Driving home from my friend’s house a half-hour away, I had some extra time to process my postgame thoughts. During the course of a game, it’s normal to get emotional and overreact to certain things, but as time goes by, that can subside.
My initial thoughts during most of the second half and immediately after this game: this Bears team has an awful lot of problems and they’re frustrating to watch.
After a 30-minute drive home: professional football — and all other professional sports — is an entertainment business. And the only thing that matters is winning. And even though the Bears played like garbage for the final 30 minutes of the game, all that matters is that they picked up a ‘W’ and remain in the playoff hunt.
Let’s start with the opening kickoff. I badly wanted the Bears to start on defense to set the tone and gain some confidence against Drew Brees. As it turned out, even though the Saints won the toss and deferred to the second half, the Bears still started on defense thanks to Danieal Manning’s kickoff return TD.
It’s time for my shameless self-promotion. In my game breakdown preview:
Could this finally be the week Hester returns a punt for a touchdown? Possibly. But I could envision Manning taking back a kickoff this week.
Don’t worry, I won’t get a big head… I have a big enough one — literally, not figuratively — already.
But, Manning’s kickoff return clearly set the tone early. That, and his second return — a 52-yarder following the Saints’ game-tying touchdown early in the second quarter — enabled the Bears to jump out to a 14-7 lead and take control of the game in the first half.
If he doesn’t score on that first one or give them good field position on the second return, who knows how the first half would have played out.
I don’t have any complaints on any side of the ball in the first half. The Bears did what they needed to do to take a 21-7 lead into intermission. I thought Alex Brown had a great game against an inexperienced tackle.
Then, halftime settled in and the Bears morphed into a different team for the fourth straight game and one of many games this season.
Against the Rams three weeks ago, the Bears scored 24 points in the first half and laid down 3 in the second. Two weeks ago against Minnesota, they played solid for 25 of the 30 first half minutes before flopping thereafter. And last week against the Jaguars, they put up 20 in the first half before settling for 3 points in the second half, yet again.
I don’t want to hear about halftime adjustments. I played the game. Do you know what goes on at halftime? Players warm up (when it’s cold out), rehydrate, use the bathroom, discuss the things that they did wrong — mostly techniques on certain plays during the first half — and quickly address which plays they’re going to toss out and which ones they’re going to continue to run to try to exploit the opponent’s weakness.
At no point does a coach tear up a game plan and drastically alter anything. Everything is minor.
So, when the Bears come out and lay down in the second half, it’s all on the players to focus better and execute.
On my drive home after tonight’s game, I listened to a postgame show, and the host — who will remain nameless because I don’t like or respect him very much — had a big problem with the Bears going for the win at the end of regulation.
My question? Why?
His reasoning was that had the Saints allowed Orton to scramble for two more seconds, or held him up instead of tackling him right away, the clock would have expired and the Bears would have lost. And Chris Collinsworth, the NFL Network color commentator calling the game, said the same thing.
But you know what? I don’t have a problem with the Bears’ decision to go for one more play, especially with a timeout remaining. What I do have an issue with is how long Orton held onto the ball. It’s a natural thing for a quarterback to have a clock in his head when dropping back to pass on any play during a game. You may have heard broadcasters — like Troy Aikman and Ron Jaworski, who used to play the position — talk about this internal clock. It lets you know that after 3-4 seconds, the pocket will likely collapse and you either have to scramble or get rid of the football.
With 7 seconds left and the ball on the 9-yard line, Orton had at least a good 3-4 seconds to run a play and get rid of the ball. His mistake was that he tried to step up in the pocket and make something happen with time expiring.
His thought process should have been: One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, go.
And on go, if there was a play to be made, he takes a shot. If nothing is there, he fires it out of the back of the end zone with enough time to kick a field goal.
Taking a knee and calling timeout with one second to go is gutless conservatism. And with the Bears on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, there’s no time to be playing conservatively. Besides, as I was telling my buddy on that final drive, I wanted no part of the Saints in overtime with how well they were moving the ball and how poorly the Bears had played all second half. In fact, had the Saints won the overtime coin toss, the Bears would have likely lost the game. You can thank a little 50-50 luck for that.
I just wanted to talk briefly about the Bears wide receivers. Devin Hester may have made an impact and helped the Bears win the game, but the two pass interference calls that he generated had more to do with the Bears’ victory than any of his 4 catches for 46 yards. In fact, he probably wouldn’t have caught either of those passes because the interferences hardly impeded his progress.
If the Bears had lost tonight, I could guarantee that you would be seeing more of Earl Bennett or Brandon Rideau. There’d be no reason to continue trotting Rashied Davis out there after his fourth drop in three games, this one resulting in a Kyle Orton interception (The Saints scored all three of their touchdowns off turnovers, as a side bar).
I used to defend Davis because he was reliable receiver who could be counted on in the clutch. Three of his most memorable plays as a pro included his game-winning touchdown catch against Minnesota in 2006, his big, third-down catch against the Seahawks in the playoff game that year, and his would-be game-winning touchdown catch against Altanta this year with 11 seconds left, in which he corralled a nicely thrown ball from Kyle Orton and got both feet down in the back corner of the end zone.
I’d say, who cares if he is small in stature? Anybody with hands that good makes for an ideal slot receiver. Now? Forget about it. He’s not good enough to keep around if he can’t display those reliable hands anymore.
Marty Booker? Thanks for the memories, but even when you were healthy this season, you didn’t contribute much. Brandon Lloyd? The experiment with former college coach Ron Turner isn’t panning out. And Hester is not a No. 1 receiver and never will be.
Maybe the Bears can trot out Devin Aromashodu. Yeah, who? The Bears just signed him off Washington’s practice squad after placing Dusty Dvoracek on injured reserve. According to NFL rules, Aromashodu must stay on the Bears’ active roster.
At this point, I’m open to trying anybody at receiver.
I have plenty more postgame thoughts, but I’ll save some of them for my special, Friday edition of Monday Morning Quarterback. But, in closing, despite a despicable second half performance once again, the Bears remain in position to make the playoffs. Now, they have 11 days to prepare for a Monday night rematch with the Green Bay Packers. Rest assured, payback is on the minds of every player in the Bears’ locker room.