Bernstein: Bears Make Their Break
By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
At least the Bears defense can say that it made its own luck.
It’s not like Aaron Rodgers popped a hamstring in practice, rolled his ankle on a trampoline at a kids birthday party, or lost a finger in a gardening mishap. It was, improbably, an on-field knockout earned by their own action.
Shea McClellin actually did disengage from a block, the coverage actually forced Rodgers to wait an extra second, and with the crunch of a collarbone everything got better.
The moment, the game, the season’s possibilities. Every contender in the NFC North is now 5-3, and 2-1 in the division. And Rodgers is out for a few weeks, at the very least.
Phil Emery is beaming pridefully over his first top pick’s three-sack game, no matter that this became a junior-varsity showdown of backup quarterbacks and inexperienced linebackers. He should be just as proud of his coaching hire, as Marc Trestman’s methodical, calm play-calling guided an offensive competence that’s unfamiliar around here.
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Trestman may be a bookish, thoughtful sort, but he also has some cojones.
Wide open stuff planned early for Josh McCown helped set a tone that kept Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers guessing late, his desperate interior blitzes vulnerable to outside runs that picked up the first downs that bled out the clock. Pulling the center on 4th and inches in the 4th quarter, at his own 33.
Even with a defense that may still be incompetent and special teams plays that always look a split-second from disaster, Trestman’s side of the ball ensured a degree of control over a game that became a must-have opportunity as soon as we remembered who Seneca Wallace was. The offense was fine, which was all it had to be.
Pregame TV reports indicated Jay Cutler would be returning for Sunday’s game against Detroit, even as McCown’s cult was coalescing on Twitter to add their rabid irrationality to our conversations for the upcoming days. They will gather like druids in robes, moonlit among stones, intoning for a backup quarterback.
The pass protection held, as was the plan. The motto in July was not “Keep Josh McCown clean,” but that’s the point – Aaron Kromer’s line communicated in real time in a hostile road environment against creatively-designed, disguised pressure schemes, regardless. It took time for running plays to work inside with BJ Raji taking up two gaps, but Trestman kept him moving and took advantage when he was sucking air.
Wide receivers blocked downfield. Checkdowns gained chunks of yards. Skilled players were put in positions to use them.
There are no bad wins in this weird, week-to-week NFL, no matter how we assess honestly the quality of a team. Everybody hurts, sometimes.
So of course this happened. The most maligned player on the Bears effectively decided the outcome of a critical divisional game by taking out a possible league MVP, and in doing so may have re-energized his professional prospects and changed the complexion of the NFC playoff picture.
They finished off this crazy opportunity, for multiple reasons, while major aspects of their game are probably still bad, and eye-coveringly, living-room-stompingly so. Tackling, gap-control, tackling, catching easy interceptions, tackling, safety play, and tackling.
For some strange reason, the momentary success amid such obvious imperfection is honorable and fun, if not generally encouraging.
Something just broke the Bears’ way.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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