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Monday, September 8, 2014

Bills 23, Bears 20- Sigh

And so it begins. You might be expecting another impassioned speech of mine as to why you're all morons for overreacting to this garbage. Maybe I'll cite some anecdotal evidence (Mark Potash pointed out that 13 playoff teams in the last 12 years have opened their seasons with losses at home to non-playoff teams, that's a good one). Maybe I'll point out where other good teams fucked up this week, too (I mean did anyone see a 13 point Dolphins win or Atlanta managing to beat New Orleans?). Maybe I'll make reference to past Bears playoff teams that had their share of embarrassing moments on the way to the playoffs (see the 2010 Bears and, well, really just about any game they lost, but particularly that Redskins game. Woof). In the end I'd point to the yardage advantage the Bears posted, the considerable talent they possess on offense, point out that the defense actually improved considerably on a per play basis and in getting third down stops vs. last year even if they did undo themselves by allowing three long runs, and I'd tell you all not to worry.
Well, worry. Go ahead. I don't know what this team can do. My heart and mind are both trying to tell me that a team with this much talent, particularly offensively, can't possibly win less than 10 games. Then again, Dallas has made a cottage of industry of doing just that, and so did last year's Bears. I'm not giving up on them. That's foolish. I can easily see them getting those 10-11 wins they need, even still. They're never going to be out of any ballgame with the guys they have, but they certainly can't afford to put themselves out of games like they did yesterday.

So no, I can't tell you it's all going to be okay. Maybe the sky is falling. I  doubt that, too. We're just going to have to do this the old-fashioned way and watch. And pray.


The Offensive Line: When Matt Slauson went down, I peed a little. Not happy pee, fear pee. You know the kind. He's their best and most consistent lineman. Hell if you don't weight for the importance of each position, he was arguably their best and most consistent player period last year. Then Michael Ola came in and posted a clean game in pass protection, and was even Pro Football Focus' highest ranked pass protecting guard in all of the NFL in week one. That's impressive depth. Slauson has the dreaded high ankle sprain, so we may not see him for a few weeks. Hopefully Ola can build off of what he did today. Otherwise Bushrod and Long all had great games, and while poor Mills was victimized by some one-on-one matchups with Mario Williams, he did pretty well for a guy who missed the whole damn preseason. De La Puente took over for Garza and was not surprisingly better than Roberto at everything. Garza also has a high ankle sprain, but unlike Slauson I have my doubts he'll find his starting job waiting for him when he comes back.

Matt Forte: For the last couple of quarters we had a not-so-pleasant flashback to 2011 with a terrible kick returner in Michael Spurlock dropping passes while pretending to be a wide receiver, and a confused and not-yet-versed-in-the-playbook Santonio Holmes made his fair share of mistakes as well. The one positive to flashing back to the last days of Mike Martz was the return of the Matt Forte who threw the offense on his back and carried them down the field as a ballcarrier and a receiver. Love you, Matt.

Defensive Line vs. the Run: Don't blame the scary rushing numbers the Bills posted overall on the front four. They did their job. The vast majority of Bills runs died well before they got to the linebackers (if they did get there, well, that's a different story), but Houston and Ratliff especially did what they were supposed to in that department.

Willie Young:  Get him more than 21 snaps. He registered 7 tackles and a sack on those plays. Jared Allen has the name, but Willie has been the better run defender for two years, and at least he's been defending the read option since his college days, unlike Jared Allen, who is actually the defensive end that should be the 3rd down specialist.

The Bad:

Jay Cutler's Second Interception: I'm not putting Jay's entire day here. Fuck you. 349 yards, 70% completions, 2 TDs, several drops, and the fact that he managed to keep it all together for the most part after losing Brandon, Alshon, Slauson, and even Morgan for parts of the game? I'm not putting a guy solely in the bad category when the good-to-bad pass ratio was maybe 45:5. Fuck that. That interception was awful, though. Indefensible. Here's something everyone (including me, in my football meatball fury yesterday) is missing: it didn't cost the Bears the game. It didn't. Santonio committed offensive pass interference on the play, which would have put the Bears at 3rd and 16 and needing 10 yards to even get close to a makeable field goal. Odds are they were fucked on that drive either way.

Defensive line vs. the Pass: Other than Willie Young, where the hell where you all? You're the only hope this defense has of hanging with any of the good teams on the schedule. Your presence must be felt. It wasn't.

Cornerbacks: Tillman, Fuller, Jennings all got beaten pretty badly. Wasn't expecting that.

Shea McClellin: Guh.

Lance Briggs: The two big runs that killed this team? Lance's fault. Both went right through his lane on the read option, and Lance (who has always lived or died on his aggressiveness), guessed badly on both. I think the "he's old and slow!" beat was overdone in the preseason, but that doesn't mean he's not at risk of being exposed as a dinosaur just for his consistent inability to recognize the read option and misdirection that so many defenses thrive on now.

Michael Spurlock: Jesus Christ. Why did they even bother to cut Eric Weems if this was their grand idea to replace him? Holy shit, man. You're a part time kick returner in a league where returners don't even return the ball half of the time. You need to at least catch the ball when it hits you in the hands.

 Santonio Holmes: I hate to do this to him. He made some nice plays, and you can't expect a guy who was never supposed to have to play this much so soon to be flawless, but, bad is bad, regardless of the perfectly valid excuses. He dropped passes, he got the playcall wrong on Jay's second INT and run-blocked instead of going out to give Jay one more target. He also fell down on the Bears last third down of the game, keeping them from converting and nearly leading to another INT. He'll be better, certainly as long as they can keep him as the #3, but, well, shit happens.

Losing to Jim Schwartz: I fucking hate that. I hate it more than anything in this entire world. You didn't do shit to deserve this, asshole.

The Ugly:

Injuries: Man, that was painful. They were dropping like someone pissed off Old Testament God. Fortunately it appears Alshon and Brandon should both be back at full strength next week, and the Garza injury is far from a terrible thing for the team. Losing Slauson hurts, though. I can just do without having to hide my eyes every time a Bears player gets hit, thank you.

That's all for now. Hopefully the Bears can rally from this disaster by surprising us all with a win in San Francisco, but I can't really find  a way to make this one not hurt.

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