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 is that 24 or so hours allows me to watch the game over and to talk a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Hours Later” blog.
Today, we break down Chicago’s 21-13 win against Minnesota on Sunday.
What I saw
It was surprising that the Vikings didn’t use the bye week wisely. They came out and played the Bears offense with man coverage. That’s a mistake. Where the Bears excel is with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall using their physical style against defensive backs who can’t match up. That’s what happened Sunday. With the catching radii of Jeffery and Marshall, Jay Cutler can get away with “questionable” throws because his wideouts will, more times than not, win the battle. That happened Sunday. Cutler wasn’t sharp, but he was sharp enough and put up 330 yards in the air with three touchdowns.
It’s a lot of fun to watch Matt Forte, who always runs hard. He catches just about everything thrown his way. He isn’t scared of contact. He’s just a professional. On Sunday, he had 32 touches and 175 total yards.
Defensively, the Bears confused and pressured Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Jared Allen and Willie Young each got Bridgewater on the ground, and the zone looks that Chicago threw at Minnesota made the rookie slow on the trigger. The Bears linebackers were solid with one glaring exception. They bit hard on play-action when Bridgewater hit Rhett Ellison for a seven-yard touchdown. Other than that, they played fairly clean.
That touchdown was set up by Minnesota’s special teams gem. Chicago special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis’ team was scouted and exploited on a fake punt that went for 48 yards down to the 7-yard line. It should’ve gone to the house. It’s a Bears unit that’s struggled all season.
What I heard
“It didn’t work out the way we wanted, but at the end of the day, we knew we would come back with the football.” — Bears Marc Trestman on what happened at the end of the half
Each week it feels like there’s another problem with clock management at the end of the half or the game for the Bears. Through 26 games in his Chicago tenure, Trestman has proved that he’s not good at making quick decisions when it comes to the clock.
On Sunday, the Bears missed a chance to save some time before the two-minute warning, but it looked like they were taking an aggressive posture when they used their second timeout after a failed third-and-18 for the Vikings. The Bears got the ball on their own 26 with 1:05 left and a timeout in their pocket. They got a seven-yard run from Forte and took 40 seconds off the clock before Forte popped a 15-yarder on a draw. They called their final timeout with 15 seconds left, then asked Cutler to push the ball down the field.
Simply put, Chicago has to pick a lane. A hurry-up look was called for here, and it just looked like the entire offense was confused on what it was trying to accomplish.
“The guys did a heck of a job.” — Cutler on the offensive line.
The Vikings came into Sunday with 30 sacks. That’s how many they left with. Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod did a nice job against Everson Griffen. Cutler had time and protection. The run game went for 138 yards on 31 carries.
This doesn’t happen often, but I disagree with the Pro Football Focus grading. They gave the Bears’ offensive line a -11.8 rating and only had Kyle Long as a positive. To the eye test, live, I have them rated better.
What I was told
“The refs did a good job, but it definitely bothers the offense more.” — Bears cornerback Tim Jennings on the clock issues
It was tough for everyone, as the game clock malfunctioned at Soldier Field. The refs kept announcing the time, but in the two-minute drill at the end of the game, I can’t imagine Bridgewater was comfortable with not being able to see a game clock or a play clock. It was embarrassing.
According to a statement from the Bears, Daktronics is the company in charge of the system. They don’t know what happened even with two technicians on site.
“Yeah man, you drop a little line and you wait.” — Bears defensive end Willie Young on his ice-fishing sack dance
I don’t fish, so I wasn’t sure what Young was doing, so I asked. He told me considering how cold it got, it made sense. Then defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff jumped in and said he might go ice-fishing when he got home because the pond behind his house was already frozen over.
Speaking of Ratliff…
“It’s easy when you give yourself no options.” — Ratliff
I wanted to know what the approach to the rest of the season is. Ratliff explained to me that the 4-6 Bears can’t look at the remaining six games. They haven’t earned the right. All they can do is focus on the next game after digging a big hole, because thinking of winning seven straight doesn’t make sense.
It’s a professional, mature approach, the only one they have.
Honestly, I was expecting a bit of chest-thumping after Sunday’s win, but there wasn’t any. At least for Sunday, the Bears seemed to understand what’s in front of them. The mood in the locker room was workman-like, not celebratory. Which is a step in the right direction.
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.