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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bears 18, Saints 26: We Told Him So

Well, the Bears lost to the Saints. Hardly surprising, but it was more painful that it had to be. Really, though, the pain seemed to roll to every phase in turn. When the defense was busy holding Brees to 6 points on two drives, one of which began at first and a goal, the offense couldn’t do anything. Then the playcalling just kind of fell apart. Then the offense worked, and the defense decided they didn’t need to.

Still, I said I wouldn’t be upset if they held up reasonably well against Brees in a loss and I stand by it. There were a lot of encouraging signs in this game, despite the frustration. Thanks to Green Bay spanking the Lions, the Bears are still tied for first and are looking at two pretty soft teams before the first Packers game. Without further ado,

The Good

Jay Cutler: Whatever was wrong with Jay last week clearly wasn’t an issue today. He went 24/33 for 358 yards and two TDs, 71% completion and a 128.1 rating. He gave up a fumble, but it was on a totally unblocked blitz coming from his blind side.  I’d prefer that he hold on to it, but when your options are “get maimed” and “get killed,” I’m not about to blame you. Once again, Jay went off in the 4th quarter, completing a huge pass to Alshon to set up a TD and two-point conversion. He made one pretty baffling decision, but came out with no interceptions for a really nice day that set my mind at ease.

Alshon Jeffery: Clearly this fat, lazy, fragile 2nd-rounder is never going to amount to anything. He was only the first 200-yard receiver in franchise history today, with absolutely gorgeous catches deep, close, on the sidelines, and in traffic. Basically, Alshon Jeffery put on a fucking clinic today and it is infuriating that the rest of the offense was unable to make anything of it.

Marc Trestman in the 4th quarter: Willy Wonka busted out his genius hat late in the game, calling a barrage of tosses, package plays and fakes designed to move the ball forward and out of bounds. While the drive he went off on ultimately resulted in a turnover on downs, the blame for that shit falls solely on Earl Bennet, who will not receive the honor of a nickname for this recap.

Defensive Line:  Despite the injury to Nate Collins, the D-line actually showed up today. They got good pressure on a number of plays while just rushing four, got to Brees pretty often, and did a pretty good job getting tackles for loss against the run. They’re not back to where they were last year, but at this point I’ll take even being in touching distance of the QB as a good sign.

The Bad
Marc Trestman before the 4th quarter: Maybe it’s not entirely Trestman’s fault, but he calls the plays so he gets the blame. Simply put, they knew they were up against Rob Ryan and just decided that blitz pickups were totally unnecessary. Rob blitzed on every second down of the first half, and they fell for it every time. The offense seemed totally unable to find a play that actually worked, and though some of them were individual player errors, the playcalling as a whole just didn’t work.

The Defense in General: Tackling continues to be a problem for this team. Whether it’s giving up extra yardage or just flat-out missing, they let the Saints get a lot of yards they shouldn’t have, including a few key 3rd- and 4th-down conversions. I don’t want to get too down on the defense because holding that offense to 26 points is frankly astonishing, but they still left a lot on the field and failed to come up with a turnover for the first time this year.

Lance Briggs: Lance actually played very well this game, but he gets a special mention for jumping offside on a 4th-and-1 when it was blatantly obvious that the Saints were just trying to draw someone offside. It was quite literally a high school play, and our 8-time Pro Bowl linebacker bit into it like a Goddamn cheeseburger.

Matt Forte: Forte had a couple of nice runs, and really dragged the Saints along a couple times; but in the main he was a total nonfactor. He had four catches for 40 yards, but also dropped a couple easy passes. He also had  12 rushes for 55 yards, and a heinous bobble on the first offensive play of the game that turned a long, easy gain into a backward start for an offense that desperately needed to find its footing early.

The Ugly
Earl Bennet: Earl Bennet tends to show up for roughly one play a game, and brother was this week’s play a stinker. Wide open with a perfect pass on 4th and short, Earl just kind of… didn’t catch the ball. He let it hit him in the face and then dropped it, dropping the Bears’ hopes for a comeback with it and killing a fantastic drive.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for now. As hard as it is to swallow a loss, the Saints are a very good football team and there’s little shame in failing to beat them. Once again, the Bears just seem to be in a place where they can’t all play well at the same time. Things are unlikely to improve on a short week with the always-terrible Thursday Night game looming, but at least the hapless Giants are a clear underdog in this one. A week after that, they face arguably the worst defense in the league, hopefully getting them to 5-2.

So although it is cold, and the Bears have lost, do not worry your little heads. This was, as we all said coming in, an expected loss. And though it is painful to watch, we are still tied for first in the division and looked better in pretty much all phases than we did against a worse team last weekend. Good things are happening, and there’s little reason to believe they won’t keep happening for a few weeks yet.

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