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Monday, November 5, 2012

It Was Only a Matter of Time, Rick.

I knew when I took this gig that it wouldn’t be long before I crossed swords with two-time Highlights magazine Contributor of the Month Rick Telander. He has a well-documented history of ass-flapping lunacy when it comes to these Chicago Bears, and Monday’s column “Bears Offense Needs to get on the ‘D’ Level” is no different.

Right off the bat, the title is steering into classic Telander waters. What he’s saying is that, in order for the Bears to win games (the 7 Deserved Losses negate their existing wins), the offense needs to perform as well as the defense. The defense that is currently performing at an unparalleled level both within franchise history and, potentially, league history. The defense that is currently on pace to absolutely shatter the pick-six record and has already broken several defensive scoring records this season. The defense that is ranked in the top 5 in the league in nearly every category but yards which, as we’ve discussed before, are not points and are therefore of little concern.

Anyway, to the meat of the column! He’s in italics, as always.

Anybody who thinks the Bears’ defense could win a game by itself doesn’t need to read the rest of this column.

Anybody who wants to see me eviscerate Rick Telander and wear his innards as a jaunty chapeau, however, should stick around.

Just place this page under your breakfast scraps or directly in the bird cage.

This is on a computer, Rick. It’s 2012. I’m not about to buy some birds and let them shit all over my laptop just because I, unfortunately, read one of your columns.

It’s possible the Bears’ offense isn’t needed. Punt the ball. Hit a field goal here and there. Kick off. Wait for the other team to screw up.

The Bears’ defense and special teams forced five fumbles and recovered four of them, blocked a punt for a touchdown, ran an interception in for a touchdown and set up other scores against the Titans in this 51-20 country-style slapdown at LP Field. It seemed the Bears’ offense was around mainly to marvel and kill time.

Writers have been doing this since the start of the season, and it’s really starting to grate. If the defense is having a good game and gives them a 21-point lead, the offense absolutely should play it safe, not turn the ball over, and keep the clock moving. They can’t help it if they have good field position and the defense takes away their possession by just going ahead and scoring by themselves. That is not a negative. Nobody says Green Bay’s running backs are there to “marvel and kill time,” and they accomplish far less than the Bears offense did Sunday.

‘‘It’s really a thing of beauty,’’ Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said of his team’s defense.

“It was really a thing of beauty,” Cutler also could have said about his performance, Forte’s performance, Marshall’s performance and the fan turnout at LP Stadium. It is not a dig at the offense to say the defense played well, Rick.

But I’m guessing at some point, the offense is going to have to get serious and earn its keep. It’s going to have to bail out the defense. Actually win a game on its own.

“And we should punish them for having been fortunate enough to have avoided that scenario thus far,” said Ace Reporter Rick Telander, breaking out a jar of his Thinkin’ Paste.

 Like maybe next week.

That’s when the 7-1 Houston Texans come to town with an attacking defense of its own and a quarterback-demolishing pass rush. They also have a defensive end named J.J. Watt, the purported former gangly pizza delivery boy by way of Central Michigan and Wisconsin, who has become a pass-batting maniac and the leading candidate for NFL defensive player of the year.

The Texans are 7-1, and are frankly terrifying, of that there is no doubt. But have they really had that much tougher a season than Chicago? Dolphins, Jags, Titans, Jets, Bills translates roughly into “5 wins” for any of the good teams in the league this year. They beat the Broncos in week 3, but the week 3 Broncos were not even close to the same team the week 9 Broncos are, and the Ravens have been prone to horrible losses for as long as they’ve been ignoring Ray Rice in favor of Flacco. The only “elite” team the Texans have faced this year is the Packers, and they got absolutely demolished. Meanwhile, the Bears’ only loss was a much closer game at Green Bay that they, according to the media, still have not recovered from despite winning six straight since then.

He brings up a good point about J.J. Watt because, you know, it’s not like the Bears have at least 3 leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year in Briggs, Tillman, and Jennings. No superstars over here.

Maybe the offensive stats don’t look so bad for the Bears, but, as you know, numbers can be deceiving.

For instance, this column is 750 words long and somehow only the conjunctions make any Goddamn sense. Deceiving!

You had Cutler with 229 yards passing, 19-for-26 for three TDs and an epic 138.1 passer rating. And running back Matt Forte with 103 yards rushing and a touchdown. And receiver Brandon Marshall with nine catches for 122 yards and three TDs. But somehow those stats don’t tell the real story.

“The real story” apparently being that the Bears had a bad day and just covered it up by pretending to have a really good day? I’m confused, Rick. I saw this team absolutely fucking shellac the Titans in all three phases and put franchise-record numbers on the scoreboard. I saw Bears fans run Titans fans out of their own stadium. What game were you watching, exactly?

The defense attacked first for the Bears, with cornerback Charles Tillman creating the first of his four forced fumbles on the Titans’ opening play, with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher recovering. And what did Cutler and the offense do with this gift? Nothing.

Here we go.

The defense attacked first because the Titans received the opening kickoff. That’s how football works, Rick. It would be ineffective at best if they trotted the offense out there and tried to run a few plays while the Titans had the ball.
It’s true that the offense squandered that turnover. Do they have to score on every possession to be “good” now? Do the Patriots never punt? For that matter, are the Patriots still "good?"


On the next series, it was four downs and a punt.

Soon the Northwestern alumni combination of Sherrick McManis and Corey Wootton blocked and scored on a Titans punt, and it was 7-0.

Yea that was pretty cool. The offense was kind of feeling out the defense and playing it a little safe after their attempts to come out of the gate firing had backfired earlier this season, and the punt team really gave them a boost. Somehow, though, those 7 points are a scathing indictment of Jay Cutler and not the first 7 points in one of the most dominant performances the Bears have ever put on.

What did the offense do with this gift? It backed up until Cutler was nearly smeared in the end zone and a safety was called on tackle J’Marcus Webb.

The score at that point was Defense 7, Offense minus-2. See where we’re going here? After seven passing plays, Cutler had completed two for 15 yards, thrown the rest incomplete, been sacked once and given up a safety.

“See, the offense should score one touchdown for every one the defense scores, not… two more… than them… Garçon! More paste! This column is making too much sense!”

The backing up was frustrating, to be sure, but 2/7 is not an inescapably bad start to a game (as we saw) and they could’ve got that first down if J’Marcus hadn’t grabbed a guy’s facemask. That safety is on him and him alone.

And then there's the punt block. That could've just been a block, and the Bears take over deep in Titans territory and drive to the endzone. Or Wootton could've been tackled and not scored, but the offense mopped up. Which is not to take credit from the punt return team, but to point out that the offense did not get that possession at all. They never had a chance to score on that drive because they didn't get that drive.

Yes, the Bears’ offense did score a touchdown on Forte’s eight-yard run a couple of minutes later, but that was only because Devin Hester had returned Brett Kern’s punt 44 yards to, guess where? The Titans’ 8-yard line.

See, a real offense would shoot Hester in the leg as he ran by so they could come out with terrible field position and earn the approval of hack fucking writers who rag on an offense for “only” getting 8 yards when those 8 yards are the distance to the fucking endzone. Jay should’ve dropped back 30 or 40 yards, really earned that TD.

Before anyone knew it, the score was 21-2. Again, unless you believe the Bears’ defense and special teams could win a game by themselves, you know this is not the formula for long-term success. And at 7-1, success for the Bears has got to be seen as leading invariably to the Super Bowl. And not just there, but winning it.

You’re right, leaving the game and going to the locker room in the first quarter would be a pretty bad way to win the Super Bowl. It’s a questionable strategy at best, and I don’t think it would look as good on the field as it does on paper. Good thing the offense came back out and tacked another 30 points on there, it’s not like the first 21 would have been enough to beat the Titans…

‘The defense sets us up,’’ Cutler admitted. He acknowledged that one of the team’s prime goals against the Titans was to get off to a fast start. ‘‘Offensively, we didn’t. We stumbled a little bit offensively.’’

“Admitted.” Like nobody knew this embarrassing secret. “The defense had a good game! We have to get to this before the media does, or they’ll have a field day!” Cutler’s shame must have been palpable.

On a more serious note, they do this every week with something Jay says. Not one quarterback in the NFL doesn’t say something to the effect of “There are still some things to work on,” at the end of the game. Matt Schaub doesn't come out of the locker room firing revolvers at the ceiling and air-spanking the imaginary mothers of his defeated opponents. Players say “we can do better” all the time because that is how you advance as a player and as a team. Only when Cutler says it is it an “admission” that he’s really a bad quarterback and he fooled us all.

And that’s not even mentioning the terrible play Cutler and the offense had just before halftime. Up 31-2 with a chance to make a laugher a knee-slapper, Cutler fiddled around at the Tennessee 14-yard line, yelling something at right tackle Gabe Carimi, then screwing up a pass play so badly that he was sacked for minus-six yards, fumbled to the Titans and thereby gave up another 30 yards.

“Fiddled around,” is it? What do you call what Peyton Manning does? Personally, I’d go with Filibustering. I just like that word. Throw “fiddle” in with “laugher” and “knee-slapper,” and the inescapable conclusion is that Rick Telander is actually an ol’ timey prospector hootin’ and hollerin’ 'bout dem boys in Chicaga. Which… kind of makes sense. Anyway, I'm pretty sure this one ended up being a "knee-slapper" anyway.

And that sack, you know the one where somebody came in unblocked on his blind side and hit his arm while he was throwing for a fumble, wasn’t really a screw-up on his part. In fact, that’s probably the most common type of QB fumble. It happens to everyone. Just didn’t get the ball out in time because his line did a bad job. But an elite leader would’ve seen it coming with his shoulder-eyes and, I don’t know, just curled up and waited to die I guess. Can elite QBs teleport away from danger? Can we check on that?

In a game like this, it didn’t mean much. Nothing meant much. Except that voracious Bears defense.

Thank God they had that play, otherwise poor Rick might have believed this was a dominating performance with a couple of minor mistakes! Certainly the offensive scores that enabled the Bears to win the game by having more points on the board at the end of the game meant nothing at all.

But things like those 30 yards get lost in the stats, like the sack yardage that decreases Cutler’s passing total from 229 to a team net of 198.

I’m pretty sure they’re right there in the stats. Luckily for people whose brains haven’t been addled by that delicious Elmer’s Special, one bad play does not in any way make a bad game. Hell, five bad plays don’t make a bad game when the rest of the game is this good.

And sure, that decreases his yardage, but that yardage would’ve gone back up if they hadn’t been playing safe football because they had a 30-point lead. I don’t understand this dynamic. They get an early lead and Cutler looks dominant in a safe, clean win and it’s a bad thing. They get behind late and Cutler looks dominant in an effortless game-winning drive and it’s a bad thing. Is there some middle path we’re not seeing? Are we… should we be tying these games? Is that what good quarterbacks do now?

And if an offense settles for three Robbie Gould field goals instead of red-zone TDs, those are points that someday — next week? — might be badly needed.

First off, good teams kick field goals all the fucking time. That’s one of the ways you score points, which is the whole purpose of a football game.

Second, if they need to put up 42 points on offense to beat the Texans, or anybody they’ve got left on the schedule for that matter, it’s because the defense just didn’t come in. The punt block scored, the defense scored, yes. But the offense also scored. Many times. It’s like you just watched the beginning of the first quarter and then decided to down a few fistfuls of Epoxy and just freak the fuck out until Monday morning.

Yes, this was a wonderful win by the Bears. And if you believe all’s good with the team, that’s fine. But if you worry about the offense, uncrumple this page.

See, in Rick’s world, the only two options are “this is unquestionably the best offense in the league” and “this offense is bad, and should feel bad.” I have my fears, but seeing them do the things they were able to do yesterday went a long way toward assuaging them. If the progression has to be 3-and-out, 3-and-out, four-and-out, SCORE FUCKING 51 POINTS, I think we’ll all get over it.

You’re with me.

Only because your mother worries about you on the stairs, Rick.


Goose said...

" But I’m guessing at some point, the offense is going to have to get serious and earn its keep. It’s going to have to bail out the defense. Actually win a game on its own. "

Do we not remember last week, AFTER the D got that pick-6, they lost the lead, only to have Cutler and the Bears offense "bail out the defense," or as non-assholes would put it, play football.

Erik said...

They played bad in the first quarter in that game, though. No offense has ever won a game on their own without scoring on their first 4 possessions. Plus, if they start poorly they should just continue to suck instead of improving. It confuses the poor Sun-Times when they don't do the exact same thing on every series.

Lee said...

I guess we shouldn't mention the fact that the Texans had a measly 7-6 lead at halftime against Wanny, Fitzy, Gailey.

Iggins! said...

HUSH. The Texans dominated the Bills! Why would the sports media lie to me?!