By the numbers, the Bears hung in that game until the last five or so minutes of the fourth quarter. But actually watching it, there was no point at which "it is still mathematically possible for them to win" was a comforting thought to me. Despite heroic efforts from some of the offensive players, bad playcalling and an essentially nonexistent defense killed any hypothetical chance they had of staying in it.
They're still tied for first in the NFC North by dint of the Lions Lionsing and the Packers and Vikings managing a tie, but at this point winning the division is the only way this team makes the playoffs. The NFC is just too stacked at the five and six seeds for a 10-6 team with this many NFC losses to get in the back door.
Matt Forte mostly: Other than a fumble on the first play from scrimmage that led to an early 14-0 Rams lead, Forte did everything he could to give this team a chance. He turned several plays that should've been losses into gains, sometimes pretty substantial ones. Whatever was causing his inability to evade a tackler in recent weeks has clearly been dealt with, his evasiveness was in full effect today. He evaded six tackles for an easy touchdown that Earl Bennet got called back on a totally unnecessary block in the back, and put together 77 yards with a respectable 4.8 ypc average. He would've had better numbers, too, if not for the bizarre appearance of Michael Bush, but I'll get to him later.
Brandon Marshall: Brandon did everything he could to move the chains in this game and it was beautiful. He got open late in the play several times to turn a throwaway situation into a first down, and avoided a lot of tackles to turn modest gains into big ones. He caught ten of twelve passes thrown his way for 117 yards and a touchdown. And though one of those two missed receptions was a pretty egregious dropped first down, I'm not going to gripe at him after such a valiant effort.
Earl Bennett: Earl Bennett reappeared suddenly, making a big impact for the first time all season. He caught eight of eight thrown his way for 58 yards, and landed a huge block that sprung Matt Forte for a first down. I know it can't be easy for Earl suddenly playing fifth fiddle in an all-slants offense, but he made the most of his opportunity today. He does get a black mark for that penalty, but it's hard to say what else he was supposed to do in the situation.
Josh McCown: Josh McCown did what Josh McCown does and not one thing more. 36/47 for 344 yards with two TDs and one INT, as well as a garbage-time strip sack. He set a franchise record for single-game completions, whatever that means. He continues to be the consummate backup quarterback, which is great for him but not enough to get past the Rams.
Defense: The defensive line got some of the pressure we were missing, and that is the only good thing you can say about this defense. They were horrible against the pass and worse against the run, the secondary and linebackers made a bunch of shitty reads and allowed 258 rushing yards. Nothing good happens when this unit is on the field, and I don't even know that a Jay Cutler offense can keep up when they're allowing offenses to score at will.
Penalties: Jesus Christ penalties. Unnecessary holds and blocks in the back cost them at least two touchdowns, including a blazing punt return by Hester. Kyle Long lost his Goddamn mind, Tony Fiametta facemasked a defensive back, Chris Conte has no idea how to defend a fade, they got some dumb delays and false starts... just a lot of sloppy bullshit going on. They were the least-penalized team in the NFL until last week, and now they're just a mess.
Michael Bush: I was so happy to see Forte and Bush on the field at the same time, but now I just get sad whenever I see Bush in the backfield. He has consistently failed to do the one thing we have always praised him for doing: getting one yard. He had a hideous drop on a surefire TD pass that ultimately resulted in a failed fourth-down play. I was all about Michael Bush being kept around to do Michael Bush shit, but if he's not going to do his thing he's just a liability.
Chris Conte: It's not pressure, you guys. Chris Conte is terrible, and was just hiding behind a good defense. He can't play man coverage for shit, he can't solo-tackle anyone larger than himself, he can't tackle a runner without giving them at least a yard after contact, and he makes the worst reads against running backs on every play. The line even got some decent pressure today, but Conte just got beat all day long.
Not having Jay Cutler: McCown has stepped up and McCowned as well as you could possibly expect, but this team needs Jay Cutler if they want to win games with that defense on the field. McCown leaves a tremendous number of yards after the catch on the field because receivers have to fall down to catch a third of his passes. The lack of deep-ball ability removes one of the biggest advantages of a receiving unit that is arguably the best in the league. The inability to score quickly is a huge liability, which we saw firsthand when they decided to run out the clock with a minute and a half left in the first half instead of even trying to get a field goal. You can't really complain about McCown, but you still kind of want to in situations like this.
Fourth-down and short yardage playcalls: Marc Trestman has a tiny devil in a Ditka sweater on his shoulder that whispers sweet meatball nothings in his ear whenever the Bears are in short yardage. I don't know how he can be so brilliant so much of the time and then just consistently fuck up that badly on fourth and one or anything and goal. The Bears took ten attempts to get into the end zone in a goal-to-go situation that started on the three. Running up the middle against dominant defensive lines never works for this team, but Marc Trestman just can't help himself on fourth down. In comes Bush, in comes Britton, and oh they lost two yards. Penalties didn't help on that series, but they still needed a full drive's worth of plays to get in the end zone from the three.
The NFC North: Holy shit you guys. I said in September that the NFC North was the most competitive division in football, and it still is but for way stupider reasons. The Lions managed to lose to the Bucs, the Bears lost to the Rams, and the Packers and Vikings tied. Which means the entire division played teams that were at or below .500, and none of them won.
That's all for now, I guess. We're still in it by dint of the NFC North falling apart at the seams, but at this point 10-6 doesn't get this team to the playoffs unless they win the division.