Or not. I can't pretend I ever wanted to write this damn thing but my sense of completeness compels me and I no longer have the valid excuse of being on the interstate driving as I was Sunday night or working late the other nights of the week. It is time to discuss this.
And you know what? I'm not that mad. I'm really not. Not that the loss isn't upsetting, not that it isn't disheartening that the Bears still haven't closed the gap with the Packers, but things are far from grim. I believe the rest of the Bears schedule is shaping up to be fairly favorable, they appear to be getting somewhat healthier as a team, and, if you dig past the box score, there were some good things that happened in this game.
There were obviously more bad things, however, and that needs discussin'. I naturally spent all of last week in a healthy state of fear about the game, and once it was revealed that Jared Allen was a late scratch, well, that gave me a pretty unshakeable sense of foreboding. Not that Jared Allen alone could have prevented the massacre Rodgers committed, but even one or two sacks that stopped drives might have changed the complexion of the ball game. Without Allen and Ratliff the Bears defensive line lost the ability to constantly shift and rotate players on the DL that had been so pivotal to their success early in the season. Despite the Packers frequent struggles in pass protection over the years, they have two very, very solid guards in Josh Sitton (who may be the best pass-protecting guard in football with Evan Mathis out), and TJ Lang. If you want to get to Rodgers you need to threaten his tackles, and the Bears lacked the guy who draws the most attention out on the edge.
More upsetting than anything was Mel Tucker's gameplan. I like to consider myself fairly measured in my response to Mel. I was the last on the blog here to call for his head last year, and I've defended him and praised him in turn this year. Sunday was not Mel's finest hour. The Bears stayed in the 4-3 far too long, even after it was pretty quickly established that the Bears DL, for whatever it's faults rushing the passer, was more than capable of stuffing Eddie Lacy without much help. When Jon Bostic, however improved he's been this year, is matched up with Jordy Nelson something has gone horribly awry.
Unlike the Bears first three opponents the Packers weren't willing to accept the narrative that the Bears run defense was soft* and waste first and second down on futile runs. Rodgers came out firing with the quick game, setting up frequent 2nd and 3rd and shorts, allowing the Packers to get the ball out quickly and keep the pass rush from ever getting a chance to pin their ears back. When Rodgers did go deep he was free to do so against soft zone coverages and mostly ineffectual four man rushes.
Mel's response? Not much, really. The Bears blitzed the same amount of times in the second half as they did in the first, and Mel said they had been convinced at halftime they could still get home with four rushers. Look, I'm as aware as anyone that Aaron Rodgers is dominant against the blitz. Here's the thing: Aaron Rodgers is really, really goddamn dominant against no rush at all. Blitzing Rodgers isn't a risk at that point, because you're only probably fucked if you do, you're definitely fucked if you don't.
It was a disheartening approach from a guy who seemed to have made great strides from last year, and I hope it doesn't happen again. Fortunately for the Bears, there's only one Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, they still have to see him at least one more time this year.
Matt Forte and Ka'Deem Carey: The kid gets a mention, too, because the best compliment I can pay him is that I honestly thought he was Matt a few times. Together they combined for 234 yards, and that kind of effort will result in a win more often than not. Like, seriously, 99% of the time. Like this was the first f&%king time in 20+ years the Bears ran for 200+ yards and lost. God dammit.
The Offensive Line: Of course the efforts of the above would not have been possible without the five guys up front kicking the Packers ass on nearly every play. They were nearly flawless in pass protection and they blew Green Bay off of the ball on almost every rushing attempt. 496 yards is amazing, and it's not the kind of thing the Packers can just tweak away. Whether the defense will get it together before round 2, I don't know, but this front is clearly capable of dominating theirs, and that should translate to more points for the Bears offense next time.
Martellus Bennett: That was a touchdown. Fuck you people. Still, Marty finished with over 100 yards and is having a career year in basically everything. He rules.
Marc Trestman's Gameplan: the failure to put up more than 17 points lies solely in the botched execution, because the gameplan was simple and effective. The Bears ran the ball down Green Bay's throat, mixed runs and passes effectively, and did as good of a job as could be expected of keeping the ball away from Rodgers for most of the game. Sadly he made quick work of the D in the time he had, but it's hard to fault Trestman's playcalling at all. Especially on the TD pass to Alshon. Holy shit was that cool.
Mel Tucker: see above.
Lamarr Houston: I know he wasn't brought in here to get sacks. He's always been more of a disruptor vs. the pass than a closer, and he makes his real impact in the run game, where he was, again, brutally effective. But the team badly needed him to play like a true DE on Sunday and he failed.
Willie Young: perhaps I owe an apology to Jared Allen. Willie most definitely struggled without Allen drawing attention on the other side. He was a nonfactor for the first time all year.
Tim Jennings: Starting to get worried now. Show me something, Tim.
Offensive Miscues: the Cutler picks are first and foremost. He should not have thrown the first one at all, although it's classic Cutler luck that a mere pass deflection became a perfect lateral to a streaking Clay Matthews. The miscommunication with Marshall that led to the second pick has been dissected ad infinitum so I'll add nothing more than that it sucked. Alshon dropped a TD pass that was definitely higher than it needed to be yet also still a pass he catches 90% of the time. Kyle Long false started to turn first and goal at the one to first and goal at the 6 and they never recovered. Morgan could have scored a TD on his catch at the goalline quite easily but opted to tuck the ball in and go out of bounds rather than reach for the pylon. They left too many points on the board against the last team in the NFL they could have afforded to do so.
The Officiating: If you can argue with a straight face that Jordy Nelson's short catch on 2nd and 1 that was nowhere near the first down marker was A)actually a first down or B) not illegal hands to the face, I will call you a liar and a sonofabitch. Jordy also did a fine job of pushing off of Kyle Fuller for a TD. The DJ Williams unnecessary roughness was the worst of them all in my opinion, considering Eddie Lacy is a 230 LB tank known for breaking tackles and therefore it is only sound defense for a linebacker to try to join a gang tackle on a guy WHO HADN'T EVEN HIT THE FUCKING GROUND YET. Add in the absolutely bizarre holding call on Jon Bostic that turned a FG into an extended drive for a TD and you have a very bad day for the officials. I'm not one to allege conspiracies, but I've no problem alleging massive fucking incompetence. Rot in hell, assholes.
That's all for now. I still like the Bears odds of finishing the first half of the season on a little bit of a run, as the Panthers, Falcons, Dolphins, and Patriots all have massive issues of their own and none of them appear as frightening as they did in the offseason or even a few short weeks ago, but at some point this team has to beat Green Bay to seize the division. Hopefully they can pull off the miracle to start the second half of the season at Lambeau. Until then, go Bears.
*- It's not. Three blown assignments vs. Buffalo left them with rushing totals that didn't reflect the job they did on a play-by-play basis, and they were very solid containing the Jets and 49ers run games despite QBs who were both capable of killing them with read-option plays. Sunday was their first game against a traditional one back running scheme, and they stuffed it mercilessly.