Reporting Laurence Holmes
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
Considering the Bears started this game with two interceptions and a touchdown from Tim Jennings, this game was too close. An Eli Manning implosion at the end of the fourth quarter may have saved the Bears from an embarrassing loss. The great thing is that it’s not college and “style points” don’t matter in the NFL. The bad thing is that some of the same problems plaguing the Bears still exist.
Let’s take a look at the offense. Brandon Marshall got 11 targets (four in the first quarter), so it’s clear that they wanted to get him involved early. It worked. Marshall took advantage of single coverages and ended up with 87 yards and more importantly two touchdowns. Marshall converted 82% of those targets. He was on the big stage and made big plays. He walked away from the game feeling productive and happy.
The offense is still struggling to establish and sustain a run game. I always think the Bears are better when Matt Forte gets around 25 touches. That’s what he got Thursday. He had 111 total yards, but only 67 on the ground. The Giants run defense is one of the only things they do well, and Forte was held to a 3.5 yard average.
For the season, he’s still averaging 4.4 yards per carry. After reviewing the tape, Trestman liked what he saw. I thought the Bears took too long to figure out that they could get Matt Forte to the edge. I thought Jermon Bushrod and Roberto Garza were particularly good in the run game.
The offense bogged down in the second half. Their drive charts end like this: FG, punt, punt, punt & “victory formation.” That last part is terrific although, I did have a problem with the toss plays when they were closing out the game. Scoring 3-points in the second half, won’t cut it against the better teams.
Defensively, the Bears have issues. The Bears D is living off of turnovers. It’s not a bad thing, that’s been their M.O. for a decade and it’s been effective. Usually, those takeaways come off of pressure. That was not the case Thursday night.
Manning was sacked once, but he had clean pockets for a majority of the game. The Bears front four cannot get sustained pressure. It’s more than a blip, it’s a full-blown trend and I’m not sure if the Bears can fix it. With each game, Shea McClellin looks more and more over-matched. He did have a tackle for loss, but he also was driven out of plays and pancacked too often.
As bad as the pressure was, the tackling was worse. According to Pro Football Focus, in the last five seasons, the Bears have averaged 79 missed tackles. Through six games this season, the team is already at 55. Not having Charles Tillman on the field hurts, but the Bears D allowed too many yards after contact and big plays off of missed tackles.
WHAT I HEARD
“If we didn’t make it, they’d have to go the distance.” -Marc Trestman on going for it on fourth down on the first drive.
I had a real issue with this. The Giants were a team that was desperate for any type of life. This play gave it to them. Tim Jennings got to the house off a Eli Manning interception, but it seemed like an unnecessary risk. Take the three points. There were some curious play calls all night. Including trying to force the ball down the field on third-and-4 to Earl Bennett down the sidelines. I love Earl, but if the Bears are gonna force the ball to someone, they have at least three better options (Marshall, Jeffery and M. Bennett). Make it four – I’d give the ball to Forte before Earl, too.
Then there were the toss plays when they’re trying to burn the clock at the end of the game. Those plays take longer and I get that, but considering some of the problems on Sunday with the pitch, it seemed like another unnecessary risk.
The clock management at the end of the first half was troubling.
“We’re at 21 points and sometimes it isn’t going to cut it in this league.” -Jay Cutler
The offensive line didn’t allow a sack and Cutler didn’t throw an interception. He finished with a 106.5 rating. The offense itself played a clean game and still struggled. The Bears were 5-11 on third down and 0-1 on fourth down. The Giants converted 7-11 third downs.
“We’re not even close to where we need to be…” -Lance Briggs
I’d like to single out Lance Briggs for a second. Briggs has been fantastic the last two weeks. He turned in another strong performance with five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a pass broken up. He’ll have to do even more now that D.J. Williams is out for the season. If you’re a Jon Bostic fan, you’re gonna get your wish to see him play.
“He’s a work in progress.” -Marc Trestman on Shea McClellin
How would you feel if your boss said that about you? McClellin wasn’t the only DL who was M.I.A. Julius Peppers had another game where he didn’t scratch the score sheet.
WHAT I WAS TOLD
“We took advantage of it when we had the chance.” -Brandon Marshall on seeing man coverage.
He’s been waiting for a couple of weeks to get opportunities like this. The Giants played a lot of man. When you see it in the red zone, you can bet Cutler will find Marshall for a back-shoulder throw. It’s basically automatic.
“I would have played if it were Sunday.” -Charles Tillman
Tillman was a late scratch for the Bears on Thursday night. He tried to get his knee ready, but just ran out of time. Trestman praised his dedication to the rehab process and asserted if this was a Sunday game, No. 33 would’ve been out there.
So I asked him about it. Tillman was in the building each morning at 6am getting treatment. The quick turnaround just wasn’t enough time. With Tillman being inactive, it gives him two weeks to physically prep for Washington and then the Bears go on the bye. Playing one game in a month might be exactly what he needs to recover for the stretch run.