For 25 minutes, the Bears looked like they were in control of Sunday night’s game against the Vikings, and it appeared they were headed for an upset and a two-game lead in the division.
Then, the turning point came and the Bears looked like an entirely different team for the rest of the game.
The turning point in last night’s game was indubitably the Vikings’ goal line stand of the Bears’ offense with five minutes remaining in the second quarter, followed by the 99-yard touchdown reception by former Bear Bernard Berrian. The latter of which was a direct slap in the face of the Bears organization, which deemed Berrian too expensive to retain. Meanwhile, the Bears are still force-feeding the ball to Devin Hester, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that he’s not a No. 1 receiver.
Sure, Hester scored on a 65-yard catch-and-run play, but that’s what he’s supposed to do. Following a flailing attempt at a tackle by Antoine Winfield, Hester was out in open space, which is what the former Pro Bowl kick returner is best at. Safety Darren Sharper never had a chance as Hester blew right past him.
But if the Bears can’t get the ball into Hester’s hands — because he either drops the pass or runs the wrong route — he’s not helping the offense at all. I’m sure his teammates are getting tired of telling him where to line up all the time.
Going back to that goal line stand, I’m still in shock with how difficult it was to punch it in from one yard away. And it didn’t have to be that way, either. The Bears made it difficult.
First and goal from the 1, incomplete pass to Greg Olsen in the back of the end zone.
Second and goal from the 1, Matt Forte no gain off left tackle.
Third and goal from the 1 — ahhh! — that godforsaken fullback dive up the middle. This time, instead of Jason McKie, it was Jason Davis.
And on fourth and goal from the 1, Forte off right guard for no gain.
Four plays, one yard needed, zero gained. A yard is 3 feet, which is 36 inches. That comes out to 9 inches per down. Are you telling me Kyle Orton couldn’t lean forward for 9 inches? In four downs, they didn’t run one quarterback sneak?
Let me explain something about the quarterback sneak. Teams run the sneak not because they feel their quarterback is better equipped to run the football than their running back. But instead, because it doesn’t take as long for the play to develop.
When you are handing the ball off to the running back, the defensive line has enough time to penetrate the gap and get into the backfield to disrupt the play.
When you run a sneak, all the defensive line can do is try to push the offensive line backward — or dive on the ground to create a mass of bodies — to prevent the quarterback from moving forward.
I’ve been very supportive of Ron Turner this year because I think, for the most part, he’s done a good job. But that sequence of downs was poorly called.
I’m not at all discouraged by the Bears’ run defense. They held the NFL’s best runner to 72 yards on 27 carries, a 2.6 average. Oh wait, that’s right. They had one brain fart all night — at least, against Peterson — where the two or three guys that were stacking the line forgot to wrap him up and he scampered for 59 yards.
That’s it. One broken play, and suddenly he’s Purple Jesus again. Enough about him.
Defensively, Charles Tillman’s blown coverage of Bernard Berrian was devastating as it led to a momentum-shifting score. For the most part, though, the pass defense played just fine.
The final score ended up being lopsided, but by no means was this a blowout. Yes, the Vikings controlled the final 2 1/2 quarters of play, but this game came down to a play here and a play there that were made by them and not the Bears.
The Bears now find themselves trailing the Vikings by a game for the NFC North crown. The Bears still have the easiest remaining schedule of the three North teams competing for the division title, but none of their opponents are pushovers. Having three straight home games against the Jaguars, Saints, and Packers is definitely an advantage, though.
The Bears simply have to win more games than the Vikings do, and that could be aided by a four-game suspension to both of the fat defensive tackles that make up the “Williams Wall” if the NFL chooses to suspend them for the remaining four games for substance abuse.
In a season like this, we can’t be pessimistic about the Bears’ chances of winning the division. After all, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Packers, who are two games behind the Vikings, somehow found their way on top of the division at season’s end.
It’s not likely, but anything is possible. Including the Bears winning three of their next four.