Outside of one bumbling sequence in the first quarter, when drops by Roy Williams and Marion Barber led to a an interception and a safety, and the fourth quarter, the Bears were clearly the better team today. The problem, however, is that they struggled to sustain that dominance and found themselves hanging on for a 24-18 win that was far more difficult than it needed to be.
Dropped passes, nonsensical runs up the middle when Forte was dominating the edge, a bad interception by Jay Cutler, and some very poor discipline in the Cover 2 allowed Josh Freeman to compose himself long enough to throw two TDs and make it a ball game.
Fortunately, the Bears still were the better team, sealing the deal with their fourth interception to salvage a 4-3 record before the bye. Last year they took a 4-3 record into a week 8 bye and emerged with a 7-2 run to lock up the 2 seed in the conference. This year? We'll see. It'll take more complete efforts, rather than the second half bumbling we saw today, to lock up a playoff spot in a much tougher NFC.
I'm not the gloomy type, however, so I'm happy enough to take a two game winning streak into the week off. Carimi and Earl Bennett should be back after the bye, so at the very least the Bears will go into the second half with the offense they expected to have to begin the season. Hopefully we'll see some consistency. On to the breakdown:
Matt Forte: Pay. The. Man. There aren't many occasions where I find myself in complete lock step with the meatball crowd, but the fact that Matt Forte's future as a Bears isn't secure really frightens me. He once again carried the team with 25 rushes for 145 yards (5.8 YPC) and a TD, to go along with 38 yards receiving. He's now the first running back since Priest Holmes in 2004 to have over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his team's first seven games. That's ludicrous. Don't let him go, Jerry.
Marion Barber: Helped out Forte with 6 rushes for 39 yards and a TD, although his drop on the screen led to Cutler's first interception. Jerk.
The Offensive Line: There was pressure throughout, and Jay rushed some throws he probably didn't need to, as well, but they paved the way for 177 yards rushing and allowed just 2 sacks, which, for this team, does merit the "just".
The Briggs/Urlacher Duo: 11 tackles, 2 passes defensed, 2 interceptions. Just 30 yards rushing for Tampa. That'll do it.
The Defensive Line: They seemed to get winded in the fourth, and the pressure died off a bit, but for most of the game Freeman was harried and harassed and completely ineffective, and although they registered just one sack, they contributed greatly to the four interceptions.
Chris Conte: Everyone on defense has played better the last two days, so you can't just give Conte and Paea the credit, but Conte played very well in this game, with a couple of tackles and a very impressive interception at the goal line.
D.J. Moore: The nickelback in the Cover 2 has just one job, really. D.J. does that very well, as his seventh interception in the last two years ended today's game.
Jay Cutler: He was off today. The first interception wasn't his fault, nor was the Brutal Roy Williams drop that preceded it, but his second int was awful and he rushed several throws that he just didn't need to rush. It wasn't an awful day, all things considered, and had Marion not dropped the screen that led to the first pick his totals on the day would have been much more respectable, but I was really hoping to see him build off of the two great games he'd had before this one.
The 4th Quarter Playcalling: Why the hell did Martz' go away from the outside runs that had destroyed Tampa for the first three quarters? Why'd he go away from play action in favor of straight dropbacks? Why's he keep calling that Hester reverse that's worked once in 2 years and has otherwise resulted in a never-ending series of fail? Gah. Oh well. They won.
Roy Williams' Hands: I didn't want to throw him completely in the bad, as he had a great catch and run TD, but his first drop pretty much ended what had been a very productive drive and he nearly lost another one in the fourth quarter. I want to give you a chance, Roy. Don't make me mad.
Anyway, Detroit lost and Green Bay is somehow not murdering Minnesota yet (it's only the 2nd quarter), so maybe things are looking up. Enjoy your bye week, all. Go Bears.