By Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) 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 24 hours allows for me to watch the game over and talk to a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Blog.”
WHAT I SAW:
It was sloppy, ugly and at times maddening, but the Bears somehow pulled off another fourth-quarter rally and find themselves 2-0. It was not Jay Cutler’s best game, but it did allow him another opportunity for a star-turn moment and he delivered. The two interceptions were awful, but when the money was on the line, he drove the team 66 yards on 10 plays for the game-winning touchdown. More on that later.
The Bears defense has some issues. Luckily for them, they still possess the ability to take the ball away. Tim Jennings is having a great start to the season. His 44-yard touchdown return was the second of his career to go with 2 forced fumbles last week, Jennings is trying to make a return trip to the Pro-Bowl. Wanna know how good Jennings has been in this system with the Bears?
Before coming to Chicago, Jennings played four years in Indy. He had four total interceptions. In three-plus years with the Bears, he has 13.
Back to the Bears problems. The team is struggling to get consistent pressure on the quarterback and it’s resulting in LONG drives. So far this season, the Bears D have given up scoring drives of: 97, 91, 80, 75, 81 and 79 yards. Not good.
I will say, James Anderson has been noticeable in both games. He’s been really good. Nine tackles yesterday, one tackle for loss and another pass breakup, giving him three this year.
The Bears allowed Christian Ponder to engineer not one, but two 13-play drives. They’re having a hard time getting off the field. I thought Julius Peppers was just showing rust in the first game, but he didn’t provide many of the impact plays we’ve come to expect in this game either. It’s not quite a trend yet, but it’s definitely something to watch when the Bears take on the Steelers.
On special teams, the Bears had a hard day. The coverage unit gave up a 105-yard kickoff return to Cordarelle Patterson to start the game. Adam Podlesh shanked a punt. Devin Hester was indecisive in punt returns, but not on kickoffs.
Hester was brilliant in the return game yesterday and set a Bears record for total return yards with 249 on five returns. His impact on the game was felt on the last drive, when the Vikings kicked short (and away from him) setting up the Bears up on the 34. He’s still good enough in that role to help the Bears win and this week’s game tape will have everyone on the Bears schedule worried about how to deal with him.
The Bears offensive line allowed one sack. So in 78 dropbacks (6 scrambles), Cutler has only been sacked once this season.
WHAT I HEARD
“This Bears team is significantly different from the teams of the past.” – Brian Billick
This is for Jamie Dukes. I’ll trust Billick’s knowledge of offense over his. It was another multi-faceted attack for Marc Trestman. Matt Forte had 11 catches. I told you he would be near 80 catches this season. He’s got 15 through 2 games. Hope you picked him up in your PPR league. The Bears are using the short passing game to augment the run-game. It’s easy yards and Forte is a reliable receiver. He led the team in targets (11), followed by Brandon Marshall (10) and Martellus Bennett (9).
“For us everything is still within reach. All of our goals are still out there.” – Christian Ponder
Not so fast Ponder! I said on Twitter yesterday that if the Vikings won, they would keep their playoff hopes alive. It seems silly being the second game of the year, but statistically it’s solid.
According to NFL.com, last year 12 teams started 0-2 and one of those teams made the playoffs. Since 2008 no team that has started 0-2 has made the playoffs. Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams back in 1990, teams that are 0-2 have made the playoffs 11.6% of the time. That number gets even smaller if your 2 losses are in the division. The Vikings lost to the Lions last week.
That’s not to say that Vikings can’t beat the odds. Teams that score defensive touchdowns win about 80% of their games. Teams that score both a defensive touchdown & a special teams touchdown creep that number up around 100%. The Vikings did both Sunday and still lost.
“He went to the right guy at the right time.” – Marc Trestman on game-winning TD to Martellus Bennett
Bennett’s impact cannot be overstated. He is a terrific blocker in the run game and is an excellent target in the red zone, but he also has the ability to stretch the field and take pressure on the outside guy. He’s a freaky athlete with basketball in his background. All those skills were on display on Sunday. The game-winning touchdown was a route that the Bears had run earlier in the game. Bennett didn’t get the ball on that play, but went back and talked with Cutler about it. Cutler made note of it and they went back to it. Communication and trust are building inside this offense. That’s a good thing.
WHAT I WAS TOLD
“He’s a calming influence over there.” – Jay Cutler on QB coach Matt Cavanaugh
During his presser, Trestman told us that he doesn’t talk with Cutler very often during the game. Mainly because he has to, you know, coach the team. Cavanaugh is the guy who’s in Jay’s ear and so far he likes it that way. When I asked Cutler about it he let us know that Cavanaugh is the guy he vents to when he’s unhappy. They go through the pics and work through stuff. It’s interesting that Trestman has that amount of trust in Cavanaugh, a grizzled and respected NFL veteran coach, Cutler and the work they’ve done during the week.
“We have Mr. Fourth Quarter on our side in our huddle…” – Brandon Marshall
I wanted to know what it was like in the huddle in those tense moments. Marshall answered with this. Cutler’s sometimes disaffected demeanor, works for this huddle. Cutler believes that if he stays calm the rest of the guys will too. For the most part the only guy who needs to calm his heartbeat is apparently Kyle Long, who Cutler called “our Energizer Bunny.”
For more Bears information, follow Laurence on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.