By Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Every week I take 24 hours to watch the Bears game again and talk to players, coaches and experts behind the scenes. Here’s what I saw, heard and was told since the Bears lost to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday:
This was a game of missed opportunities. The Bears had a chance to create some distance from the teams trailing them in the wildcard chase, keep the hopes of winning the division alive and virtually eliminate the Vikings. The loss drops them to sixth in the NFC, with a couple teams breathing down their necks and the Packers coming to town.
What I Saw
– Bears defense struggling to stop the run. The Vikings are a one-dimensional football team. Christian Ponder was awful yesterday: 11-of-17, 91 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, but the Bears couldn’t capitalize on it because they gave up big runs to Adrian Peterson early. The Vikings first play from scrimmage was a 51-yard scamper, which utilized some old-school football techniques. The Vikings overloaded the line of scrimmage which forced Nick Roach and Geno Hayes to play off the ball instead of at linebacker depth. Both linebackers got swallowed up and Peterson did the rest. Chris Conte took an awful angle and got bullied by Peterson who hit him with a vicious stiff arm. Peterson ended the quarter with 104 yards in the first quarter.
To the Bears defenses credit, they settled down nicely. They limited Peterson 50 yards on the next 19 carries the rest of the way, but it’s another week where they didn’t win the turnover battle, which is essential for their success.
-The offense has to stop giving the ball away. Jay Cutler’s two interceptions cost the Bears 14 points. The Vikings got 100 yards (more than the receivers had all game on offense) on their interception returns. Jay Cutler was the Vikings second-best offensive weapon behind A.P. One went for a touchdown and the other set the Vikings up at the five. Recent history has shown us that this offense is not good enough to rally from a deficit. Under Lovie Smith the Bears are 14-46 when trailing at the half. When THEY give points away, it’s impossible for this team to win.
What I Heard
“We just have to come out with a higher sense of urgency.” -Israel Idonije
I hung last week’s loss on the defense and with good reason, but it’s hard for me to do that on this one. That first quarter felt like the world was ending for the Bears and it’s true that the Bears D could’ve gotten off to a better start, but this team’s problem has consistently been offense all year.
This nugget from Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com: The Bears had 438 yards of offense and out gained the Vikings 438-248, but failed to run a play in the red zone until their final drive.
“I let a play go. I let a play go that I can’t get back.” – Devin Hester
Hester let a ball bounce off his hands and facemask on a slant pattern that had a chance to go for a touchdown. It could’ve been a game-changing play. Throughout his career as a wideout, there have been too many of these moments. Moments where Hester has a chance to step up and stand out as an offensive player and doesn’t.
He wasn’t alone. Kellen Davis was targeted eight times. He had a bunch of drops that could’ve extended drives. I’m a bit surprised that Cutler is still trying to get him the ball and I wonder if the Bears wouldn’t be better off, giving his spot to Matt Spaeth. Alshon Jeffrey dropped a touchdown pass and even Brandon Marshall let one go in a big situation. It seemed like when the Bears needed a big play from the offense, they couldn’t get it.
“Started stiffening up more and more.” – Jay Cutler
Cutler took a vicious hit in the fourth quarter on a sack and hurt his neck. He listed himself as “day-to-day”, but if you saw him after the game was over, he could barely move. Whenever players don’t finish games, it’s not good. So it’s not a foregone conclusion that Cutler will be under center Sunday against the Packers.
“We just haven’t scored enough points. It’s that simple.” – Lovie Smith
Since starting 7-1, the Bears are averaging 14 points a game in the last five.
What I Was Told
“He will tell you in the passing game, maybe a little bit more consistency in it.” -Lovie Smith
Kellen Davis was targeted eight times Sunday. He made three catches. He left a few more on the carpet. The good thing is that he gets open. The bad thing is he hasn’t made enough plays when given the chance. Smith once said: “Kellen Davis can do anything that the good tight ends in this leage can do.” There has been no evidence of that being true.
“He’s in the Hall of Fame right now (as a returner)… how many people can say that?” – A Bears source who did not want to be identified
I had a conversation a couple weeks ago with a recently retired NFL, non-Bears player and a Bears source that both wondered out loud if Hester’s use at wideout has taken away from what he can do as a returner. Both pointed out to me how hard Hester works and how badly he wants to help the team as a receiver, but that it hasn’t happened. How many touchdowns have been sacrificed in the return game because of it? You’ve wondered it. They wondered it too.
Hester has not had a return touchdown since last season’s November game against the Lions.
For more Bears information, follow Laurence on Twitter at @LaurenceWHolmes.