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.

Rhythm.

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 CBSChicago.com. 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.

For the Record: We're Still Alive Edition

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That win yesterday was needed and welcome on so many levels. The most remarkable thing about it was the sanity on offense. I’m not one of those people who thinks Tice just needs to run the ball 40 times a game regardless of the production, but the early commitment to it allowed them to kill the pass rush, sustain drives, and dominate time of possession by a whole quarter. Jay didn’t have to come out firing the ball deep after a week off, and he settled into a nice rhythm early. As you said yesterday, there’s nothing like losing him to remind us that his ability to extend plays and fire balls into tight windows (the Spaeth TD was amazing) makes that offense look so much better than it’s really capable of being with anyone else.

Unfortunately: injuries. Tillman never even took his helmet off, so I’m guessing he’s probably fine and that’s more of a precaution than anything else. Briggs left with his foot in a boot but the rumors say it’s not believed to be serious at the moment. The Forte injury concerns me, since he missed a game with an ankle injury earlier and the offense just doesn’t run the same without him. Bush is a great backup but they don’t have the versatility in the passing game that they have with Forte. Spencer missing time doesn’t concern me that much, since Eddie Williams actually has played well whenever he’s gotten a chance the last two years. Louis is costly, though. He’s their best guard and most consistent offensive lineman. At least Gabe played well at guard after he went down? That may not be the worst place for Gabe. He can still use his dominant run-blocking skills but he’s less exposed against speed rushers.

At least the Giants did us all a favor and curbstomped the Packers. The storyline will be that the Giants are back, and they presumably are, but people will ignore that Green Bay got whalloped by a team that got destroyed by the Bengals a few weeks ago. All of the contenders have had at least one embarrassing loss now. We will see how this all plays out, although San Francisco has to be the favorite as long as Kaepernick is playing balls-out football.

Iggins!
I'm starting to think the Kaepernick thing was just the Bears saying "Do we really need to try as hard as possible to win a game 6-3... maybe? How about we just sit back and see if he can throw the ball and let them think he's great, thereby causing a QB controversy and guaranteeing the 49ers lose in the playoffs." Lovie Smith conspiracy theory ENGAGE. I don't think the Niners have a shot. They scored 17 offensive points yesterday. Kaepernick isn't jesus. Once there's enough film on him, he'll be stopped. It's funny, everyone is talking about how the Bears haven't beaten a great team, but the Bears have 3 losses to 3 playoff teams. They don't have one bad loss. The Niners got drilled by Minnesota, Packers lost to Indy, Atlanta lost to N'awleans, and the Giants have been beaten by several bad teams. But the Bears have zero losses to shit teams and two of their losses came sans Cutler.

Speaking of whom, that guy needs to be kept healthy, and therefore needs to be trained to fucking slide feet first. He is clearly a badass, but... he needs to realize that one extra yard up 15 against Minnesota is not worth him potentially getting hurt. With him, the Bears could win the Super Bowl. Without, they can't win a playoff game. His effect on the offense is night and day.

Tice called his third great game of the year. It's a simple strategy. Run the damn ball like hell in half 1. In second half ask self question: Is run working? Then run more but mix in play-action. Is run failing? then play-action a lot and mix in one or two runs per drive to keep defense on toes. It works so well! The way this team is structured, the offense should absolutely try to control the clock. If the defense can rest they are unstoppable.

The giants have been doing this all year, like I've said before, nobody cares what they do until they're in the playoffs. The reverse is true of the Falcons, who just love winning in not convincing fashion. They could be 6-5. The Packers just have too many holes. Rodgers will have to score 45 a game in the playoffs to keep moving on. I like Gabe at guard. It's the natural next step. He can't be trusted at tackle, he has dominant run block skills... I say keep him there. That ramshackle offensive line did a magnificent job yesterday.

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I don’t know if the 49erse can be dismissed that easily, but I do believe Kaepernick will struggle at some point. Still, the kid is legit. I don’t harp on them for scoring just 17 pts because two pick sixes takes away offensive possessions. Can’t say they wouldn’t have done something on those drives. It’s the same argument people use against the Bears, which I don’t buy. Shouldn’t apologize for scoring on defense. They have the defense and run game to do special things. We will see.

I truly believe the Bears would have beaten the Texans with a full game of Cutler, even despite fumbling like assholes and Kellen Davis getting hand cancer. Hell, Cutler threw a TD pass that Marshall dropped and Forte dropped a deep pass that would have set up a field goal. He’d have made at least one or two plays in the second half to win the game. Also agreed that Jay needs to stop being a goddamn hero. Several times I screamed “SLIDE” at full lung capacity. Just, Christ. Stay healthy. He’s our only hope.

The offensive line play was certainly encouraging. It’d be best if they didn’t lose BOTH Spencer and Louis, though. Although yeah, Gabe may stick there.

Iggins!
The 49ers and Bears situations are reversed on offense, actually. The Bears have amazing pieces and have the potential to be amazing but sometimes fall short. The 49ers have a mediocre offense that has occasionally done really well. I'm hoping that, by the end of the year, the Bears offense should have come together and the 49er offense will be as mediocre as they are.

The NFC playoffs are going to be fun. First round playoff games could be Bears-Bucs or Bears-Seattle and Green Bay vs. New York. Again. If the Bears keep it up and manage to beat the Packers. The AFC playoffs is basically Houston and a bunch of teams who will lose to Houston.

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At some point the Bears offense certainly has to start equaling the sum of its parts. Doesn’t make sense for it to continually underperform like it has, although they’ve faced a lot of top half pass defenses this year and the fact that Cutler’s been injured in 3 games doesn’t help. This team sort of reminds me of the 2008 Steelers. Their offense was hammered all year when they actually faced a lot of great defenses and just did enough to win, then in the playoffs they reverted back to form. That’s what I’m hoping this team is.

So…college football. Realignment chaos. Where’s Louisville going now?

Iggins!
Louisville to the ACC, and humorously they are leaving Cincinnati and UConn alone because they know they have no other options and can use them as replacement parts if the B1G scalps the UNC/'Cuse combo. UNC actually came out and made a "Statement of Commitment" to the ACC, which... I mean that almost guarantees they'll be in the B1G shortly. Soon the ACC will dissolve and Louisville will have to jump that ship too. Jesus.

If Cutler can just stay on the field and finish out the regular season intact, this team will have had 14 games together on offense as a whole unit (which I suppose ignores the injuries to Forte, BBE, and Alshon that have been dispursed throughout the season). I'm hoping that's enough to be able to go nuts when it counts.

I have this sneaking suspicion the Bears just didn't try in that 49er game. Like they knew they didn't need the damn win, so why bother? They ran a base cover 2 all day and didn't really attack the ball. It was odd. And the way they will just shut down the offense completely if they go up by 14, it's like they're trying to minimize the amount of film other teams have on them. The offensive line issues are a concern, but I expect to see a different offense in the playoffs.

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The general consensus I heard from scouts was that the Bears came out in Cover 1, with 8 in the box daring Kaepernick to throw. By the time they decided he wasn’t just getting lucky it was 20-0. If the Bears ran into a Kaepernick led squad in the playoffs he wouldn’t drop 30 points on them, but I’m not sure how the Bears line would solve that defense. Let’s hope the 49ers lose another a game or two and the Bears win out and get the 2 seed and the 49ers are someone else’s problem. We’ll see.

Iggins!
Well, number one our QB won't be Jason Campbell, so Aldon Smith won't be able to just run straight at the QB for shits and giggles on 20 3rd and 7s. I don't think the Bears would dominate or anything, but they'll be able to put up 20ish points. And I don't think Kaepernick will have the massive passing lanes the Bears gave him again, like you said, they came out committed to stopping the run and letting Mr. Pistol try to throw. At this point the Niners would need to lose two more games and we would have to lose zero to get the #2 seed. Pretty unlikely. More likely that Atlanta falls back, I think.

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Don’t the 49ers have just 8 wins as well? They’re 8-2-1. So if they lose and the Bears win the Bears are 9-3 and the 49ers are 8-3-1. The Bears just need to finish with more wins. It’s possible if the 49ers lose to the Pats or something. They also have to go to Seattle, who they only beat by a TD in San Fran, so that’s a potential fall there as well. They also have to play the Dolphins, who aren’t push-overs. Bears could beat Seattle, @Minnesota, @Detroit, @AZ to get to 12-3, and they could very well beat GB at home. It’s not likely, but could happen. Falcons could definitely fall as well. Have to play the Saints, who beat them already, have to play the Bucs and Panthers again, both of whom nearly beat them before, and they also play @Detroit, and the Lions are still capable of upsets. We shall see.

Iggins!
13-3 is better than 12-3-1 I guess, not sure what I was thinking there. I think the Falcons will end up with 3 or 4 losses. I have em losing to Tampa to end the year and the Saints Thursday (ed. Note: Good call, me!). Plus Detroit could easily pull the upset. The Falcons can't keep this up forever. It's too bad the Bucs have such a tough schedule from now on. They look like a contender, but they have games at Denver, at Atlanta, and at New Orleans. Not easy.

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Yeah. Did not expect their offense to rise so far so fast, but I’m glad my whole “Freeman is better than Stafford or Sanchez” comment looks significantly less stupid now.

Iggins!
Something happened about game 5 of this year. Everybody on that team just had a fucking epiphany or something. Another potential reason could be V-Jax. I have to finally admit: he's a great receiver. How much of how good Rivers looked was V-Jax? And how much of Freeman's resurgence is him?

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Yeah…I always thought V-Jax was a Rivers creation. It really does appear to be vice versa. Yikes for the Chargers. So much fuckedness there.

Iggins!
The entire Rivers thing has to be questioned now. He did have LT, Gates, and V-Jax at their peaks. Now he has an acceptable (but not great) receiver corps, a good (but not great) RB... and he's sub-mediocre. That's a bleak, bleak picture there.

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Very bleak. Archie Manning looks very smart for refusing to let Eli play for AJ Smith.

Normally this is where we’d finish with some hatred towards the week’s opponent, but frankly the Seahawks have never inspired anything more than apathy in me. They’ve twice been a playoff rival of the Bears, they’ve won in Soldier the last two years (with a huge no-Cutler, no-Forte, Knox-died, Barber got Hurt caveat), they made it to a Superbowl in recent memory and YAWN. Doooon’t care. Even in the years in the middle of the decade when they were one of the “conference elite” the conference just sucked. They’re boring. If they win this game I’ll be capable of hate, though.

Iggins!
I kind of like Seattle. Pete Carroll deserves hate for jumping the USC ship, but now he's just so goddamned happy... and really, if you aren't cheating you aren't beating the SEC, so more power to ya. Marshawn Lynch has found success after the Bills clusterfuck of RBs, and he has managed two of the most memorable RB moments of the last 5 years (BEAST MODE on the Saints and having a Skittles serving valet on the sidelines). Russell Wilson is probably the Chad Pennington heir I've been looking for (slowly backs away from Christian Ponder). Their CBs take Adderall. I can't hate you for taking Adderall. That's like hating someone for drinking a lot of coffee.

I dunno. Even though our paths seem destined to cross in the playoffs year after year they'vre never done something like the Canucks to warrant me hating them like I hate Vancouver. I hate that entire goddamned city/province/whatever Canada calls them JUST BECAUSE the 'nucks were such assholes in those series'. When considering living in different regions, my wife once asked me if there was a hockey team near Seattle. I said Vancouver was probably the closest city. She said she would be interested in watching Canucks games because she loves NHL hockey but has no close team in Des Moines. I told her I would divorce her immediately if she ever cheered for the Canucks. Not a joke.

...huh. How did I start talking about how much I hate Vancouver? Long story short: DOOOOOOOOOON'T CAAAAAAAARE.

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My wife has a professor from Canada. The conversation:

Wife: I think you’d like her. She’s a big hockey fan.

Me: And she’s from Canada? What team?

Wife: I don’t know. They’re blue and green.

Me: F*&k her.

This is a good way to conclude, though. How do we feel about the Seattle Seahawks? Fuck the Vancouver Canucks.