By Laurence Holmes-
CHICAGO (CBS) – Wins are supposed to feel good. Other than the victory itself, Sunday felt like a cryptic clue to a treasure hunt. As each week goes along, you’re stuck with the question: Who are these guys?
Let’s play a game. Close your eyes, think long and hard and give me a list of things that you’re SURE that the Bears do well…
Ok, here’s mine:
1) Special Teams
2) Matt Forte
I’m trying really hard to be fair, but that’s where my list ends. Those are the only things that I know to be true about this team. These two things are constant and it seems like everything else is a big question mark.
In all but one of the four games the Bears have played, the defense has been carved up by opponents. It was understandable to see Drew Brees and the Saints run up and down the field. That’s what they do. That’s what they’ve always done under Sean Payton. The Packers are the scariest offense in the NFL. They have the best quarterback in the league and an array of weapons that make you salivate. So I guess seeing them run up and down the field is understandable too. But a rookie? A rookie giving you the business? A rookie giving you the business at home to the tune of 574 yards? That’s what Cam Newton did on Sunday.
At times the Panthers offense seemed miles ahead of the Bears. The folks at Halas Hall will tell you that they’re always looking to make a team one-dimensional. On Sunday, that mission failed. Carolina averaged 6.5 yards per run. They ran the power game. They ran the speed game and the Bears had trouble stopping it. They scored twice on the ground. Newton threw for 374 yards and had a late touchdown pass. The Bears pass rush wasn’t productive and has been M.I.A. for a few weeks now. Jordan Gross did a tremendous job making Julius Peppers a non-entity. There were coverage issues. There were tackling issues. There were mismatch issues. I’m guessing film session will not be fun.
On the offensive side, it was good to see the committment to run. The first drive was impressive. Nine plays, all of them runs and 78 yards. The Bears showed the ability to adapt their run-game and gameplan. Matt Forte ran for a career high 205 yards and joins the rare air of Walter Payton and Gale Sayers when we talk about single game rushing performances.
That’s encouraging, but they couldn’t build off it. It didn’t manifest itself in more opportunities for the pass game. When you look at Jay Cutler’s line (9-for-17, 102 yards, 1 INT, 46.7 rating) you are left to wonder if the league high 102 sacks, since 2009, have left him unsure of himself and his talent. If that’s the case, then just about nothing else matters.
The simple act of getting decisions made and plays in on time was a struggle for this team. They wasted timeouts with poor substitutions and everyone not being on the same page. I’d expect this from a young team, but not a group who played in some big games last year. And not a head coach who has been here for close to a decade. It’s mind-boggling that through his tenure in Chicago, Lovie Smith is no better at being definitive in big moments.
The win is important. I don’t want to lose sight of that. Green Bay is 4-0 and so are the Lions. The Bears needed Sunday’s victory to stay within shouting distance. They’ll get to see the Lions up close and size them up on next Monday. Maybe that game will add some clarity, because the Panthers game just led to more questions, more clues.
For the 2011 Bears it’s like the old “Choose Your Adventure” books. It’s OK, turn to page 43 for your adventure. Will there be a playoff bid there, or a 7-9 season?
For more Bears coverage during the week, follow Laurence on Twitter (@LHolmes670).