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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lions 40, Bears 32- Die By the Sword

For three games the Bears have largely thrived off turnovers generated by the defense and have played largely smart, low-risk and effective offense to win games. Today they got hit hard by the reversal, and the result was ugly. The defense failed to get turnovers early, and Jay Cutler suffered an ugly case of regression to put the team in a hole. The result was an eventual 30-10 first half lead for the Lions, and the end of the Bears perfect record.

Where does this put the team? Plenty of members of the fanbase have immediately forgotten the 3-0 start or undoubtedly thrown it away as a mirage in order to jump on the team and it's quarterback as shitty. That's to be expected. I won't defend the way Cutler played today. I, like everyone, was hoping these kinds of days were behind him. A few stupid turnovers, however, does not entirely undo the progress this offense has made. As of right now they're averaging 32 PPG (or 26.5 if you take out defensive scores), up from 23.4 PPG last year (or 19.5 PPG without defensive scores), and their 360 YPG average is well above their 310 YPG average from last year. This offense is undoubtedly improved. Bad Jay, as he always does, will disappear once again for a few weeks before rearing his ugly head again and making us all want to choke ourselves in another game down the road. That's fine. They'll survive as they always have. There's no reason to ignore progress on so many fronts because of that.

The defense remains my going concern. It seemed to me like Julius Peppers played pretty well even outside of his strip sack, but the first start for Nate Collins was underwhelming, and Stephen Paea had his worst game yet. The Wootton/McClellin combo was once again a no-show. The secondary actually managed to hold the Lions passing game in check as much as could possibly be expected given the lack of a rush, but all three units failed miserably when it came to slowing down the run game or mastering the manly art of tackling. I'm slowly losing my confidence that they're going to all round into form at some point, and that's going to be an issue next week with Breesus coming to town.

In the end, the Bears are 3-1, tied for first place (yes, Detroit fans, use the tiebreaker excuse if you want because that's totally relevant before the second game has even been played), and get back to back games at home in the next two weeks. This offense was always going to have it's growing pains, but it's still given us plenty of reasons for hope going forward.

The Good:

Alshon Jeffery: Alshon caught five balls for 107 yards (with his sideline grab at the end of the first half being maybe the best yet of his young career) and a TD, and also had a 27 yard run. His development is going to pay big dividends down the line.

Charles Tillman: He had to leave the game several times, and is clearly hurting, but he managed once again to largely make Megatron a non factor. Get well, P'nut.

Matt Forte: He had 14 rushes for 95 yards and a TD before the scoreboard forced the team to abandon the run. Hopefully the next time these teams meet the game won't get out of hand so fast and he can continue to gash them as he has done most of his career.

The Bad:

Jay Cutler: That sucked. To his credit, Jay admitted the loss was on him. It certainly was. While the defense was less than spectular in the first half, Jay put them in bad spots with every turnover, and is actually lucky they didn't come away with as many points as they could have. I'm not going to sweat this, however, because every Bad Jay game feels like the end of the fucking world and he has never failed to rebound yet. It was also good to see that Marc Trestman called Jay out for it very calmly, and Jay responded without anger or any of the usual chirpiness. It was a pipe dream to think that his penchant for these kinds of games would completely disappear, but he has a chance to show actual growth in his response to this going forward. Let's hope he does. A win over New Orleans next week would make all of the negativity disappear quickly.

Run Defense: Jesus Christ. Pick a man. They all had a hand on a Lions runningback at some point and failed to make the play. The sad thing is that the run game was the only department where they Hadn't been shitty this season.

The Ugly:

Thom Fucking Brennaman. Again. God I hate this man. Apparently in Thom Brennaman's world, any sort of pass on a play where you have only a yard to go to pick up the first down is worse than child abuse. YOU MEAN TO TELL ME, THAT A TEAM IN THE NFL WOULD PASS IN A SITUATION WHERE DEFENSES WOULD ACTUALLY BE GEARED TO STOP THE RUN? UNBELIEVEABLE.

That's all for now. Losing sucks. Let's just not do that again.

Go Bears.

Progkakke Week 4

Progkakke Standings:
Iggins!: 34-14
Code Red: 32-16
Erik: 30-18
Mrs. Code Red: 29-19

San Francisco 49ers (1-2?!) @ St. Louis Rams (1-2)
Iggins!: Last week, hopefully, was a massive haymaker to the face for the Niners. The Rams gave them trouble last year, but that was because the Rams literally knew every play San Fran was running. Niners get back on track.

Erik: As much as the Niners have looked like garbage the last two games, there’s just too much talent on that roster to believe this is who they are now. A week ago I might have taken the Rams, but their defense is clearly not as consistently great as I believed. Niners grind this one out.

Code Red: The Rams defense looked really solid in all phases last year, but this year the D-Line has remained stout while the secondary has really struggled. Which is good, because f*&k Cortland Finnegan. 49ers haven't sunk that far.

Elyse: God, it feels weird that I'm even debating it. Goodness gracious, Colin Kaepernick. Still, they aren't that bad. 49ers win.

Chicago Bears (3-0 :-D) @ Detroit Lions (2-1)
Erik: Looking back on the game last night, I feel pretty confident that a lot of those “errors” were actually just super-conservative playcalling allowing the Steelers to stay in the game. Hopefully Trestman learns from that and takes a bolder stand against a team that can score as quickly as the Lions. Pass rush still concerns me, as does Tillman’s availability against Megatron, but for the first time since the Lions were “good,” I feel confident saying we can keep up even without a Pro Bowl performance there. Bears win, 28-21.

Code Red: Yeah, we'll never know what game Trestman would have called if they hadn't been up 24-3 before you could blink. I understand not wanting to chance that on the road, and when he called deep drops to try and get 'em moving again in the 3rd quarter the OL suddenly couldn't block. Bears can score on the Lions. Really looking forward to Suh vs. Kyle Long. Bears 30-24.

Elyse: Kind of did not expect this to be a battle for first place, but I'm not impressed with Detroit. Bears win 30-21.

Iggins!: I’ll take the Bears to win because it’s bad luck not to, but I’m pretty sure we lose here, randomly, and for no reason. Just a hunch!

New York Giants (0-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
Iggins!: So apparently the Giants are terrible? The signs were all there, I guess. Terrible linebackers, mediocre secondary… if the d-line fell apart that defense would be crap, and it did. More concerning has to be Eli failing while having Nicks and Cruz to throw to. Also, that Chief defense is a nightmare. Chiefs win.

Erik: I really wasn’t that surprised. Even the years they won the Super Bowl, I have a hard time describing those teams as “good.” Certainly they had good players who put on good performances, but they’ve always (and by always I mean in the last five or six years) been flying by the seat of their pants and just scraping by. Eli’s protection has been shit, which has prevented him from putting on those Incredible Hulk performances that hide all the flaws under a barrage of TDs. It doesn’t get any easier against the Chiefs.

Code Red: that defense was shit last year, too. Then they made no additions on D and lost players on offense. Why does this shock people? I mean, the turnover hilarity is surprising even with Eli being Eli, but otherwise not surprised. Chiefs win, Eli gets caught in a Groundhog's Day like infinite loop of INTs.

Elyse: Woof. Chiefs are going to decimate them. Chiefs win.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

BEHOLD! The SKOdCast: Episode 18

I did, in fact, call Jim Schwartz a f*%kface.

Episode 18 of the SKOdCast is Live at 6:15 PM

Listen in as we discuss a bit of Bears-Steelers and Bears-Lions (Odds are high that I'll call Jim Schwartz a f*&kface), and a bunch of around the league stuff ranging from Geno Smith to Josh Freeman to the Chiefs defense and various other topics. Also, Goddammit Bears Fans. LINKAGE

Opinionating: Ten Thoughts on the Bears and Beyond, Week 4

1) If he keeps up his absolutely stellar play, James Anderson may be one of the best free-agent signings of the last decade for the Bears, considering the pittance Emery is paying him. Perhaps the biggest difference between Tucker's scheme and Lovie's (although the similarities are apparent as well) is the large role Tucker has assigned to Anderson. With all due respect to two pretty solid players in Nick Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer, I can't imagine either being able to do the kinds of things in the pass-rushing and pass-coverage departments that Anderson is excelling at right now.

2) The biggest difference between 2012 Jay Cutler and 2013 Jay Cutler? I suppose you could go with his maturity, as Dan Pompei says in this very good article. Statistically, though, it's in his accuracy downfield. Cutler right now is leading the league in completion % on passes thrown more than 10 yards in the air at 58%. Last year that number was just 39%. Although Trestman is calling more short passes for Jay than previous Bears coaches, it's been Jay's effectiveness downfield that has prevented defenses from sitting on those routes and preventing the offense from moving the ball.

3) That hole that Forte had on his 55 yard run is maybe the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. No analysis or anything. It was just awesome.

4) Did Lovie Smith do some kind of pump-fake drill every summer that Mel Tucker doesn't? Because I'm pretty sure that every single Bears defender has had their lunch money stolen on a pumpfake at some point this season. Hell, even Pro Football Focus mentioned it.

5)I have the normal amount of "Detroit Sucks" bravado and moments of panic-inducing "oh God what if they actually lost to Detroit?" thoughts this week, but one thing I am undeniably excited to watch this weekend is Kyle Long vs. Ndamukong Suh. Suh will win his share of matchups, but for once I believe the Bears have two guards who have a fighting chance against him. Besides, Long is just undeniably fun to watch. I don't know how you can say that about an offensive lineman, but the dude likes to hit people and I like seeing him do it.

6)I feel bad for Josh Freeman. I don't exactly think that he, like Steve Young, is a transcendent talent who will become a Hall of Famer when he escapes Tampa like Young did. There is some talent there, however, and it's always rough to see a guy just play without any confidence because his own coach hates him. I also can't imagine anyone who would trade for him in-season. Some teams that may look into a veteran option at QB next year *cough*Vikings*cough* will consider bringing him into camp, but the mid-season QB acquisition rarely works. Byron Leftwich's turn in Atlanta comes to mind.

7) I wonder how many weeks I can go without admitting how utterly fucking wrong I was about Ryan Tannehill being a Gabbert-like disaster. At least one more!

8)That Chiefs defense is downright terrifying. Any great 3-4 has to have three key ingredients: a play-making, wide-ranging safety (Eric Berry), a holy terror of an rush linebacker (why, hello, Justin Houston) and an immovable object at the nose (Dontari Poe). The Chiefs have all of that now, plus loads of depth at LB and DE. It's going to be so depressing watching another limp-armed journeyman QB with delusions of grandeur spoil this team's chances.

9)As dumb as it looked on draft night, I think it's fair to say the Jets deserve credit for taking Sheldon Richardson and Dee Milliner and not reaching to draft a QB when the arguably best QB in this draft fell to them in the second round anyway. With a front seven that is now loaded with young, premier talent (first round picks in Richardson, Muhammed Wilkerson, and Quinton Coples), they're slamming the door shut on opposing run games and placing Geno Smith in positions where he doesn't have to do much to win or at least keep the game competitive. If Geno can avoid the turnovers that doomed Rico Mirerez, he could enjoy similarly undeserved credit for riding a talented defense to a wildcard spot in a weak division.

10) There was a time when I was a big, stupid kid and hated on Peyton Manning out nothing more than pure jealousy. Those days are long past. If you don't enjoy watching what that man is doing (unless you're one of his poor victims, in which case hate away), then I'm not sure you really like football.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bears 40, Steelers 23- The Uncomfortable Blowout.

I wouldn't have been surprised if you'd told me the Bears were going to win this game by 17 points. I'd have been pleasantly surprised, but not stunned if you told me they'd put up 40 points. The way these things played out, though, was interesting to say the least.

Anyone who has read this site for years knows I generally bemoan the crowd that constantly looks to point out how shitty the Bears played in games they won, or bitches about a defense that gives up "too many yards" while getting a ton of turnovers and not giving up that many points. I can't however, say that  I feel good about everything, even at 3-0 and coming off a big win.

The defense is absolutely concerning to me. I am glad the turnovers have kept up, and their talent at converting those turnovers into scores is undeniable. The fact of the matter is, however, that these Bears are giving up too many yards and getting very little of a pass rush without blitzing. The lack of pressure from the front four has left the team far too vulnerable to big plays, something that was unheard of for years. It's one thing for the team to give up 350 yards with a big lead and keeping receivers in front of them. It's another thing when those yards are actually coming on 3rd and long, or in meaningful situations. For all of this to change the defense is going to have to figure out a way to get pressure with just their front four, and that's not going to be easy to do without Henry Melton, even if he was struggling.

However, I'm not going to be the buzzkill. There's a lot to be excited about here. This team clearly has yet to play their best game, and they are 3-0 and in first place in the division. The offense played far too conservative for too much of the game, even though I understand that they were trying to protect the lead and avoid mistakes. When it counted, however, and with horrifying flashbacks to John Shoop and others in my mind, they made big plays to clinch the win. Faith restored. Hopefully we'll continue to see them taking steps forward in weeks to come.


Major Wright: He had his questionable moments in coverage like seemingly every member of the secondary tonight, but he made some nice plays in the run game with 7 tackles, a pass defensed, and a huge pick six.

DJ Williams: He had two huge sacks, included a strip, on excellent blitzes. We will admit we were wrong if you keep this up, DJ.

Earl Bennett: Holy shit, that touchdown catch. BBE!

Matt Forte: He had some struggles outside of his big 55 yard run, but still ended with 87 yards rushing and 24 yards receiving, along with a rushing TD.

Jay Cutler: The numbers are certainly unimpressive, with Trestman calling a very conservative (too conservative in my opinion) game once the Bears went up 24-3. The pass protection was certainly shakier than it's been yet this year, with 2 sacks allowed and a ton of pressure surrendered in the 3rd quarter. Despite all of this, Jay avoided mistakes throughout the night, fought his own instinct to force plays downfield, and then made three huge plays in a row once Trestman loosened the reins late. His scramble was brilliant, although I'm not going to celebrate him risking injury by lowering the boom (even if my meatball side wants to high five him). The throw to Marshall was amazing, and Brandon himself said it best: "he threw it 40, 50 yards back shoulder. I've never seen anyone do that." Then the TD pass to Bennett to ice the game was as brilliant a throw as I've ever seen him make. I hesitate to say he's completely "fixed", but he sure seems like a different guy.


Pass Rush: it's still lacking. The blitzes helped early, but as tends to happen once the Steelers picked them up it was big play time for Ben. The DL was better tonight, with several pressures and 3 or 4 sacks Roethlisberger escaped, but they still were not consistently making life uncomfortable for him. This is now a major concern, and I'm not sure how they can avoid shootouts with the QBs coming up on the schedule unless they can get pressure rushing four.

Chris Conte: He bit badly on a pump fake that led to a huge gain for Brown, then failed to get over in time to help Jennings on the big TD toss. He also missed a couple of tackles.

Blitz pick-ups: They were bad, and it allowed the Steelers to shut down the offense for a long stretch.


Injuries: Tillman very clearly struggled with keeping up with Brown with his knee bothering him, and then went out with a groin injury. He's one guy they can't afford to lose. The Melton injury looked bad, and while it may not seem like a loss with the way he's struggled so far this year, it's pretty upsetting. I'd have liked to have seen him get the chance to round back into last year's form. Hopefully Nate Collins is ready for the big job.

That's all for now. This was not as easy as the scoreboard makes it look, nor as ugly as it felt in those tense moments there early in the fourth quarter. Winning on the road against a good defense (and make no mistake, the Steelers are not as good as they've been but are far from bad on defense) is never easy, and the Bears certainly have struggled in that respect in recent years. 3-0 is something to celebrate. Go Bears.

Progkakke, Week 3

Progkakke Standings:

Iggins!: 23-9
Code Red: 23-9
Mrs. Code Red: 22-10
Erik: 22-10

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Iggins!: Much better slate of games this week. The Chief defense is very stout, but their offense still has something to prove. In the end, I think both of these teams rack up the yards, but a Chiefs stop or two clinches it. Chiefs win.

Erik: You can already see the cracks in the Eagles, despite their furious production. They moved too fast against San Diego and left enough time for Philip Rivers to get in field goal range at the end, refusing to give up on the blur even when it was counteractive. The Chiefs’ defense is considerably better than San Diego’s, and Alex Smith is as safe with the football as anyone. A couple key stops carry the Chiefs to victory.

Code Red: I would like to pick the Chiefs here, as I think their defense can expose some previously unseen weaknesses in the Eagles protection schemes, but home teams generally win on Thursday nights and I just can't pull the trigger. Eagles win.

Elyse: Chiefs.  Honestly, I just think they are a better team, even if the Blur is fun to watch.

Green Bay Packers (1-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Erik: I really think the Bengals are too good to be a 1-2 team, but I don’t think they can keep up with Rodgers here. A good defense will make it closer than people might think, but the Packers still take a commanding win.

Code Red: Oh why the fuck not? GAMBLING TIME. BENGALS AT HOME.

Elyse: I'll take the Packers, sadly, but it'll be no easy win. Packers win.

Iggins!: Kyle and I are on the same page here: great Bengal pass rush will mess with Rodgers all day and Dalton will cruise through the porous Packer secondary. Bengals win.

St. Louis Rams (1-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
Iggins!: Like I said, much better games this week. The Rams put together a strong comeback last week, and their defense really tightened up in the second half. I feel like this almost put Jason Garrett out of a job. 
Rams win.

Erik: Tony Romo is at his worst against a resilient, patient defense. Rams win.

Code Red: If Jerrah was gonna fire Jason Garrett this early in a season why even keep him after back to back fuck ups the last two years?  Rams are decent, but I like the Cowboys at home.

Mrs. Code Red: I feel like the Rams are just the more disciplined team. This just seems like the exact kind of winnable home game that the Cowboys tend to screw away. Rams win.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Looking Back: An Oral History of the 2003 Bears on their 10th Anniversary

I am bored on a Friday night and have nothing else to do because my wife is gone for the weekend I am 25 going on 60. So this is just something I thought might be fun:

Some teams are good. Some teams are bad. Some teams are utterly forgettable, and that includes the 2003 Bears. In a way, though, doesn't that make them the teams most worth remembering? No? Well, here's the story of the 2003 Bears anyway.

March, 2003. Coming off of a dismal 4-12 campaign in 2002, just a year after a startling and totally-not-at-all-an-aberration-considering-it-was-their-first-ten-win-season-in-a-decade division title in 2001, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo deemed his team to be closer to a Superbowl contender than a basement-dweller, and chose to take a cautious approach to NFL free agency.

Jerry Angelo, ex-Bears GM: I've never been a big believer in free agent spending, unless my ass and everyone around me is about to be fired without a quick fix. I thought the core of that 2001 team could still contend, and decided the key to getting over the hump was a tight end who caught 2 passes for 42 yards in 2002.

Desmond Clark: Hey, I turned out pretty well.

Jerry Angelo: You sure did, Dez. Sorry I spent every fucking year seemingly trying to find your replacement, right up until I eventually benched you for Greg Olsen just in time to hire a coach who didn't even want to use him. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Episode 17 of the SKOdCast Now Up!

Episode 17 of the SKOdCast Tonight at 6:15

Listen Live as we discuss the Bears win over the Vikings, my continued hatred of Thom UNBELIEVABLE Brennaman, the upcoming matchup with the Steelers, the Trent Richardson trade, some other NFL stuff, and of course, God Dammit Bears Fans. LINKAGE

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Opinionating: 10 Thoughts on the Bears and Beyond, Week 2

1) Looking at the stats from the first two games, one thing really jumps out: Marc Trestman likes to soften the defense up with runs and short passes before going for the big play in the second half.

Cutler is 23/38 (60.5%) for 224 yards in the first half, averaging just 5.9 YPA (although he has a 3-1 TD:INT ratio and a 92.4 first half QB rating, so I'd still say he's been pretty effective). Forte has had 25 rushes in the first half vs. 13 in the second.

In the second half Jay is 26/34 for 308 YDs (76.5%) and averaging 9.06 YPA with a 98.7 rating. It's encouraging that his completion % has actually gone Up as the team has gone deeper downfield later in games. As we saw with the game-winning TD to Bennett and Cutler's mention that they had run that same route combination 3 or 4 times in the game already, it seems so far that Trestman understands how to probe for weaknesses in a defense and exploit them late.

2) Okay, looking at the stats two things stand out, and the other one is that Jay has been sacked 1 time in 78 dropbacks (6 scrambles for 25 yards) against two solid pass-rushes. That's still mind-boggling to me.

3) Woah, the Bears ran a successful end-around. After seeing this team fail for Years at desperately trying to force a big play on a Hester end-around, it was nice to see Jeffery break a big one. Trestman had been trying to set that up for a while by sending Jeffery in motion quite a bit, including on the wheel route he ran against the Bengals where Jay hit him for 12 yards through the air. That said, I hope they don't go crazy with it, since it backfired on them later.

4) Good pass protection requires the right mix of talent on the line, play-calling, and smart quarterback play, and right now the Bears have gotten all three. Jay hasn't been entirely smart of course as far as ball security, but he has been very conscious about getting the ball out quickly and has made quick decisions about when to escape the pocket to buy time or scramble. Both Jordan Mills and Bushrod struggled at times, but got the help they needed from the coaches, Jay, and a strong showing by the interior (Garza, Long, and Slauson all graded out positively from PFF). Nobody has to play a perfect game every week, but that combination can keep this team from avoiding the massive, systemic breakdowns that plagued previous incarnations.

5) God, all that crap about Marshall's hip seems even dumber than it did at the time, doesn't it? If that hip is bothering him that much and he's still managed to haul in 75% of his targets for 217 yards in two games, I can't wait to see what he can do as he gets healthier.

6)Ron Rivera is a goddamn disaster of a head coach. The Panthers are 2-14 in games decided by a TD or less in Rivera's tenure. Historically speaking, teams tend to even out from year to year in terms of close wins and losses, as random chance plays a large role in determining tight games. Rivera somehow manages to defy that by being horribly inept at making decisions late in games. Twice now he could have won games by running a sneak with CAM NEWTON and opted not to.

7) I was so utterly unsurprised by Reggie Bush doing nothing in his second game as a Lion it hurts. Every year, whether the back is Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith, or Mikel LeShoure, the Lions get a great game from their runningback and people freak out, ignoring the fact that Scott Linehan is obsessed with Stafford's arm and will gladly abandon the run in favor of a one-dimensional attack the second it shows even a hint of a struggle. Bush's injury is no excuse for Linehan, either. Bell is a perfectly capable back up. Linehan just won't commit to it.

8) Are the Vikings the luckiest 0-2 team in history? The Lions had a TD catch overturned on the Calvin Johnson Rule, a pick six nullified by a penalty, and botched a field goal attempt to keep a ten point win from being even bigger. The Bears gave up their first kickoff return TD in six years, allowed a fumble return for a TD, and gave away first and goal at the one with an interception on a tipped ball. Minnesota is 0-2 by a margin of 11 points, but seems far worse than that in all honesty.

9) Woah, a Ted Ginn sighting. Whenever Ginn does anything, I'm reminded that the Dolphins used a first round pick on him because they hoped he'd be the next Devin Hester. When you consider that he's been worse than Hester at both returning (not a surprise) and as a receiver (Jesus, Ted, that's sad), and also take in to account just some of the guys the Dolphins passed on in that first round alone (Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lawrence Timmons, Dwayne Bowe, Joe Staley, or even Greg f*&king Olsen) that's got to be one of the dumbest picks ever, even by recent Dolphin standards.

10) Okay, I might be wrong about EJ Manuel. Fourth quarter comebacks against Ron Rivera's Panthers are so easy at this point as to barely count (Why cover Stevie Johnson? No chance Manuel looks for his number one receiver on the final play of a game!), but Manuel has looked very good so far. The Bills are leaning on the run game and not asking Manuel to make the big play (just 6.8 YPA), but he has yet to look like the QB who melted down against tough defenses like Florida in college. I'm still not sure how high is ceiling is, but as Iggins! said, he looks at least like might be David Garrard-ish (we also came up with Jeff Garcia as a possible comparison before you accuse us of doing the full Nolan Nawrocki!).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bears 31, Vikings 30- Oh Thank God They Didn't Lose That Game

On the podcast this week I harped on AJ Green for giving the irritable loser's complaint of "they didn't stop us, we stopped ourselves." Had the Bears lost this game, I would have had a hard time avoiding the use of the mantra myself. The Bears offense for the second straight week had a great gameplan and executed it to near-perfection, racking up 419 yards on the Vikings defense. The Bears defense forced several turnovers, returned an interception for a TD, and held the Vikings offense to just 16 points. All of this considered, the game went about as we expected.

You know, except for the mind-numbingly stupid part where the Bears gift-wrapped three turnovers and 14 points and just handed them to Minnesota, necessitating a dramatic fourth quarter comeback that really should have never been necessary.

We're totally not ones to dwell on the negatives here, though, so Bears win and both sides of the ball had their high and low points, and I can't even honestly say Special Teams was bad on a day when Devin Hester had a team record for return yardage. It was just a weird game and I'm glad it's over and the Bears ended on the right side of the ledger.


Martellus Bennett: Legitimate tight ends are amazing. Bennett hauled in 7 catches on 9 targets for 76 yards and 2 TDs, including the game winner. The Bears also threw to him a lot on early downs off of bootlegs to set up favorable situations for the offense. What a fantastic addition.

Tim Jennings: Tim looked much better in coverage today than he did last week, and he had a beautiful pick six as well as a pass defensed.

Devin Hester: *Gruden Voice* THIS GUY. HE RETURNS KICKS. I CALL HIM THE KICK RETURNER. YOU TALK ABOUT KICK RETURNERS AND YOU THINK OF DEVIN HESTER. A team record 249 return yards, and he had the awesomeness to admit he was just pissed off by the Patterson return and determined to get his own. Glad he is where he belongs and doing what he does best this year.

Matt Forte: I can't fault him for that fumble. That was just an amazing play by a defender on a play where Matt had it high and tight. Aside from that though he rushed for 90 yards on 19 carries and had 11 receptions for 71 yards. This team will win a lot of games if it manages to get Forte 30 touches like that.

Lance Briggs and James Anderson: the two combined for 19 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and a couple tackles for loss. Peterson had one of the quietest 100 yard games of his career, gaining 36 yards on one carry and just 64 on his other 25 (2.5 yards per rush). These two played a big part in that.

Jay Cutler: Much will be made about how this is "the same old Jay Cutler", and yes, he made some poor decisions based largely on too much confidence in his arm. I'll live with that, because this is not "the same old Jay Cutler." This Jay Cutler completed 71% of his passes for 290 yards and 3 TDs and a 97 rating. This Jay Cutler is completing 68% of his passes total this year, and has looked more comfortable than ever before doing it. The one category where this Is the "Same Old Jay"? 4th quarter game winning drives. In his career, Jay has now had 20 opportunities to win the ball game in the 4th quarter with a score and he's converted 19 of them. I'll take it.

Marc Trestman: His offensive gameplan was nigh-perfect, although I think we all would have liked to have seen him err on the side of caution with a run on 1st and goal on the play that ended up a pick,  but he otherwise has called a fantastic mix of runs and passes this year, put Jay in great position to make smart plays, and adjusted to the OL's early struggles in pass protection to limit the damage. Cutler has still only been sacked once this year, and while the OL and Jay himself deserve a lot of credit, Trestman's play-calling is perhaps the biggest reason why.


Special Teams Miscues: A return TD on the opening kickoff and a penalty on 4th down on a punt gave the Vikings 7 points and a new possession, respectively. It was a sloppy start, but it was also the first KO return TD they've allowed since 2007, so I'll hold off on the panic button.

The Defensive Line: They started very strong and then fizzled out late, allowing CHRISTIAN PONDER to extend plays with his feet and make some nice throws. Melton and Peppers need to start showing up soon if this team is going to hang with the Aaron Rodgerses on the schedule.

Jay's Interceptions: I'm the kinda guy who emphasizes 3 TD passes and 28 great throws over 2 miscues, so I'm not going to list Jay himself on the bad. But both of those were poor decisions in different ways. On the goal-line INT Jay just needed to accept the play was dead and throw it away or scramble. On the second INT, Jay made the right read. Marshall was open on the exact same play that they hit for 38 yards on the game winning drive last week, but Jay took too deep of a drop and threw too late. Bad plays, but he overcame them with strong play and deserves the credit for the win.

Christian Ponder: He pulled some nice throws out of his ass late, but still finished just 16 of 30 with a bad pick six and the Vikings really suffered late when they had opportunities to score TDs to put the Bears away but had to settle for field goals because they were scared to trust their own quarterback.


Fox's Entire Broadcast: The blackout sucked, but not as much as the decision to cut away from the audio-only broadcast to a halftime show that refused to even discuss the Bears game. Then when we had the game we had to deal with Thom Brennaman's insufferable screeches and Brian Billick having the gall to say "YOU SAW IT ALL HERE" when we missed half the goddamn second quarter. Guh. I hate you sometimes, Fox.

That's all for now. Even with the Bears odd history of winning in unconventional ways, this was one of the stranger victories in recent memory. It was a victory, however, so clearly there's nothing to worry about going forward. Go Bears.

Progkakke Week 2

Progkakke Week 2


Iggins!: 12-4
Mrs. Code Red: 11-5
Code Red: 10-6
Erik: 10-6

New York Jets (1-0) @ New England Patriots (1-0)
Iggins!: The Jets got a nice win last week and some hope that Geno Smith could eventually be pretty good, and the Pats got a hell of a scare from the Bills, showing off a bunch of bad receivers and losing their best RB in the process. For some reason, I still think the Patriots win.

Code Red: The Jets won opening day last year, too. Pats win.

Erik: Yeah, it’ll take more than a single win against a team with a habit of losing games they should win to convince me the Jets are on the up-and-up. The Pats lost to the Cardinals last year, too. Even without Danny Amendola playing a cheap Wes Welker, I have to take the Patriots.

Elyse: Patriots because hahahahaha Jets! But also hahahaha Patriots for almost losing to Buffalo last week and because basically their entire team is injured. But still, Pats win.

Minnesota Vikings (0-1) @ Chicago Bears (1-0)
Code Red: Nothing is easy for the Bears this year, not with Adrian Peterson on the other sideline, anyway, but the Vikings struggled on defense and struggled to run the ball after AP’s first carry. That doesn’t bode well for them on the road against the Bears. Bears win 28-13.

Erik: Other than one long-ass run, the Vikings didn’t really show a whole lot of anything frightening on Sunday. They have a decent pass rush, but the line held up great against a better pass rush, so I’m pretty confident. Bears win, 28-14.

Iggins!: The Vikings are a poor team, but AP tends to get one or two TDs whenever he plays the Bears, so I’ll say Bears win 30-17.

Elyse: Bears, 28-17.

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
Iggins!: The Chiefs looked impressive last week, albeit against the Jags. Still, holding an opposing offense to 0 points is impressive against any NFL team and the Cowboys seem more than happy to turn the ball over. I’ll take the Chiefs to win at home.

Code Red: I knew you’d take the Chiefs, you bastard. I am, too, though, because it would just be so Dallas to lose this game. Chiefs win.

Erik: Travis makes a good point. Even Blaine Gabbert usually gets a field goal, at least. Chiefs.

Elyse: Even though Dallas scored 36 points last week, I don’t think that is a testament to their offensive prowess but rather that the Giants defense sucks. I’ll take the Chiefs.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

SKOdCast Episode 16: The One Where We Discuss an Actual Game:

Things get heated on the SKOdCast as we give HOT SPORTZ TAKES and cuss at each other a bit. Then we discuss the Bears-Bengals, and, no, we did not come up with something important to do to the Vikings offense other than "just maybe try slowing Peterson down a bit".

Bits and Bites: Week 1

Welcome to this week's edition of Bits and Bites,  where I'm being crushed to death by the number of people who somehow don't think the Bears' victory on Sunday counts. But we'll get to that on the podcast, I'm sure, so I'm not going to dwell on it. Instead, I bring you the glorious gift of stupid.

First, we have the time-honored tradition of Week One Power Rankings.  Mike Florio over at Pro Football Talk had a really baffling set this week, but his Bears entry stands out as particularly stupid. He has them ranked 12th, which actually isn’t that bad. I would’ve put them ahead of the Lions and Saints, but certainly 12 is nothing to sneeze at considering it’s been one game.

It’s his description that got me. His one-sentence take on the Bears is this: “We won’t really know about this team until it encounters adversity and Jay Cutler shoves someone.”

I’m just going to tackle the first part of this statement calmly and logically and try to calm down before I get to the end.

“We don’t know” is absolutely a fair statement to make. They looked solid, they showed improvement in the most important areas against an opponent seemingly built to test their offseason improvements, but in the end it’s a single game and you can’t really know anything about a team’s seasonal prospects based on one outing.

But in what way is an 11-point second-half deficit against a stingy defense not “adversity?” Especially considering the offense had shown little inclination to pick up the pace, and Dalton had just executed an effortless TD drive. If that doesn’t count, what exactly does count as an adverse circumstance?

They got in the hole, made some adjustments, stayed calm under fire and fixed the situation. I won’t say they’ll never perform less admirably under pressure, but certainly Sunday built my confidence that they can deal with adversity.

But that’s not what Mike means. Because the last part of that sentence is there. “Until it encounters adversity and Jay Cutler shoves someone.” See, to Florio, “adversity” simply means “any scenario that gets me to see what I want to see.” They could play 14 flawless games, and in the 15th Jay could shout at a lineman and the entire football media world will say “SEE WE TOLD YOU ABOUT DIS JAY CUTLER FELLA HE’S NOT A GOOD LEADER.”

“We won’t really know about this team until we see something that allows us to confirm what we are already going to say about this team” would’ve been an accurate statement. Note the not-entirely-subtle assertion that Jay Cutler will shove someone, it’s just a matter of time and “adversity.”

He did it one time, to a player that we were all angry at. That is pretty much the only thing Jay Cutler has ever done to earn his “hothead” reputation.

On Monday night, Philip Rivers pushed a referee while arguing about a clear-cut call and earned a familiar chuckle from Jon Gruden and his usual moniker of “a real fiery competitor.” Jay Cutler shouted at a man who allowed him to be repeatedly teabagged by Thor, and people are still pointing to it a year later.

Mike Florio says “we won’t really know about this team,” but what he means is “I already know, and no matter what happens on the field I’m sticking to my only real prediction: Jay Cutler is a bad quarterback.”

Up next is former offensive lineman Jamie Dukes, who gave a very confusing interview in which he said the offense “looked like the same old Bears” in a bunch of different ways and then not-very-subtly implied that Lovie Smith got fired and couldn’t find another job because he’s black.

The whole thing was dumb, but here’s the line that really stood out: “I didn’t see anything ‘wow!’ offensively, where a unicorn popped out of someone’s head and they did something miraculously. It was the same Bears.

First, this team totally has a unicorn.

And furthermore, what?

I hesitantly assume that Jamie didn’t actually believe that Unicorns and exploding heads would feature prominently in Trestman’s offense. But that statement, coupled with the performance that he declares to be “the same old Bears” begs the question: What in God’s name was he expecting?

In a week when everyone is too busy stroking themselves while thinking about Chip Kelly to notice that the blur is just a spread where you call the plays really fast, it’s understandable that Trestman’s system isn’t exactly making waves. That does not mean that anything less than a total overhaul of the system is just doing the same old thing.

I mean yes, the quarterback still threw a ball to men who caught it with their hands and ran toward the end of the field. Yes, some men still attempted to hit him, and still more men pushed them away from him to help him throw. It seems to me like there are certain basic characteristics that can really only change so much before you’re playing a different sport.

But the offense that won Sunday’s game looked incredibly different from the offense under Lovie. They ran 30 plays out of the shotgun, targeted five different receivers, frequently checked down, used an I-formation with a lead blocker multiple times, and ran at least one package play.

I’ll admit, there was a certain deflating familiarity about the way they started the game on offense by scoring and then kind of fizzling for the rest of the first half. But here’s the thing: they fixed it. They made adjustments, stuck to the game plan, kept their heads cool and came back.

Lovie’s teams rarely, if ever, stayed cool and came back from a second-half deficit. Pretty much all the comeback wins that team got were either hard-won by the defense or came down to some Jay Cutler Fourth Quarter Magic, not a series of methodical 80-yard drives to get back on top.

See, offensive innovation, for this team, isn’t about reinventing the wheel. It’s not about using players in creative ways or running schemes that confuse the defense. It’s about taking the good things that we have and using them in safe, sensible ways to find the weaknesses in a defense and pick them apart. If that sounds like something Lovie’s Bears would’ve done to you, you might be the sort of person who implies that a nine-year head coach who missed the playoffs five times in six years was suddenly canned because his boss woke up racist one morning.

And of course we save the best for last. From seasoned dumbass and axe-grinder Hub Arkush comes this totally insensible piece of what seems to be English: One area that should get better and will have to is that we did not see the multiple weapons we expect to on a regular basis in the new Marc Trestman offense. Of Jay Cutler's 32 passes against the Bengals aimed at a specific target, 30 went to Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery. The only other wide receiver Cutler tried to find was Earl Bennett on his one catch of the day.”

I normally wouldn’t do a full paragraph here, but it just keeps getting better and better as he keeps talking.

I thought it looked plenty diverse, even without going to the numbers. He threw the ball to everyone on this team I currently trust to catch it, except for Marquess Wilson. Who else on this roster could he have gone to? Eric Weems? Tony Fiametta? Does he have to throw one pass to every eligible ball-carrier to satisfy Hub’s need for offensive diversity? Maybe so.

And then Hub does bring up the numbers. Jay threw the ball 32 times to six receivers. In terms of targets, you had Marshall with 10, Jeffrey with eight, Forte and the Black Unicorn with six apiece, and Earl and Bush with one apiece. In fairness, Bush’s was that weird throw that got picked off, but it seems like he was the intended target and either he ran the wrong way or Jay though he was going the other way when he wasn’t.

People who can’t think have said the fact that Marshall got more targets than anyone else is worrying in itself. If him getting two more targets for a total of 31% of Cutler’s looks makes you worried, you do not understand what a number one wide receiver is.

The number of targets Marshall got is not the important thing here; it’s the situations in which he didn’t get targets that we should look at. Jay never forced one into double coverage for an easy pick because the pocket collapsed. He checked down to Jeffery and Forte, he used Marty B and Alshon as primary receivers on a number of plays, and he allowed Brandon to either draw doubles or punish the Bengals. The Bengals finally stopped doubling him and it cost them the clinching TD.

I have literally no idea how Hub could think targeting six, or even five receivers with such an even distribution of targets is anything other than “using multiple weapons on a regular basis.” It’s almost like he just has an axe to grind with the Bears over some ancient perceived slight and he’s going to see the worst in them whether the numbers agree with him or—

Oh. I get it now.

The SKOdCast is Live Tonight at 6:15!

Listen live as we go through an undoubtedly technically sound and analytical breakdown of the Bears win over the Bengals, we try to come up with some preview for the Vikings game that doesn't involve just saying "ADRIAN PETERSON. STOP HIM. JESUS," we discuss some of the other developments that happened around the NFL in week one, and the first Goddammit Bears Fans of the regular season.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

For the Record: Week 1

Good eve intrepid readership. For the Record is back, reborn as a collection of all of our thoughts on every non-Bears team who played in the past week. Enjoy!

Kyle picked the Ravens, Erik and I picked the Broncos... Kyle, you done picked wrong. The Broncos were clearly the best AFC team before that game, and now I don't know how you can pick anyone else to come out of the AFC unless Houston wins by 50 tonight. The Ravens held it together for a while but clearly Lardarius Webb didn't matter as much as they maybe thought, and potentially Corey Graham isn't as good as he looked at the end of last year. Should probably hold off on judgment until they play someone who isn't QB jesus.

I can't remember which of you I said it to, but the Ravens are clearly all Joe Flacco. They're a good team, maybe even a great team, but as soon as the wheels start to fall off the whole thing goes up in flames.

Next week we get a line that is clearly having issues. Purple Jesus got himself a 78 yard run to start the game, then went 17 carries for 15 yards. We know the Lion run D isn't amazing, that was seriously shitty line play. Maybe now we know why they grabbed J'Marcus! Two of the Viking TDs were due to blown coverage on Jerome Simpson of all people, and the other was that early AD run. Vikings: not good.

The Vikings looked so fucking bad. I mean if you were just watching individual plays, you would think the Lions were playing so badly it defies explanation, and they won by ten points.

And Suh had yet another dirty play. At what point does the NFL just suspend him for a year to teach him a lesson? He's going to permanently screw somebody up. I thought the Lions played well enough to get to 7-9 or 8-8. And Reggie Bush did what you might expect considering the offense he's in now.

On Vikings-Lions I'll just say I'm amused that Christian Ponder threw the ball deep for once and it resulted in 3 picks. Boy's turrible. Also I had the Lions pegged for 7-9 a ways back, and I'm not moving off that. Maybe 8-8, but no more. Defense is still shit after that front four.

Let's see, that takes care of Vikings-Lions. Up next: Chiefs-Jags. Are we impressed with the Chiefs or just really unimpressed with the Jags?

I'm like... half of both? The Chiefs looked like they know what they're doing, but the Jags appear to be getting worse with experience, so it's hard to be objective about someone beating them. Charles is a beast, errbody know that, Alex Smith is certainly capable of managing a game well enough to win with that. It remains to be seen how they hold up against a team that doesn't somehow fit the medical description of "mentally retarded."

Do we need to discuss Chiefs-Jags? The Chiefs are going to do that Chief thing where they find the most boring way to win 9 games against an underwhelming schedule and then quietly bow out of the playoffs to let the big boys play. Andy Reid will be viewed as a hero for this. The Jaguars are horrid, but we knew this. What is amusing is the fact that some people actually believed the whole "Gabbert looks different now, guys!" stuff coming out of camp.

Fair enough. Next up we have Fins-Browns. Kyle and I both had the Browns, nice job Erik. Weeden is... very bad. Also, Mike Wallace is a lil bitch.

I expected the Fins to win, but I expected it to be a halfway enjoyable game. Granted, I was watching it three TVs down only during breaks in the Bears game, but it sure looked like World War I to me.

Yeah it was Brutal. I did not expect Weeden to be that bad. As most know, I think, I loved Weeden at OK State and really want him to succeed. The tools are there, and the last coaching staff did Nothing to ease his transition to the NFL. He's lacking his best wideout in Josh Gordon right now, so I don't want to completely bury him...but things don't look good. And yeah, when reading Mike Wallace's comments about not getting the ball enough after ONE GAME, remember that this is the team that traded Brandon Marshall for being too much of a headache and subsequently signed Chad Ochocinco and Mike Wallace.

That is really, really important to remember. Jordan Cameron looked good, but the rest of the Browns? Yeeeesh. Let's see... next up how about Pats-Bills? I was SO CLOSE. But no cigar. Manuel looked okay, the weirdest Bills thing was definitely that Fred Jackson looked much better than Spiller. Also, Kenbrell Tompkins got targeted 14 times and caught 4 of those passes. I don't have drop data, but what I think that means is Brady wants WELKAH back.

Yeah he looked a little lost. Which is understandable, considering he lost his three favorite receivers in one offseason, I suppose. I forgot Julian Edelman existed until yesterday, so that earns him at least a game's worth of awkwardness before I say he's losing it. The Bills actually looked a lot better than I expected them to, considering how tumultuous their shit is right now. That FR TD definitely helped.

As for the Bills...CJ Spiller is a lot like Jamaal Charles. Those days will happen where he just won't break the big one, and the Pats were keying on him as a receiver as well. Manuel looked fine running a very conservative offense. Hard to really get much information on him from that. I'm still not high on him! If the Patriots suck this year, and they very well might (Brady averaged 5.5 YPA against a Bills defense missing it's star safety), they have little to blame but their own arrogance. The passing game will get a boost when Gronk returns, but they gambled on being able to control Hernandez' temper when teams had him flagged, they thought they didn't need to actually sign or develop veteran receivers, they thought Welkah was replaceable (and Amendola did have a nice game, to be fair)....they're just arrogant. They buy their own bullshit about The Patriot Way so hard, but if it were true their plug and play system would have fixed their shit defense long ago, and it still sucks.

Yeah, my guess is Brady is regretting that pay cut right about now. I think the Spiller thing could also be that, well, Fred has been better than CJ before. Would not surprise me if he was again. Next up we got Bucs-Jets. Already hearing that they want to try Mike Glennon in Tampa. Doug Martin again showed that he is mediocrity incarnate, but he gets a ton of carries. And Geno Smith... did really well! Against a good secondary. What is wrong with the world?!

The Bucs are just their own worst enemy, I think. They have a good team! I look at the roster and there's a lot of talent there. Certainly enough talent to beat the Jets! Martin isn't the best back in the league, but he can get the job done. Vincent Jackson is really good. Freeman shouldn't be as bad as he is. If Glennon is the thing that makes it work, I'm all for it. That team should be 7-9, or maybe 8-8. Their schedule is kind of brutal this year, though.

I'll not have you besmirching CJ Spiller, you sonofabitch. I don't think Josh Freeman is a bad QB. I really don't. He's inconsistent but he's also had a lot of turmoil and turnover in his career, but Greg Schiano has never showed an ounce of faith in him and I don't think the tough love approach is working. Freeman's just melting down. As for Geno? No idea. He still managed to look awful at times even with his overall solid performance. Definitely on the whole a good debut. He also ran a bit, which is nice to see. He didn't do much of that in college, and with the Jets line and RBs...he may have to be his own running game at times.

Next up we have Falcons-Saints. That went pretty much as expected, yeah? Erik thought Atlanta would win, but we can't really fault him for that. Two good teams playign good football. A little surprised the Saints only gave up 17 points.

I thought that game was more of a toss-up than you two, and I don't think anything happened to convince me otherwise, for sure. Both teams looked solid, the Saints defense looked better than expected, Steven Jackson was overhyped to begin with but the commentators just can't stop complimenting him for some reason. Sproles had a good game because he's a badass.

Anyone buying the Saints new and improved defense had better calm down a bit. Honestly I think the only reason both of these teams didn't score more is they both were going on long, time-consuming drives against each other. Is the Saints defense marginally better than last year? Probably, are they good? Probably not. I'd say both of these teams are in trouble if they run against a team that can score AND play average defense.

I don't think they're "new and improved" by any means, but that doesn't mean they can't be better than they were last year. I also think it's impossible to overstate the value of Sean Payton to this team. I'm guessing the Saints will have a good year but the Falcons will win the NFC South, and then they'll win one playoff game and celebrate it like they just won their third consecutive Super Bowl again.

Next up, everybody gets to apologize for calling me crazy, Titans-Steelers. I will simply reiterate what I said last week: The Steelers are genuinely terrible. The Titans at least have some pieces. The Steelers lost talent everywhere and gained talent nowhere. They're going to struggle all season.

I guess I didn't realize just how bad the Steelers are. But here's the crazy thing: people are still going to call them a good team. Pittsburgh is just one of those teams that, for whatever reason, people will assume is good whether the evidence bears that out or not.

I hesitate to kill the Steelers completely, yet, because their defense is still capable, but....God. That offense is hopeless. They have Roethlisberger and no backs, and a bad offensive line that just lost one of its two good pieces for the year. Still think the Titans suck as well. Did you see the Titans safety on the opening kickoff? Where he caught the ball out of the endzone, then backed up an kneeled down for a safety? HA. I did that once in Madden and nearly killed myself of shame. Can't imagine how Reynaud would have felt if they'd lost that game by one or two points.

The safeties in week one were very, very strange. 3 safeties, all int he first half, in 3 different games. Has never happened before. Count out the Steelers, Kyle, trust me. They can't score, and their defense really isn't capable. They are way, way down. Next up is Oakland-Indy. Indy pretty much proved they're going to regress, right? And Terrelle Pryor proved he can run, and not much else!

Yeah...the Indy game is exactly how I think their season plays out: Luck actually looks better and more efficient in the West Coast, their defense is horrid and presumably costs them several games against teams that are good. Pryor at least made the Raiders watchable.

They could bounce back and get into the playoffs again, but I would be totally unsurprised if they didn't. They had a real hard time with the Raiders, who are not good. Pryor looks better than Flynn, but that's going to last six weeks, tops. He's either going to get hurt, or they're going to rein him in and neuter the offense. Either way, expect a short-lived Raiders Hopeful movement, followed by despair.

The final day game is a pretty solid competition between Carolina and Seattle. Is this a classic Carolina game in which they look good but lose, and they'll still go 6-10? Or is their defense really that much better than it was last year? Also, be prepared for people to jump off the Seahawk bandwagon and onto the Niner bandwagon.

As we all said in the Progkakke, the Panthers love to keep it close but still lose. That defense is stout as shit, and even Cam Newton with one weapon is still Cam Newton. I'd be prepared to grant them 7-9, though I wouldn't be surprised at 6-10. The Seahawks struggled but won against a good defense, and the 49ers lit up a bad one. Clearly, the Niners are better!

Both the 49ers and the Seahawks looked as I expected yesterday. Seahawks less good on offense, still great on defense. 49ers less good on defense, still great on offense. As for the Panthers..I wouldn't read too much into this. They lost to the Seahawks last year 16-12. With their front four they match up well against the Seahawks run game. They still gave up 325 yards passing. They're still mediocre.

Yeah, looking back, all three of us basically foretold exactly how this game would go. Shitty afternoon game: Rams come back to beat the Cardinals. We all still think both teams are crap, right? Also this was really the game that put you two behind me. Your belief in Carson Palmer hath betrayed you, Kyle!

That one was another toss-up, I'd say. Both teams looked pretty much exactly like you'd expect them to look. Both Cardinals offensive TD's were Palmer to Fitzy, both STL TD's came from a Tight End at short range. Rams leaned on Greg the Leg to edge out a close one. That's the most Rams game imaginable, honestly.

Palmer looked about as good as I predicted he would, too, which, if you remember, was "good enough to be my fantasy backup." Arizona should be far more competitive in all 9 of its losses this year. The Rams piss me off. Jeff Fisher had opportunities to put that game away by actually showing some balls and refused. Also the "package of plays" he has for Tavon never materialized. NO ONE GIVE JEFF FISHER A SHINY NEW TOY EVER AGAIN. The man never trusted McNair, he ran Eddie George into the ground, he utterly ruined Vince Young, and now he's going to turn Tavon Austin into Ted Ginn.

We've already said a bit about it, but the good afternoon game was Packers-Niners. We all hit this one on the head. The Packers just can't figure them out. Matthews should be suspended, not for the hit solely, but because he said he would do it all week. My favorite part of that game was that the Packers spent all offseason learning how to stop the read option and... Kaepernick just dropped back and passed all day. I love Harbaugh so goddamned much. Oh and Jermichael Finley had a couple beast mode plays that were fantastic and partially made up for him handing the ball to the Niners once.

It's funny, I actually know a Packers fan who said "Calm down, Bears fans. You beat the Bengals, the Packers held the conference champions to the limit," as though losing to a good team is better than beating a less-good but still pretty decent team.

Kaepernick is terrifying. Matthews absolutely should be suspended but won't be. I don't want to overstate the importance of the Packers D getting shredded because they always seem to pull it together to win 12 games anyway. In short, I do not want to face either team.

Sunday night was set to Yackety Sax as the Giants and Cowboys tried desperately to lose, but only New York accomplished their goal. How unthreatened are you by these two teams?

I worry more about the Giants than the Cowboys, because Eli Manning has the Incredible Hulk in him and all it takes is bad timing to get Manningblasted. When he's not on literal fire, though, you can actually see the pieces falling off of that team on the field. That Manningface Kyle posted was beautiful.

I worry about neither too much. They both have huge holes but can be dangerous if they avoid mistakes...which they clearly, rarely do.


Opinionating: Ten Thoughts on the Bears and Beyond

1) Marc Trestman loves him some bunch formations. I first noticed this watching highlights this summer of Trestman's offense up in Montreal, but he really likes the mismatches created by bunch formations, shotgun or not. They even lined up a few times with Fiametta, Martellus Bennett, and Kyle Adams or Steve Maneri in the bunch and just a single wide receiver. Between the size of the Bears receivers and the versatility of Bennett...this should be a very profitable formation for the team throughout the season.

2)Matt Slauson looks like a great pickup. I didn't single him out in my recap, but PFF had Slauson as the Bears' second highest graded lineman after Mills at a +2.3, and he really has done a great job in the preseason and now in week one setting the pocket. He doesn't look dominant in anything he does, but he he doesn't make many mistakes. He's just now entering the prime of his career at 27 and it's possible some of that money Emery has been moving around to create cap room might be headed his way as part of a midseason extension. His beard is epic, too.

3)Jamie Dukes said what? Apparently Jamie Dukes of NFL Network said the Bears offense looked no different than it did under Lovie while he was a guest on the Score. If Dukes can find me tape of any game in the entire Lovie Era where the Bears ran 30+ plays out of the shotgun (as they did Sunday), I'll eat my laptop.

4) I was really impressed with Trestman's utter refusal to panic. 21-10 seemed pretty pants-shitting worthy at the time, but Trestman continued to mix up his playcalling with runs and passes and focus on high % plays. The offense finally established a rhythm and the Bengals had no answer for it. It was a far cry from the days of Mike Martz screaming "fuck this" and calling 52 passes and only 12 runs like he did against the Saints in 2011 even though they only trailed 16-14 into the 3rd quarter.

5) His day was rather unremarkable from a statistics standpoint, but I was really pleased with Alshon Jeffery on Sunday. Three of his five catches were for first downs, and after looking at it again I'm pretty sure he actually caught the pass on 3rd and 2 that was ruled incomplete on the Bears first drive. He'll have bigger days, but with all of the attention Marshall draws and with M. Bennett now stretching the middle of the field, Jeffery just needs to be a reliable chain-mover, and that's something that Jay didn't have when Jeffery was injured or shuffled in and out of the lineup last year.

6) I've never made any secret of my love of Carson Palmer, even though he's hardly the QB he once was before the injuries. I am glad to see that he was productive in his first day in Bruce Arian's offense. I was less pleased to see that the Cardinals o-line, unsurprisingly, still has some major issues, especially without Cooper. Between Arians gung-ho vertical approach and that line's protection, I predict Carson will be well on pace for another 4,000 YD season when he dies on the field in week seven.

7) Clay Matthews and Suh should both be suspended. They won't be, of course, because good players are often inexplicably immune to Goodell's banhammer. In Matthew's case especially I cannot fathom the hypocrisy of a league that hammers away at "player safety first" and then just ignores when a linebacker who spent all week vowing to hit the quarterback launches himself at said quarterback several yards out of bounds. I mean, does Greg Williams have to offer money to a player to get him to try to intentionally hurt a quarterback in order to make it wrong?

8) Danny Amendola is hurt again. You may not be surprised by this, but I would think the Patriots must be, because the only way I can understand passing on giving Welker a modest extension in favor of signing Amendola is if they were somehow kept in the dark about the fact that Amendola's injury history makes Bob Sanders look like a regular iron man. Bill Belichick the GM is rapidly falling into that AJ Smith territory where early success has convinced him all players are replaceable and thus not worth paying, and it's possible the Pats O could start to suffer the same regression that's plagued their defense since 2007.

9) The tempo of Chip Kelly's offense and it's radical effect on the NFL is going to be widely overstated. Even after running 53 plays in a first half where Washington did everything it could to avoid picking up first downs or maintaining possession, the Eagles only finished with 77 plays (the Skins managed to finish with 70, which is impressive given their weak showing in the first half), not the 80 or so that Kelly desires. I'm willing to bet the Eagles will average little more than the 74 plays a game that New England managed while leading the league last year. That's not to say the offense isn't going to be very successful. As long as Vick stays healthy and makes good decisions (and we know those are big ifs), that offense will do good things, I just think people should be focusing more on the quality of the plays the Eagles run, and not the quantity.

10) The Colts struggling to put away the Raiders reinforced what I already predicted this season for Indianapolis: Luck himself will be more accurate and productive now that he's reunited with Pep Hamilton (most famously known as Rex Grossman's QB coach in 2006, or Luck's old OC at Stanford, I guess), but that Colts defense will keep them from sniffing anywhere near 11 wins again this year.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bears 24, Bengals 21- WAIT, THEY WON?

You'll hear lots of times that football games are a tale of two halves. I'd say that would be the case for this game, but the Bengals started the 3rd quarter with a dominant, shit-on-your-hopes touchdown drive as well. So, really it's the tale of a Bears offense that actually made one those mythical "half-time adjustments" and
dominated a very good defense for about a quarter and a half. The defense was somehow equally brilliant and terrible, the offense looked as vanilla as anything Mike Tice ever did before exploding for 225 yds and 14 points in the second half, and the Bengals did everything they could to fuck up a game they could have had well in hand early on. It all adds up to a 24-21 victory, an undefeated Head Coaching record for Marc Trestman, and a lot of stuff to talk about before week two.

Onto the breakdown:

The Good:

PASS BLOCKING: Oh lord did I feign confidence all week. "This is a new line!", said I. "They will hold up!" I swore. Inside, though? Oh so much pants-shitting. A team that got 52 sacks last year and added James Harrison? That's terrifying for anybody. So imagine my shock to sit here and look at a stat sheet that shows zero sacks allowed, and (by my amateur estimate) just one QB hit. Astonishing. The run-blocking certainly wasn't stellar, but the Bengals are very stout up front in that department. Those days will come, for now they can win a lot of games if they keep Jay clean. Kyle Long and Matt Slauson were particularly impressive, because Geno Atkins did Nothing today. Let's hope this holds up next week against a still very good Vikings D-Line.

Brandon Marshall: I don't care if Jay targets him 80 times. If he catches 80% of them and averages 13 yards doing so, it'll work out fine. Marshall had 8 catches for 104 yds and a TD, and I'm thinking his hip is fine.

Martellus Bennett, Pass-Catching TE: His blocking left a bit to be desired considering his reputation, but Bennett had exactly the kind of game he needs to have to keep pressure off of Marshall in the passing game. He caught 3 balls for 49 yds (although he did have a bad drop on the first play of the game) and one utterly amazing TD grab. His 3rd down reception in the 4th quarter iced the game. I like when I don't hate the starting Tight End's face.

Stephen Paea: the only member of the defensive line who showed up for most of the game, Paea led the effort to hold the Bengals to just 63 yards rushing, consistently getting penetration. The Bears one sack of the game came when Paea collapsed the pocket and ran Dalton into the arms of Shea McClellin. Let's hope he keeps it up and gets some help next week.

James Anderson: Dude's a huge upgrade in pass defense over Nick Roach at SLB, and he can run. I'm okay with the WORST thing about a guy's day being a dropped pick six on third down.

Jay Cutler: I'd have listed him first if it weren't for that utterly brutal pick. If Tim Jennings doesn't force that fumble, the Bengals probably win and Jay is the goat. But we don't live in an alternate dimension, so I'm going to focus on the Jay Cutler that was otherwise flawless and led three huge drives in the second half to win the game. Jay finished 21/33 (63.6%) for 242 YDs, 2 TDs, 1 INT, and a 93.2 rating against a very good pass defense, and he suffered from at least three drops. Other than the bizarre INT, those are exactly the kind of numbers Jay can manage week in and week out in this offense, especially with that kind of protection.

Marc Trestman: I liked how he called plays in this game. Other than some bad toss sweeps that maybe would work against lesser defenses, he was very smart with his gameplan. In the first half they played it safe and tested the waters to see how their young linemen would hold up, and once they had proven themselves (and, frankly, the score dictated it), they opened things up in the second half. Congrats to him for opening up as a winner.

The Bad:

Defense: Jesus, do I really need to specify? Outside of Stephen Paea and James Anderson, no one really  stepped up. The run defense was good overall, but the DL got little to no pass rush going, and everyone suffered accordingly. Charles Tillman battled dehydration and illness all day, and had two beautiful interceptions, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but Tim Jennings and Major Wright were particularly awful in coverage. AJ Green is a menace (and now that the Bears have won I can feel a little less awful about his big day for my fantasy teams), but still this was an atypical showing that you hope to see them rectify going forward. Oh, also, Jesus Christ someone tackle Jermaine Gresham.

Roberto Garza: Holy shit was he awful in run-blocking today, and with the Bears using the shotgun more than ever it was so readily apparent that he fires WAY too high on his snaps that my wife was screaming at him the whole game that he was going to cause a fumble. 

The Ugly:

Bengals is Stupidz: I'm glad they helped the Bears out, but, wow. Talk about an impressive self-destruction. They lost to timeouts because they were beaten by basic math. That's how you Bungle.

That's all for now. This was a great test for the Bears, and while it was ugly at times (and Cincinnati paid them plenty of favors with stupid decisions and turnovers), the Bears gave us plenty of reasons for optimism going forward.

Go Bears.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Meet your 2013 Bears! Roster Breakdown and BOLD PREDICTION

When we last left our heroes, we were flinging our feces at them as they somehow managed to go 10-6 and miss a playoff spot when the Minnesota Vikings beat the Packers because f&%k me, that's why. Since then, as you know, they've replaced the head coach with a guy half the fanbase undoubtedly knows only as "CFL guy", drafted the son of the guy known most for the movie Broken Arrow in the first round, made a bunch of free agent moves to fix the offensive line and the tight end spot, and now enter a new season as the biggest mystery team in the NFL. So who are these guys, and what can we expect? Onto the roster!

Quarterbacks: #6 Jay Cutler, #12 Josh McCown

As they've done the last two years, the Bears entered the sensible world of the NFL and kept only two QBs, since they along with everyone else realize that whether your 3rd string QB is on the roster or on his couch, you're fucked if you're playing him either way. You all know the Jay Cutler story at this point. He's got "no excuses" even though he's now got two rookie linemen on the right side and only one wide receiver who has made it through an entire NFL season in the last three years. The fact of the matter is, no, Jay doesn't have any more excuses. He does have the most talented offense he's been a part of since at least his last year in Denver (but even they did not have Matt Forte and Michael Bush), and a head coach who sure gives the impression he understands offensive football. There are those predicting a breakout season for Jay, and understandably so. But can someone breakout this late in their career? It's happened before, but not that often.

The key for Jay this year isn't suddenly becoming a guy who can throw 50 passes a game accurately, it's being efficient on the 25-35 throws he's likely to get.  I can't sit here and tell you he won't throw interceptions that will make your eyes try to crawl out of your skull in order to unsee them. He will. But he should also have the protection and help he needs to complete 60+ %, throw for 25-30 TDs, and hopefully keep his YPA relatively high. In the end I think the Jay Cutler we get will look a lot more like the guy we thought we were getting from Denver, even if he will never be the guy his talent makes you think he could be. Either way, that should be more than enough for this team to contend, and for Jay to get his money.

As for Josh McCown, well, the plan is the same: if he's coming into the game for anything more than garbage time, maybe find something better to do with your Sunday.