Monday, December 1, 2008

Top Ten things we know about the Bears

By Danny Sheridan
After watching the Bears embarrass themselves for the second time in three weeks, it looks like the city’s only hope left until baseball season is Derrick Rose. Not that anyone probably cares right about now, but here are 10 things we know about the Bears.

10. Winning the NFC North now becomes almost a dream
The standings now show the Bears one game behind the Vikings. Really, it’s like two games. If the two teams finished the season with identical records, the first tiebreaker would be head-to-head, where they split the two games. The second tiebreaker goes to your record in conference. The Bears are 5-5 in the NFC, while Minnesota is 5-3, meaning that the Vikings will likely own the tiebreaker. For the Bears to have any shot at winning their third division title in four years, they probably have to win out. The Vikings get the Lions next week, although their final three games are all tough; at Arizona and home against the Falcons and Giants.

9. It won’t be a fun week for Kyle Orton Just a month ago, when Orton was playing so well that people started talking about signing him to a long term deal, seems like a distant memory now. Put this game completely on Orton’s shoulders. The defense came out fired up, the Bears had great field position in the first half, Brad Maynard even had a career night. Orton let his team down, simple as that. Maybe he’s not yet 100%, and came back too quickly from his ankle injury. How else do you explain Orton going 205 straight passes without throwing an interception, and then throwing three in a span of seven passes in the second half?

8. The wide receiver position needs to be addressed in the offseason
Either through free agency or the draft, the Bears have to bring in at least one impact wide receiver next season. How good would someone like T.J. Houshmanzada or Chad Johnson look in a Bears uniform next year? Seeing Rashied Davis drop seemingly every other ball thrown his way is getting pretty old. As is watching Devin Hester look totally lost most of the time on his routes. Greg Olsen hasn’t had the impact we expected, and Marty Booker, Brandon Lloyd, and Desmond Clark all probably won’t be back with the team next season, not that any of them have done much anyway.

7. Ron Turner needs to go Forget about the status of Bob Babich, Charlie Weis, John Paxson and Lovie Smith. The team needs to get rid of Turner immediately at the end of the season. Turner may have single handedly ruined the Bears season when the Bears were on the goal-line and in a position to go up 14-3. It’s simple really. Hand the ball to Matt Forte on first down. Hand the ball to Forte on second down. Do the same thing on third down. I have a hard time believing Forte couldn’t get one yard on three carries, even with the Williams' in the middle. Instead, on first down, Turner calls a stupid play action pass that had no chance of working. Then, on third down, with the ball so close to the goal-line Orton easily could have just snuck it in, he gives fullback Jason Davis his first ever NFL carry. Ron Turner, your plane is boarding.

6. Danieal Manning should be the full time kick and punt returner Manning might be the best athlete on the team. He hasn’t and probably will never make an impact on defense, so rather than let him go to waste, Lovie needs to hand him the reins full time on all kicks and punts. Let Hester concentrate solely on catching passes from Orton, because he clearly isn’t the same guy he was his first two years.

5. Matt Forte has too big a workload Make no mistake about it. Forte is the Bears offense. When he has run for over 100 yards, the Bears are 3-0. It’s unfair to put all this on a rookie who last year was playing against teams in Conference USA, but what other choice do the Bears have? Maybe the biggest surprise all season, outside of Hester’s struggles, has been that Forte has seemed to get stronger as the season has went on.

4. The window of opportunity is closing Looking ahead to next year, which we should all do now, the immediate future doesn’t look too pretty. Other than Forte, Briggs, Tillman, Orton, Olsen and Hester, the key pieces are either getting pretty up there in age, or haven’t been able to stay healthy (Harris, Vasher). After their Super Bowl run in 2006, you knew this team would start taking steps back. No one figured though, that it would be this quick.

3. Getting stopped on the goal line cost the Bears their seasonIt was a goal-line stand earlier in the season against the Eagles that probably saved the Bears season. Now, it’s just the opposite. Had the Bears gone ahead 14-3 late in the second quarter, I’m not saying they win for sure, but you had to like their chances. Right after that, you just had a bad feeling that they blew their best shot to win not only this game, but the division title. A few years ago, the Bears defense would have come out and gotten the ball right back for the offense. However, this isn’t the Bears defense from a few years ago.

2. The Bears could copy from the Vikings Minnesota does two things real well: running the football and stopping the run. They have the game’s best player in Adrian Peterson, the best defensive line in football, and the best left side of the offensive line in football. At every other position, they are mediocre to below average. Did you see how easy it is for the Vikings to covert third and short situations? Meanwhile, when the Bears covert a third and two, it’s cause for huge celebration.

1. It’s NOT Lovie Smith’s fault Is it Smith’s fault that Urlacher, Harris, Ogunleye and Vasher have all played well below their capability? Hardly. It’s not Lovie’s fault that Hester suddenly forgot how to return kicks, or that the Bears lack a game-breaking wide receiver.

Just because Smith doesn’t show much emotion on the sidelines and always comes across as very positive with the media, no matter the situation, doesn’t mean much of anything. What good would it have done for Smith to start calling out guys on his team after the embarrassing performance versus the Packers a few weeks ago? I mean, how would calling out someone like Urlacher in the press help transform him back into the player he was a couple years ago?

His players like playing for him, they respect him, and outside of the second half against Green Bay, they have played hard for him for almost five years. The only two criticisms I have of Smith are these: his running off of Ron Rivera to bring in close friend Bob Babich, and his decision to squib kick against the Falcons with 11 seconds left earlier this season.


Ricky O'Donnell said...

I agree with more of this than usual Danny (though even I'm about ready to massacre Lovie at this point), but my only problem is your point about Forte. If anything, his workload isn't big enough. What should the Bears be saving him for? Running backs traditionally have short shelf lives, the Bears may as well milk Forte for all he's worth while he's still young and cheap.

And I don't think the season is over quite yet. They're gonna need to win three of the final four though, which even then may not be enough.

Ugh, what a horrible game.

Phil Barnes said...

Well Rick, the reason the backs have such short shelf lives is because they become overused. What they really need is to find an alternate change-of-pace back to compliment him. Also, I was discussing the offseason today and it looks like Plax will have to be cut sooner than later. He would surely be a better option than Chad Javon.

Matthew Olsen said...

You're crazy to think that Lovie Smith isn't to blame for this unbearable season (no pun intended).

There's always going to be a disconnect when trying to determine how much a player's performance is affected by his coach.

But what you can gauge is whether or not they are put in the correct position to succeed because that is the coach's responsibility.

And I think it's safe to say that in this regard, Lovie has failed them.

Where's the sense of urgency?

Lovie confuses panic with urgency far too often.

Bottom line is this team is in desperate need of a new voice in the locker room, one that instills both fear and respect.

Not this passive b.s. that doesn't make players hungry enough to win such a sorry division.

Anonymous said...

Lovie isn't to blame? You're kidding right? Agree totally on Turner, but how can you say that none of this is Lovie's fault? As for the future, I don't think it's quite as dark as you're making it out to be, but they do need to make a couple major moves/upgrades before next season (WR, QB, DE, safety).

Eli Kaberon said...

If it's not Lovie's fault now, when is it for a coach? The play-calling is just horrible, from continuing to give the ball to fullbacks in short-yard situations when it never seems to work to sticking with the Cover-2 when it was obvious the Vikes were just going to continue to run the ball. Also, the team came out jacked up in quarter one, but after halftime, they were just dead. I'm not sure if firing him is the right call, since I can't think of anybody out there who would be an improvement, but it's hard to deny that he has been part of the problem.

I would also like to add another thing we learned about the Bears: According to John Madden, Peanut Tillman is the best stripper in the league. Time to make it rain on these ho's.

Brian said...

Good job, but the division is far from over. The Bears have a real good shot to win out, and as you mentioned, the Vikings still have to play three really tough teams. And what has happened to Tillman? He has fallen off big time. It's funny to think though that before the season, everyone thought the Bears would win six or so games, and now, even though they have a good shot to win 9 or 10, people are saying they are a huge dissapointment.