As SKO was actually at the game, he’s asked me to step in and do the recap today. I was hoping it would be a good game. As you all saw, I was very very wrong. The Bears fall to 8-5, still leading the wild card race, but it was not an encouraging game.
Brandon Marshall: Brandon Marshall is some kind of magic. He looks at defensive backs, runs right into three of them, and then bends reality around him like Goddamn Neo. “Double coverage, eh? Fuck you, I’m open.” 10 catches for 160 yards and a TD. If there’s one person who doesn’t get blamed for this loss, it’s Brandon.
The Defense: As much as the commentators talked about Brian Urlacher being gone, Nick Roach did fine as his replacement. Lance Briggs was Lance Briggs, Tillman was Tillman, Kelvin Hayden stepped up just fine. They got decent pressure on Ponder, including one should-have-been fumble I’ll talk about later. I know shutting down Christian Ponder isn’t exactly a triumph, but you play who you play and they did their jobs. People might point to Adrian Peterson’s rushing total of 154 yards, but I retort with “It’s Adrian Goddamn Peterson.” They adjusted well to his 104-yard first quarter and held him to only 50 yards in the last three. Seven of the points on the board were on the offense, and the Vikings had an extremely short field for seven more.
Matt Forte: Forte finished the day with 13 rushes for 85 yards, including one beautiful spinning conversion of a play that should’ve been stopped in the backfield to a 9-yard gain. He caught seven of the six balls thrown his way, adding 35 yards through the air for a 120-yard day. He would’ve come up with even more touches if they hadn’t been going through the air for the last half, too. Basically, Matt Forte is very good at football, and it’s frustrating to see him playing well and the team failing to capitalize on it.
Jay Cutler’s feet: Jay Cutler is hilarious when he starts scrambling. He jukes guys, he throws stiffarms, he gets those extra yards however he can. On bootlegs and play-action, flipping through the cracks in a collapsing pocket, he was accurate and efficient. When he’s under center or running outside the pocket, Jay Cutler is truly frightening to watch. Sadly, that’s only half the story.
Jay Cutler out of the shotgun: I don’t know if it’s Jay’s fault or Tice’s fault, but when he goes in the shotgun bad things happen. The one interception that was his fault came out of the shotgun. I don’t know why they even bother with it at this point; he’s clearly more comfortable bootlegging it. This is why Mike Martz didn’t work in Chicago. If Tice can’t figure out that Jay is just not very good throwing out of the gun and stop calling for it so much, his seat is going to get hot really fast.
Mike Tice: As mentioned above, Mike Tice chose to go shotgun pass on third and one and it turned into a pick six. When he calls it the way he should, this offense looks efficient and productive. When he tries to get cute and forgets what his players are good at, they go nowhere. You can see it in every drive, they start out moving the ball really well and get a rhythm going, and then Tice sends in an empty-backfield pass or something and it all falls apart. He can’t control everything, but he needs to see that some things *cough Kellen Davis cough* are not working and stop using them.
The Offensive Line: The blocking was not good, for starters. Jay didn’t get sacked until later in the game, but he got hit a bunch of times. They also started to get tired, falling apart in the fourth quarter and letting Jay take some really bad hits that resulted in him being taken out of the game. I haven’t heard yet whether he was hurt or not, but I think they were just being safe in a doomed effort. What was even worse than the blocking, though, was the penalties. Matt Forte breaks off a 36-yard run and they give 15 of it back on consecutive penalties. These guys have killed more drives than Walter Sobchak, and they apparently have no answer for it.
Receivers not named Marshall: It is not that hard to catch a fucking football. Hester dropped the game-tying TD pass, as well as a couple others. Alshon dropped a TD, which is partially offset because he caught one but still. Kellen Davis dropped a couple of key passes. Jay had a pretty average game, but I think he would’ve been far better if his receivers hadn’t all accidentally glued their fingers together in the locker room. I don’t know why this team has such a hard time closing their hands around flying footballs, but we should consider not paying them millions of dollars to do so if they can’t.
Kellen Davis: How is this asshole not on waivers yet? Evan Rodriguez is better at every facet of the game, and Matt Spaeth can at least block. Kellen is three times the size of every defensive back on the field and he somehow loses yards every time he gets tackled. He apparently doesn’t have the ability to jump, something that would be very nice when passes are one inch above him. And that’s when he can catch a pass at all. Hellboy does less damage with stone hands than Kellen Davis.
Officiating: In a play that might have changed the game entirely, Christian Ponder got demolished in the pocket and dropped the ball on the way down. Approximately ¼ of a second after the hit, the ball was rolling and the Bears picked it up and ran with it. The refs, somehow, decided to call forward progress and call it a sack. As Tank pointed out, it was intentional grounding at best, since Ponder’s arm was moving forward as he fell. A Vikings DB threw Alshon down during the first interception (the one directly caused by Alshon being on the ground). There was a phantom hold in the 4th, but multiple no-calls on far more obvious plays. I don’t know what it’s going to take for them to decide there needs to be a more clear-cut PI rule, but it’s starting to get out of hand.
We’ve got the Packers coming up, and I’m a lot less optimistic about that game now than I was at 11:30 this morning. The Cardinals and Lions are still the Cardinals and Lions, but again… it’s hard to be optimistic after a day like today. The pieces are coming apart instead of coming together. Even if the playoffs are within easy reach, the second round is rapidly slipping out of their grasp. We need some answers, and we need them fast.