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Friday, November 30, 2012

Repost: Is it Possible to Diagnose an Entire News Organization With Clinical Depression?

Repost time, thanks to Iggins!

After almost every Bears victory, Chicago sportswriters find themselves compelled to write columns about how the victory wasn’t good enough. Even though they’re technically reporting on a win, they somehow manage to spend the entire time bitching about how it could’ve been better. Seriously, they were more negative about this win than they were about the two losses that preceded it.

The worst one I found this week came from CBS Chicago, courtesy of their Sports Editor (remember that, it’ll be important later), Adam Hoge. It just made me mad, not because of the inaccuracies but because these people just can’t write a positive story about anything. Morrissey’s Monday column was called “A Win is a Win, but Don’t Get Cocky,” for Christ’s sake. 

This one is more reasonably titled “There’s Hope for the Bears’ Offense After All,” but even that just seems petty to me. It implies that we should be surprised by that fact, like the fans by now should have decided this offense just sucks and will always suck and there’s nothing to be done but start over. Goodbye playoff dreams!

Anyway, he’s in italics.


It’s something the Bears haven’t had on offense all season.

While nobody would tell you this has been a stellar offensive unit, you don’t just get to throw out the times they have had rhythm because you’re writing a story in which they don’t.  They had great rhythm in the Carolina comeback, as well as the Colts and Cowboys blowouts and the Titans…. what’s a stronger word for ass-whoopin’?

Even when they were occasionally scoring points against bad teams earlier in the season, long drives were rare and continuity was nowhere to be found.

Those “bad teams” include the playoff-bound Colts (who beat the Packers), for starters, as well as the Rams (who tied the 49ers). As I said in my last post, even bad teams are capable of winning games because these are still some of the fastest, strongest, most frightening people on the planet and they are very good at playing football.

And it’s not the offense’s fault they played bad teams, they don’t write the schedule. It’s also not their fault they don’t have many opportunities for long drives: with the defense and special teams they have, long fields are hard to come by. Hell, the way defensive players were scoring through the first 8 weeks, possessions were hard to come by. Still, continuity was rare, so I’ll give you that half of your statement.

That’s pretty common when your offensive line can’t block anyone.

Except the Texans. And Titans. And Cowboys. And Colts. They’ve been pretty lousy, but there have been some moments worth watching, give credit where credit is due.

But Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field, rhythm was somehow found and largely sustained against a decent Vikings defense as the Bears ended a two-game slide with a 28-10 victory.

I hate that any losing streak is called a “slide.” Yes, they lost two games, but did anybody honestly expect them to go out there and beat the Niners without Cutler? That was a planned loss, it’s not like the team was spiraling out of control.

How ironic that in a game where both starting guards went down with knee injuries — and the Bears’ benched right tackle was forced to play guard for the first time in his entire life — continuity appeared to be present on the Bears’ offensive line?

You know linemen are like… functioning, thinking human beings, right? The ironic hand of fate didn’t come down and make them play well, they worked their asses off coming back from one of the most embarrassing defeats they’ve ever suffered. Lady Luck didn’t block Jared Allen, offensive linemen did.

After scrambling for answers during a short week full of line changes and drama, the Bears were able to give Jay Cutler — returning from a concussion — just enough time to make plays and sustain drives.

“Just enough time” implies that Cutler had hands on his jersey as he was getting every pass out. Sure, he scrambled some, but that was mostly on long plays and bootlegs. For the most part, they didn’t give him “just enough time,” they gave him time to have a drink and think about his options before he threw the ball.

“We wanted to see some rhythm and a little sense of urgency,” Cutler said after the game. “Guys just doing their job, play after play and getting some drives together.”

It wasn’t always pretty. Cutler was often forced to scramble, but he was able to shuffle his feet and move like backup Jason Campbell cannot, giving the Bears’ offense a dimension it needs. In Campbell’s defense, even Cutler wouldn’t have been able to dodge the 49ers’ pass rush in San Francisco, but Sunday the Bears needed Cutler to win.

According to sportswriters, when Jay gets sacked because he holds onto the ball for 45 minutes instead of throwing it away, it’s the line’s fault; but when the exact same thing happens and he gets the ball out, they get none of the credit? Pick one or the other, Adam. They’re not great, but there are plenty of bad plays on the tape to mock without ragging them for things they can’t control.

True, Campbell probably would’ve eaten five sacks that Jay dodged, but Campbell also wouldn’t have held onto the ball long enough for it to be an issue.

After weeks and weeks in which offensive coordinator Mike Tice stubbornly stuck with his deficient tackles, he finally made the choice to bench Carimi in favor of Jonathan Scott — a move that paid off. Scott was quicker out of his stance and more effective, while Carimi came in and provided a nice boost as an extra blocker in short yardage situations.

Just the one deficient tackle, Hoge. Because of the early-season J’Marcus Webb drama, people always fail to notice that he’s actually played very well since then. There’s a reason Gabe got benched and J’Marcus didn’t, so give the guy some credit.

Unfortunately, knee injuries ravished-

 [rav-ish] verb (used with object)

1. to fill with strong emotion, especially joy.
2. to seize and carry off by force.
3. to carry off (a woman) by force.
4. to rape (a woman). 

I think you mean “ravaged,” Adam. Adam, it should be noted again, is the Sports Editor for You know, the one who makes sure the words are right before they publish things. In case they eventually notice this and correct it, I have a screengrab of the column from the day it came out.

-the offensive line during the game and sent guards Lance Louis and Chris Spencer to the bench. Carimi moved to guard and was effective, but major health questions remain regarding a unit that was already playing a man down after Chilo Rachal abruptly left the team mid-week.

I suppose those health questions have mostly been answered now, but at the time that was an accurate statement. Just to update those who haven’t heard elsewhere, Spencer is hurt and won’t play this week, but he should be back in 1-2. Louis is out for the season with a torn ACL; and Jared Allen was fined $21,000 for that hit.

Cutler singled out Scott for playing well, a sign that he will remain the starting right tackle.

I would say the fact that coaches said he will remain the starting right tackle is a better sign that he will than the fact that Cutler – who, it should be noted, is not a coach – said he did a good job.

Meanwhile, Smith gave credit to Carimi and Edwin Williams for filling in at guard. Carimi said it was the first time in his life he played guard.

I was pleasantly surprised by Gabe’s performance at guard. He’s taller than one would expect, but clearly it didn’t give Jay many problems and he kept his guy out of the backfield, so I’ll take it. I figured Edwin would be fine; the only reason he hadn’t played was because Spencer was there.

“I thought the offensive line did a good job,” Cutler said. “There were a few moving pieces in there with some guys filling in. Under the circumstances, they played well.”

Under any circumstances, they played well. They played better than the five starters played in almost any game this season.

Health is a concern moving forward, but good signs remain. Just when one had to assume the offense wouldn’t “click” all season, it put together long, fluid drives Sunday.

Nobody assumed that except for you. Everybody just wondered when it was going to happen again. I say “again” because, as I noted before, there have been a few very solid outings and individual series throughout the season. If “clicking” means “executing 80-yard scoring drives on every possession,” then nobody clicks.

It’s a point I’ve made before, but the individual circumstances of the game have a huge effect on the offense’s strategy. You don’t want to put together beautiful long passes when you’re ahead 14 points, you want to run out the clock and avoid turnovers. So during at least half the games they’ve played, the fact that they didn’t wow anybody offensively can be at least partially attributed to the fact that they didn’t need to.

The Bears made its biggest commitment to the run all season, handing the ball off 36 times. That helped them keep the ball for over 37 minutes, resulting in one 14-play touchdown drive and two 10+ play drives that led to field goals. Getting positive yardage on first down and converting 11-of-19 third downs will go a long way in keeping your defense off the field.

This is the editor in me, but it should be “the Bears made their” biggest commitment to the run. Even though it’s a team, it’s a plural noun and therefore gets plural pronouns. I bring it up because Adam is writing for an ostensibly journalistic platform while I’m writing for a tiled-background blog about a man with a neckbeard, and my grammar is still better than his.

Of course there are still a number of things to clean up. Matt Forte lost a fumble and nearly was guilty of a second fumble that was originally ruled a touchdown for the Vikings on the field before being reversed. He suffered an ankle injury on the play though and failed to return.

This is some Norv Turner shit right here. A player fumbling once does not mean he has ball-security issues. There are no two backs in the league less likely to fumble than Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson, and both of them fumbled on Sunday. Peterson fumbled twice. It happens sometimes, it doesn’t mean he needs to improve his ball-carrying technique.

And he was “almost guilty” does not mean anything. He didn’t fumble. End of story. You don’t get part of a sentence because you’re “almost guilty” of ravishing someone. Either you did it or you didn’t.

Cutler was outstanding for the most part (23-for-31 and QB rating of 86.5) but also threw an interception when he missed Brandon Marshall high (something that comes with the territory with No. 6).

He didn’t miss high; Brandon volleyball-set that ball into a defender’s hands. That INT was totally his fault. Yes, it could have been a better throw, but he still should have caught it. It doesn’t mean Cutler had a bad day, though I would say his receivers dropping passes into the hands of their opponents is certainly something that comes with the territory for Jay.

He also stalled a drive in the first half with a goofy, unnecessary toss of the football that was deemed taunting.

Irritating, but the smile on his face when he did it made it worth it. When Jay is happy, the Bears tend to win a lot of football games. Plus it was hilarious.

The Bears coaching staff will nit-pick like that all week at Halas Hall — as they should — but the bigger story on the offensive side of the football Sunday was progress.

Is it? Judging by the story you chose to write, it sure as hell doesn’t sound like it.

Three weeks ago, as the Bears prepared for a showdown against the Houston Texans, head coach Lovie Smith talked about his team hadn’t peaked yet. He was right. Unfortunately, his team went on to regress in the next two games.

Again, it’s not a surprise that the team regresses against two of the best teams in the NFL without their starting quarterback. There aren’t a whole lot of teams in the NFL who could win a game against a playoff-level opponent with a backup QB. In fact, San Francisco might be the only one, and most people can see that Alex Smith was always going to be pushed aside for Kaepernick, the injury just forced Harbaugh to do it earlier than he wanted to.

The prevailing thought remained, however: If the offense could find some sort of rhythm, a promising season could be saved.

For some reason, people insist on acting like the Bears don’t have a 90% chance of going to the playoffs. “Saved” implies that they were almost knocked out but managed to get back in the game. Sure, they still have to win games to get there, but the likelihood of them losing out the season was more or less nonexistent. Unless something absolutely horrific happens, they’re all but guaranteed at least a wild card spot.

That happened Sunday against the Vikings in a must-win game, and while there’s still plenty of work to do, there’s hope for this offense after all.

Again, Hoge is equating “they played poorly for a while” with “they were never going to succeed and needed to rebuild from scratch.” I was as disappointed as anybody by the fact that we still don’t have that highlight-reel offense I pictured when we acquired Brandon, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s impossible.

Overall, like I said, this column made me angry not because there aren’t things to work on after Sunday, but because Hoge seems to have focused exclusively on them. Every time the Bears win, one of these assholes comes out with a column saying it wasn’t good enough. This stuff should be footnotes, the last paragraph reminding you not to buy Super Bowl tickets just yet, not the focus of your entire column. Just… just be happy about something, for once in your life. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it more.

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