By Nick Shepkowski-
(WSCR) So, that happened. With the Bears leading 10-0 with 4:34 to play and 63 yards of (somewhat) green grass in front of Tim Tebow and the Broncos offense, the “Almighty One” found his magic and wound up a 13-10 overtime winner against the Bears. In what was a plenty winnable game for the Bears, several miscues cost them a victory as they fall to 7-6 on the year with the playoffs seeming more and more like a dream with each day that passes.
Front Four – Talk about showing up to play, especially early on. For the most part they kept great contain on Tim Tebow while not allowing him to get outside nearly as often as he has against other teams. The defensive line was much of the reason the Broncos averaged just 3.6 yards per carry while recording five sacks. It was a great showing, the only unfortunate part was that they were obviously gassed by the fourth quarter and didn’t get much help with the lack of holding calls that appeared to be taking place. Julius Peppers was an absolute beast while strong performances by Henry Melton, Israel Idonije and Stephen Paea shouldn’t be overlooked. They didn’t finish the game well but were huge early on.
Brian Urlacher – You saw him shadow Tim Tebow for a large part of the game, keeping Tebow honest and not allowing him to change direction when running like Tebow’s been able to do to many times this season. His defensive line helped him out by not allowing him to get blocked by linemen very often, and Urlacher took full advantage with 10 solo tackles. It was the best showing we’ve seen from No. 54 in quite some time.
Turnover Battle – If you would have told me the Bears forced two Broncos turnovers before the game I would have told you there was no way they possibly lost. Charles Tillman made an outstanding play on his interception of Tebow, while Craig Steltz, who quietly had a very good showing had a nice sack/forced fumble. In 240 touches this year, Tebow had 3 turnovers entering Sunday and walked away with a pair of turnovers in just 52 touches. Considering it was once every 80 touches before the game, that qualifies as a strong showing.
Podlesh and Gould – Every chance Robbie Gould had, he converted. A Bears record-long 57-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, while each of his kickoffs went out the back of the endzone. Sure, it’s the thin air in Denver but an excellent showing. Podlesh was called upon far too much with eight punts but had a net punting average of 41.1 vs. Denver, another commendable effort.
Lance Louis – Remember two weeks ago when Lance Louis was moving up the charts in every Bears fans “Favorite Player” rankings? Seems like forever ago. Two false starts today worked as drive-killers while he didn’t exactly have a strong showing, even if it was against a very respectable defense. After a strong start that some thought merited Pro Bowl consideration, its been an ugly two weeks for No. 60.
DJ Moore – Your expectation for him isn’t as high as most defenders, so he gets swept under the rug a bit but on Tebow’s second to last completion in regulation, it was Moore who got lost and allowed Matt Willis to pull in a 19-yard reception that set up Matt Prater’s game-tying field goal. Terrible play if you go back and watch.
Lance Briggs – Yes, he did finish with 9 solo tackles but for whatever reason Lance Briggs continues to impersonate Kevin Payne when he goes to tackle guys lately. Shoulders up but arms not always out, not wrapping up which caused two bad missed tackles early that luckily didn’t result in Denver points. Briggs was also flagged for a roughing the passer call where he didn’t necessarily hit Tebow very hard, but he did leave his feet while pushing his forearm into the chest. It wasn’t the most painful of hits you’ll see but it was a justified 15-yard penalty because Lance failed to pull up.
Devin Hester – I still don’t know how he escaped for 26 yards on his longest punt return but he did and it set up the Bears only touchdown on Sunday. Hester did however call for fair catches on multiple punts that seemed to be returnable, costing the Bears in field position. I also felt had Hester stayed towards the far sideline on his longer punt return that he would have had a great chance to end up in the end zone. Oh yeah, he had a pathetic first-half drop on offense as well.
Marion Barber – The last two weeks we’re finding out that Marion Barber doesn’t possess the highest of football IQ’s. Last week it was him lining up wrong and costing the Bears an easy touchdown, while this week he runs out of bounds while the Bears are trying to kill time under the two minute warning in the fourth quarter. Parlay that boneheaded play with Barber’s fumble when the Bears were in field goal range in overtime and you have yourself a goat. Despite rushing for 108 yards, we’ll remember the other two plays Barber made that played a major role in costing the Bears a victory.
Caleb Hanie – It wasn’t as bad as a week ago vs. Kansas City but it was still a poor showing for Caleb. Hanie still holds onto the ball far too long, something that resulted in multiple sacks versus Denver. Hanie also missed a wide open Marion Barber in the fourth quarter on a play that could have sealed the victory. Instead the gates were open for another “Tebow Miracle”.
With the Bears loss and wins by both Atlanta and Detroit the Bears sit outside the playoffs for the first time in over a month. With the way the offense has looked under Caleb Hanie and with games against Seattle and Minnesota that no longer look nearly as winnable, its tough to picture this team getting back into a playoff spot this season.
At this point, do you even care if the Bears are a playoff team, though? Even if they sneak into a Wild Card berth after week 17 and Jay Cutler and Matt Forte are both back for the first-round playoff game, is an extra game or two even worth it at this point?
Of course, if you can make the playoffs and continue to play for a championship then you do so but it just seems so irrelevant at this point. The Bears don’t belong anywhere near the same field as the elite teams of the NFC right now and unless you can promise me Jay Cutler would be back with minimal rust for the playoffs, I’d just as fast not bother seeing it.