First off, I thank Iggins! for apologizing on my behalf for my annual disappearance. The back-to-back losses had less to do with it than my thesis, Thanksgiving, and a long road trip to North Dakota, where my brother has the gall to not pay for sports programming that he won't watch, so I missed the debacle in SF. I'm back now and shall not abandon you again, except when I go up to Minneapolis to watch Bears-Vikes 2 live. Now with the recap!
The Bears came out today on offense looking like the seeping puddle of diarrhea they've been the last few weeks, with a Matt Forte fumble and a sack of Cutler by Roberto Garza's foot on their first two plays from scrimmage. After that, however, things got much better as they took advantage of turnovers, a renewed commitment to the run, and, most importantly, the return of Jay Cutler to put up 28 points in a one-sided beatdown of the Vikings. The win put the Bears at 8-3, leaving the pressure on Green Bay to win tonight in New York, and most importantly helped to ease some of our still-present concerns over this team's title chances. Next week they get Seattle at home, which should again be another good test for this offense.
Jay Cutler: As unspectacular as the final numbers are sometimes, is there really anyone left out there who doesn't appreciate that Jay Cutler alone can make this offense look something less than completely fucked. He keeps plays alive by scrambling and makes plays downfield outside the pocket like few can. Today he was a very efficient 23 of 31 for 188 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, and an 86.5 rating, although Marshall dropped two TD passes (one of which he was interfered with, to be fair) and the interception was also off of Marshall's hands as well. Most importantly, he came back, they won, they converted most of their 3rd downs, and he is healthy.
Brandon Marshall: I don't mean to harp on him for the drops, since he caught 12 balls for 92 yards and is now the first Bears 1,000 yd receiver in a decade. Greatest trade in franchise history.
Secondary: Tillman recovered a fumble (he left the game with an injury, but seems okay), Conte had an INT that set up a TD and nearly had another, and altogether they held the Vikings to 144 net yards passing.
Defensive line: Although they had just two sacks (one by Henry Melton, of course, and a split sack between an Idonije and McClellin sandwich) they harassed Ponder all day and forced him to try and make plays outside the pocket all game long, which he mostly failed to do.
The Offensive Line: It wasn't a dominating performance by any measure, as their run game was hit or miss outside of one long, beautiful drive in the second quarter, and Cutler managed to avoid several sacks, but it was a step in the right direction. Chris Spencer played well before suffering what hopefully was a minor injury, although Edwin Williams looked good in his place. Jonathan Scott avoided any major errors at right tackle, which is an improvement on it's own. This is a tough Vikings defensive line, one that racked up seven sacks against this unit last year, and this was a baby-steps improvement.
Mike Tice: He's been a shitheel most of the year, frankly, and my patience is very thin, but I thought Tice called an excellent game today. There was some shitty execution, but for the most part he dialed up the right calls for the situation all game long. I appreciated the play action kill shot to Marshall, even if Brandon didn't come up with it, and the commitment to the run game, especially on that long touchdown drive that ended with the TD to Spaeth. Even the interception came on a great play call, as Marshall was wide open. More like this and I'll calm down, Mike.
Injuries: Forte went down with another ankle injury. Hester was concussed. They lost both Lance Louis and Chris Spencer. Tillman left, but appears to be okay. Now reports say Lance Briggs left the locker room with his foot in a boot. Hopefully none of these are terribly serious, but this win was costly. Can't possibly expect all of them to be back by next week. Guh.
First Drives: The Bears have been awful on their first drive of the game all year long, and today was no different. For the second time in three games they fumbled on their first offensive play. Maybe just take a knee next time.
Christian Ponder: For a guy who was supposed to make his living as the next Chad Pennington, he's not very accurate and is fairly careless with the football. This is a talented Vikings team that would be legitimately frightening if they had a QB who could actually take advantage of the tremendous benefit that is Adrian Peterson.
That's all for now. Hopefully the injury situation improves throughout the week, but there's no reason not to be happy about the Bears stemming the tide and maintaining their spot at the top of the division. Go bears.