By Laurence W. Holmes
(WSCR) — Time offers the opportunity for perspective, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait each week to give my thoughts on the Bears game. The idea being that waiting 24 hours allows for me to watch the game over and talk to a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Blog.”
Throughout this season, the Bears’ overall narrative has been pretty steady: They struggle against teams that are better than them, do OK against teams that they’re evenly matched with, and maul inferior teams. That’s what happened in the desert on Sunday. The old formula of defensive scoring put the Bears in a comfortable position to coast to a win and allows them to live to fight another day.
What I Saw
-The Bears defense collapsed the Cardinals’ offensive line from all angles and for most of the game. The Bears’ defense had four sacks, seven tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Arizona QB Ryan Lindley was under pressure most of the day and didn’t handle it well. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown yet this year, but has seven interceptions. He’s not an NFL quarterback, and the Bears took advantage of it. Offenses that are mistake-prone are easy prey for the Bears D. Zach Bowman fell on a strange Beanie Wells fumble for a score, and Charles Tillman took an interception to the house for a TD. The Bears now have nine defensive touchdowns, which ties them with the 1961 Chargers. The team is one TD behind the 1996 Chargers, which hold the record.
-On the offensive side, there were still a lot of questions — the game plan being the most perplexing. The Bears came out passing the ball against a defense whose weakness is stopping in the run. At one point, Jay Cutler was 1-for-11 for 30 yards. Meanwhile, Matt Forte was averaging 8 yards a carry, and yet the Bears were resistant to keep running the ball. It was bizarre.
The offense matched the defense by scoring 14 points, but that’s been a problem for the last seven weeks. In that time, the Bears O has averaged 14 points a game — not enough against good teams. Luckily, the Cardinals are about as far away from a good team as any in the NFL.
What I Heard
“I’m not sure what happened.” –Ryan Lindley
That’s a perfect title for the book written on Lindley’s NFL career.
“At that point of the game it was trying to get something going…” –Ken Wisenhunt
This was the explanation for the failed fake field goal. It was the highlight for the Bears’ special teams. Charles Tillman pulled off his block attempt to slow kicker Jay Feely down and string out the play. Nick Roach and Amobi Okoye recognized it quickly and set the edge on the play so that Feely couldn’t get the first down.
It wasn’t a good day for Bears’ special teams. The punt game had all sorts of problems with communication, and that led to fumbles and extra possessions for Arizona. Devin Hester didn’t let blockers know the ball was in the area and it one jumped up and bit DJ Moore and the Cardinals recovered it. Eric Weems had a fumble that he recovered, but describing the Bears day on special teams as “ugly” would be kind.
“It wasn’t pretty.” –Jay Cutler
The problems with the offense persist. Cutler finishes 12-for-26, 146 yards, 1 interception, 1 TD and a passer rating of 76.8. Early on his accuracy issues had nothing to do with pressure. The Bears’ line actually did a decent job in protection and the pocket held. Cutler missed wide-open throws and was bailed out on the 30-yard reception by Brandon Marshall because of a fantastic adjustment by Marshall.
Cutler looked fantastic when the Bears went into the hurry-up at the end of the first half. On that drive, he threw for 76 yards, capping off an 80-yard drive with an 11-yard TD to Marshall. The two-minute drill was run to perfection. Throughout his career with the Bears, Cutler has looked his most comfortable when things are helter-skelter. He thrives in the hurry-up. So I guess the question is: Why don’t they use it more?
“I’ve always been a big Packers fan…” –Lovie Smith
Smith was joking, but he’ll have to be rooting for Green Bay next week against the Vikings. The league flexed the Packers/Vikings game to 3:25. So, the Bears will have to win their game first against Detroit (which I don’t think will be easy, btw) and then sit and wait to see what happens next.
What I Was Told
“What record did I set?” –Charles Tillman
When I reached out to Charles, he had no idea that he actually was part of two records Sunday, and it happened on the same play. With the interception for touchdown, Tillman extended his Bears record for defensive touchdowns with his ninth. The interception was also his 33rd, so now Tillman is all alone in career interceptions for a Bears cornerback, passing Donnell Woodford. All three of Tillman’s interceptions this year have gone for touchdowns. So now the Bears are one defensive touchdown away from the 1998 Seattle Seahawks record of 10.
Tillman hates discussing his personal accomplishments. He often says “talk to me about it when I’m retired,” but what he’s done in a Bears uniform is incredible. He’s six interceptions away from breaking the all-time Bears record for interceptions, held by Gary Fencik.
“We need to score!”–Lance Briggs
On Wednesday, Briggs and I were talking about what the defense can do to help get the team out of this downward spiral the Bears have been on. The Bears D is still No. 1 in the Aikman Ratings and is giving up less than 17 points a game. During the six-week slide, defensive scoring has been missing. They got two touchdowns against the Cardinals, but everyone would feel a lot more comfortable if the offense was more consistent. Everyone is still waiting for the O to be more than just a passenger on this train.
One more thing…
The last thing I was told was that Phil Emery watched the game from the sidelines. It’s not unheard of for a GM to watch on the field, but usually they are in the press box watching the game. It lets me know that Emery is looking at how everything works. Over the next two weeks, questions about the future of Lovie Smith and his staff will be answered, but I’m told that Emery is nothing if not thorough in his examination.