I apologize for another tardy game recap and my general absences/delays from the regular features here at Start Kyle Orton. I recently moved to a new area and started graduate school, so the changes in my personal schedule and the increase in workload have cut into my bloggin' time. I assure you, though, I will do my best to give you the completely useless information and commentary you've hopefully learned to ignore. Onto the recap:
The Bears did just enough this week to get by the Carolina Panthers. There are plenty of people who've already written this win off while looking at the generally poor defensive performance and the supposed lack of quality of the opponent. I'm not doing that. There were certainly some very good things to take from this game, and that Carolina offense isn't just "promising down the road" good, but very good as it is.
However, there were plenty of things I didn't like about this game as well. As usual, the answers will be found in the next week's game, as a win over the somehow undefeated Lions (I really don't mean to keep trashing them. They're obviously a good, talented team, but the last two weeks have been at least equal parts opponent meltdown and Lion comeback, especially when Tony Romo gift wrapped 21 second-half points for them via his interception-palooza) would really tell us whether this team has legitimate playoff hopes or is perhaps the fading team we all feared they may have been after their lackluster performances against the Saints and Packers. For now, though, I'm happy with a win.
Matt Forte: If Jerry Angelo doesn't wise up to the necessity of paying this man, well, I will find a way to visit horrible pains upon his being. You can say what you will about Carolina's shoddy run defense. Nobody that's very good in that area will get gashed for 224 yards, but you also don't back your way to that kind of total on offense, either. Forte showed all day long that he can exploit any kind of hole with that second gear he has. Once he gets to the second level he accelerates like few backs in this league can. Nobody expects 205 yards per game out of him, naturally, but I'd truly like to murder Mike Martz if he ever again thinks he can just give up on the run after two or three unsuccessful attempts. Give Matt at least 15 carries and he'll open everything else up.
Lance Louis: A lot of people laugh when Mike Tice talks about Louis's athleticism, but the guy really is a promising offensive line prospect. Unfortunately, he's never been particularly good at staying healthy. Yesterday he started at guard, but moved to right tackle when Omiyale proved once again that he's Frank Omiyale. At both positions, however, Louis was a mauler in the run game and held his own in pass protection. Chris Spencer's given an acceptable performance the last couple of weeks for a center playing guard, but Louis has the potential to be one hell of a combination on the right side with a healthy Gabe Carimi, whenever they get him back.
Devin Hester: It was really nice yesterday to have Devin Hester remind me why I love him so much. Having spent much of the last few weeks ranting about his (and everyone else's) lack of ability as a wide receiver, I'm glad he reminded us all again of his true value. Both of his long returns yesterday were huge, and both were classic Devin. The kickoff return especially made me laugh, as I immediately said "that's not a good idea Devin" as he took it out of the end zone, then happily wiped the egg off of my face as he took it back 73 yards. Then his punt return was a thing of pure beauty, and may the officials that flagged his celebration rot in hell. The man's the Greatest of All Time. Let him celebrate his record.
D.J. Moore: The nickelback in the Tampa Two isn't much of a cover corner. Their main job is to take advantage of harried QBs and come up with turnovers. DJ excels at this. Any time a ball is batted in the air it seems to find him, and he's very good at transitioning to ball carrier and taking the ball in for scores. Good job, DJ.
-Cam Newton: If my recent destruction in the Prognostication Bukakke (more on that later) hasn't shown you, Cam Newton's incredible success as a pro quarterback is definitive proof that I know absolutely nothing. He's got Aaron Rodgers-level ability. There were a number of times in that game where the defensive tackles broke through the line quickly and I expected Cam to tuck and run toward the edge, and instead he evaded the arm tackles, re-set his feet and made an incredible throw. God, I don't want to see him again anytime soon.
Tim Jennings: With his speed and route-running ability Steve Smith is a nightmare for most corners. I don't disagree with Lovie putting someone other than Tillman on him. P'nut's game has always been best against big, tall receivers, not the speedy guys. However, Jennings got absolutely Destroyed by Smith. He wasn't helped much by the terrible two-deep play of Brandon Meriweather, but man, Jennings has been awful in back to back weeks against Jennings and Smith. Hopefully Charles Tillman is up to the task of slowing down Megatron next weekend, because Jennings sure as hell can't do it.
Brandon Meriweather: For the second time in three weeks a Bears safety broke the cardinal rule of Lovie-ball. Do not get beat deep. In New Orleans it was Major Wright peeking into the backfield, but this week Meriweather got caught looking a couple times, not to mention he's already shown the tendency to freelance and look for the big hit that his detractors in New England spoke of. I'd expect Lovie and Marinelli to work with him more in the coming weeks, and the return of Chris Harris (whenever that is, hopefully soon) should definitely help, but so far its been an auspicious start as a Bear for Brandon.
Defensive Line: The Panthers have a pretty good offensive line with Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil, but there needs to be more of an impact from guys like Julius Peppers and Henry Melton in a game like this. I know Newton probably escaped from 3 sacks that most QBs can't, but Peppers and Idonije were completely neutralized off the edge for most of the game. That absolutely cannot happen again, unless they want 500+ yards of offense from their opponent every week. By the way, back in 2007 I said the Bears should draft Ryan Kalil as Kreutz's eventually heir apparent who could play some guard. They drafted Olsen instead. Both are now Panthers. Make of that what you will. The line also needs to find some way to make more of a mess in the middle. Ryan Grant and DeAngelo Williams have both hurt them inside in the last two weeks.
Jay Cutler: I understand it's hard to get in rhythm when you only throw on third and long for most of the game, and I counted at least two drops, but Jay's accuracy really slipped after a hot start. He was just 3 of 9 with an interception after a 6-8 start. He's really had a hard time keeping the ball down the last couple of weeks. Hopefully Lance Louis and Gabe Carimi can get back and stay back in the lineup and Jay will have the confidence in his protection that he had during the preseason and during the opener, but for now he's just not showing the kind of accuracy we're used to.