By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) The Island of Cautious Pessimism is a comfortable place to be.
You’ve been here before, too, at one time or another. I’ve seen you. I remember faces of like-minded Bears fans who wait with me for the inevitable. Maybe we crossed paths in the Forest of Distrust, sat nearby on the shores of beautiful Lake Suspicion, or feasted together at a traditional Misgiving dinner.
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I have all I need here: plenty of real interest in how well the Bears will fare this season, compelling uncertainties that drive conversation, and the ability to weather the weekly swings of emotion on the way to a top-of-the-middle-of-the-pack finish that does just enough to keep possibilities open until the final day. As long as the mosquito-netting holds up and the café stays open, I’m all good.
But in the first flush of the all-phases romp over a team thought to be among the league’s elite, I’m considering packing my bags.
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The uninspiring offseason acquisitions and aimless preseason games were enough to have me in nesting mode, hanging things in the closets, stocking the fridge with beer and salami, and setting out my framed pictures of H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce. Ready for another lovely, mildly-discontented year of football.
And now, this happens. Bears 30, Falcons 12.
Jay Cutler passes for 312 yards, completing 22 of 32 throws for a 107.8 passer rating. Mike Martz zings it around early to build the lead and runs late to protect it, unveiling a handful of clever new designs along the way, and finishing with a healthy air/ground balance of 32/27. The offensive line holds up, even creating a discernible pocket for some seven-step drops and long, downfield throws. Matt Forte rumbles for 158 total yards, and new tight end Matt Spaeth makes some solid blocks and catches one of Cutler’s two TD throws.
And my worries about special teams sustaining quality are dismissed by Robbie Gould booming unreturnable kickoffs, Adam Podlesh flipping the field with his punting, Corey Graham tackling and Devin Hester looking dangerous.
Heck, even the stupid fans wised up – the ones cheering so hard during Bears’ possessions that it disrupted the play-calling. Seems they finally got the message, or weren’t too drunk at noon.
I guess I could think about booking a getaway to Buoyancy Bay for a couple weeks. I know a few people there. They’re a little annoying, of course (in that nice, creepy/smiley way), but I might be able to get used to it.
I just wasn’t ready for this.
Wait…the defense. I haven’t even mentioned it, yet! My god, Brian Urlacher looked as athletic as he did when he was 27, making a horizontal interception, running in a fumble, and laying wood to ballcarriers and receivers in the middle of the field. Charles Tillman forced a fumble and broke up countless slants. Julius Peppers was his usual one-man brute squad, and Henry Melton did everything this defense needs from the 3-technique tackle. The two linemen kept slamming into Matt Ryan like an angry elevator door.
Lovie Smith’s favored scheme and disciplined defensive gameplan strangled a potent offense. His team looked fast and ready, despite having their preparation truncated by a lockout.
I need to settle down, lest I act rashly and buy a ticket to the Meatball Mainland, where I’d join the wearers of own-name Bears jerseys and Ditka mustaches, painting my face, calling radio shows, and decrying even the most reasonable critics as “haters.”
Deep breath. Chill out, dude.
It’s one game in a long season.
J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi have a ways to go, clearly. Cutler took some more hard hits, and he had several typically-forced throws that should have been picked. Too many runs were slow to develop and too many blocks were missed. They left red-zone points on the field, settling for three when they should’ve had six. Penalties on returns are killers. Roy Williams hurt his groin and Lance Louis twisted his ankle.
If I leave the island, I need to find just the right place. Somewhere that lets me appreciate and assimilate the impressive opener, while not making me naive or foolish.
Let me look through the brochures…ah, here it is. And there’s a room available. Perfect. I can make the next boat, if I want.
The Cape of Some Hope.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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