish the first half with a very respectable 6-2 record.

I'm not going to be the Good/Bad breakdown like I usually do, mostly because no one out there (except maybe Devin Hester) had a great night, and almost everyone has something to answer for:

-Jay Cutler: for the most part last night he was the guy we've seen the last three games, and his effort was enough to keep us in the game all night long. It goes without saying that you just can't throw Either of those interceptions that he threw, however.

-Matt Forte: Hit the god damn hole, Matt, and hang on with both hands in short yardage situations. I realize that holes are few and far between for Forte, but when he gets them he almost always seems to hesitate before making his move. I can't absolve him of blame for the run game's struggles any longer. He's not the primary reason they're struggling, but he's one of them.

-Lovie Smith: I can not fathom why a guy making his second career start at MLB was left to single cover the greatest tight end of all time in the end zone. With 8 friggn' seconds left on the clock, it should have been obvious Ryan's was going to try and get that ball to Gonzalez. Roach can't be left on an island like that against a guy that easily outsmarted him. That one's on Lovie. So was the bland Cover 2 response to Atlanta's switch to the no-huddle at the end of the half. Ryan had a field day dumping it off underneath. There has to be at least some package of coverages ready in that situation.

-Nick Roach: Tony Gonzalez beat him like a drum all god damn day long. It was unfortunate.

-Zack Bowman: NBC showed an interesting statistic last night when they showed that opposing teams have a 100+ passer rating when throwing it to Bowman's side and a 40.7 rating when throwing it in Tillman's direction. Even Bowman's interception barely redeemed him as he carried the ball away from his body resulting in a fumble everyone saw coming. Fortunately the Bears recovered, but only after losing 16 yards of field position. I'm not impressed. That also goes for Nathan Vasher. I understand Lovie's scoring mentality when it comes to turnovers, but the first priority in those situations has to be HOLDING ON TO THE GOD DAMN BALL.

-Special Teams: It's really rare to see the Bears as the team that lost this category, but they did last night. The offsides penalty that renewed a late Atlanta drive (fortunately the interception reversed that, but the team still lost valuable time on the clock and 5 yards of field position), the big kickoff return that set up Atlanta's last touchdown, and Johnny Knox's decision to run Atlanta's last kickoff out of the endzone were all glaring mistakes.

-Ron Turner: I was Ron Turner's biggest defender coming into this season. I wrote two pretty long, stirring defenses of the man. But if I'm the guy grading this team, he's got a solid D right now. His short passing game hasn't been bad, as much as everyone wants to scream out "John Shoop" every time he does it, because Cutler's been able to get the ball out and allow the wideouts to run after the catch most of the time, and because its necessary to counteract the constant blitzes the passing game is facing. However, the run game is a disaster and he needs his fair share of the blame for that. He constantly runs delayed handoffs, sweeps (at the goal line? Who the hell runs a sweep at the goal line? I don't even do that in Madden.), and stretch plays when its clear the offensive line can't pull or hold long enough to allow those to develop.

The best thing for Ron to do in the run game would be to go to quick handoffs straight up the middle between Kreutz and Garza. Garza's the best lineman this team has right now. Also, did anyone notice that only time all night Cutler had a pocket to throw in was the 92 yard touchdown drive to tie it at 14? Did anyone notice how many of those passes were play action passes? That part of the offense needs to be utilized more.

This all brings me to my numero uno target of rage-

The offensive line: All of them to some degree have inspired my rage, but right now I'm just going to rank them from least hate to most hate:

-Roberto Garza: He's been beat a few times this season but he is easily the best player on the line right now.

-Chris Williams: He's hit or miss right now but the potential is there.

-Olin Kreutz: His skills are declining rapidly but not as noticeably as...

-Orlando Pace: Here's what we've learned so far about Pace: he was too tall to block Elvis Dumerville, who skirted around him all night in Denver. He was too slow to stop Brandon Chillar, who flew past him in Green Bay. He's struggled to open holes in the run game all year long, and last night he and Omiyale just fucking melted down on the last drive, culminating in a backbreaking false start where Pace, the "future Hall of Famer," clearly just didn't know the fucking snap count. I can only wonder how long Pace and Omiyale will remain untouchable thanks to their contracts, because right now, if Beekman and Shaffer could just stay still until the snap they'd be upgrades.

-Frank Omiyale: I've seen Frank Omiyale open two holes this year. Unfortunately, one was in the preaseason against the Giants, so that doesn't mean much. The other was Matt Forte's 37 yard scamper against the Lions. So nice job, Frank. The Bears give you an $11.5 million deal and a $5.5 million signing bonus, to go along with the first starting opportunity of your career, and you've been a wonderful flop. Remember the deflected pass on the slant to Johnny Knox? The one that was easily going to be the tying touchdown? Yeah, the guy that knocked that down was Omiyale's man. Son of a bitch he's worthless. Josh Beekman needs to get a look, and soon.

Well there's that. Honestly the defense played well last night. If you'd have told me before the game that they'd hold the Falcons to under 300 yards and 21 points, I'd have taken that. Right now they're getting by with one experienced defensive back, one experienced linebacker, a solid defensive end rotation, and an easily less than 100% (and probably never to be again) Tommie Harris. They're doing what they can. 21 points should Not be too much to ask of this offense. Somehow, be it through better play calling, substitutions on the line, or just scheming ways to improve the guys are already there, it needs to improve.

Well there's my take. This was a tough loss, but it was one of the one's that I had rationalized as possible and not necessarily devastating. Lovie always advocates looking at a 16 game schedule as 4 quarters. If the Bears can rally and go 3-1 in this quarter just like they did in the first quarter (and its certainly possible), this team will be set up well for the stretch run.