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.”
I want to flip the way we usually do things. The “What I Saw” segment will come later because it’s less important.
WHAT I HEARD
“Jay Cutler out at least 4 weeks with a torn groin muscle” -Bears statement
It’s important to note the “at least” part. Marc Trestman seemed very optimistic on Monday about the plan that the team has in place for Cutler’s recovery. Usually, when teams give a timetable publicly, it leans to the ‘glass is half full’ side. It should also be pointed out that the Bears listed Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs as “probable to return” in the game after they got hurt. Neither guy made it back. The hope is that Cutler can rest and find himself back on the field three weeks after the bye. In the meantime, the team will bring back Jordan Palmer to take over the No. 2 duties until Cutler is healthy enough to go.
The injury comes at a bad time for the Bears overall, and Cutler specifically. If the injury is not that severe (as the Bears are saying), I don’t imagine it will scare teams away from Cutler in free agency. Although, the Bears will have an interesting decision to make at the end of the year when it comes to locking up Cutler long term. For the team, the offense will need to bail the defense out. I’m OK with Josh McCown, but I have more faith in Cutler’s ability to do it than him.
“No surgery for either.” -Marc Trestman on Cutler and Briggs injuries
Lance Briggs was playing at a Pro-Bowl level this season. He’s gone for six weeks with a small fracture in his left shoulder. Before leaving the game Briggs had eight tackles, one tackle for loss and broke up two passes. His numbers have been strong this year, but losing him is losing more than his numbers. Along with Charles Tillman (also nursing an injury), no one has spent more time in this defense than Briggs. His transition to play-caller had gone smoothly, even though overall the defense has been bad. Now the Bears have a choice to make – Jon Bostic or James Anderson.
Bostic has been working as the quarterback of the second unit defense. When Briggs went out on Sunday, Bostic got the earpiece and got to make the calls. He still struggles with play-diagnosis and pass coverage and got washed out of a lot of running plays on Sunday. He has big play potential, but also is a candidate to be taken advantage of. Anderson has been a pleasant surprise. He’s been steady and finished with a sack, two tackles for loss and eight overall tackles. He might be the better choice in the short term, but the experience gained will be invaluable for Bostic.
“Brian’s retirement papers came in 3 or 4 weeks before the season started.” -Phil Emery
In other words, No. 54 is not coming through that door. Stop asking. He’s not coming back.
The team will sugarcoat it and that’s what they’re supposed to do, but I won’t. This is awful for the Bears. They’re losing the quarterback and the quarterback of the defense. Two of their team captains are going to be on the sideline for a very important stretch of games after the bye. The Bears have two critical division games against Green Bay (at Lambeau) and Detroit immediately after the week off. Briggs and Cutler will miss those games. The defense has already been leaky and on pace to go way above their average for missed tackles in a season. Losing Briggs, puts the team’s best tackler on the shelf. The impact of his lost CANNOT be overstated.
WHAT I SAW
Against Washington, the Bears gave up 209 yards on the ground. Washington averaged almost five yards per carry. They were able to control the game on the ground and owned the Bears in time of possession (33:56 to 26:04). That’s alarming. The Bears giving up almost 500 yards of offense is alarming too, but the numbers that scare me are illustrated in Washington’s touchdown drives.
Here’s what those five TD drives looked like:
- 13 plays, 90 yards
- 11 plays, 69 yards
- 8 plays, 83 yards
- 5 plays, 80 yards
- 12 plays, 75 yards
Disgusting, right? Washington’s average starting position was their own 19. That’s how badly the defense played.
Usually, the Bears D bends and doesn’t break. All season long it’s been breaking. Washington converted 54% of their third downs. The consistent pounding of the run game, wore the Bears down and led to three rushing touchdowns by backup tailback Roy Helu. You may hear the obligatory “we were out of our gaps” from the Bears, but what really happened was that they were manhandled, throttled and turned out of their gaps. In watching the game again, I saw plenty of Bears defenders going horizontal while offensive linemen were going vertical. This defense is not built for sustained drives and when the Bears don’t convincingly win the turnover battle, it has no shot.
Chris Conte looks lost and was abused in the pass game. Jordan Reed ate up the middle of the field and got Conte on a fade route in the corner of the end zone. Julius Peppers is MIA. Shea McClellin has no real impact on the game. I will say this, Cory Wootton has impressed me. He’s probably giving away money playing the 3-technique (outside is where the cash is), but he’s doing his best and showing up on tape.
Offensively, there are some reasons for encouragement. Matt Forte had some big runs. He only got the rock 16 times, but he made them count. He had a beautiful juke in the middle of the field on DeAngelo Hall that sprung him for a 50-yard TD run. Forte also converted from 2 yards and 6 yards. One of the criticism of Forte is that he wasn’t a guy you could depend on around the goal line. He’s getting rid of that label this year. He’s had as complete of a season as he’s had in Bears uniform.
Josh McCown was terrific in relief of Cutler. He was poised, smart and accurate. He finished completing 70% of his passes for 204 yards. McCown posted a 119.6 rating. He also understood when to leave the pocket. He added 33 yards on the ground, taking what the defense gave him. It was impressive. It’s difficult for a backup to come out there cold and play that well. Cutler, like most quarterbacks, is stingy with the reps in practice. He wants them all (as he should). It’s a testament to McCown’s professionalism that when his number was called, he was ready to go. During the practices, he stands 15 yards behind Cutler to see the play develop in front of him. That’s called taking a “mental rep”.
The problem going forward is that he’s not the same quarterback as Cutler. His ability is less and will be respected less by defenses. Now that he’s on tape and the Packers will be game-planning specifically for him, can he have the same impact?
WHAT I WAS TOLD
“Josh is the second guy in the building everyday.” -Brandon Marshall
No doubt, McCown puts in the time. It’s clear that the game-plan didn’t change when he came in the game. In the past, when Cutler goes down, Bears teams were doomed. This offense has a chance to change that. Before the backup was throwing to smurfs. Now, McCown has an array of big targets to choose from. They can make his life easier going forward. I expect the offense will still put up points, but will it be enough?
I’ll leave you with two interesting stats courtesy of Zach Zaidman:
- The Bears have lost 3 games this season when scoring at least 18 points. They were 26-3 in the previous 3 years when scoring at least 18.
- In 1985 the Bears allowed 198 points the entire season. Through seven games this season the team has already given up 206.