Postgame Thoughts: Bears vs. Eagles (11.22.09)

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What can you say about the Bears’ loss to the Eagles but… at least I nailed my prediction to the exact score.

Seriously speaking, though, the game didn’t play out exactly as I expected, but the core principles for why I thought the Bears would lose wound up taking place. The Bears couldn’t stop the run, and when it mattered most — on LeSean McCoy’s go-ahead touchdown run late in the fourth quarter — the Bears failed to play disciplined, gap-control defense.

The other part of the equation was Jay Cutler’s prime time performances. With only 171 yards on 24 of 43 passing, Cutler was not on his game tonight. He misfired on three passes that could have been touchdowns because his receivers gained separation from their defenders. He then, of course, ended the potential game-winning drive with an interception that he forced into coverage.

There’s no excuse for the way Cutler has been playing lately. Early in the season, you could argue that he was adjusting to a new system with new teammates — bad ones at that — and couldn’t get on the same page with them. The past few weeks, though, have just been loaded with poor decision-making on his part.

Once again, the pass game didn’t get any help from the run game. Rookie Kahlil Bell provided a small spark when, on the first carry of his career, he scampered 72 yards while spelling Matt Forte. Major props to Johnny Knox, who had to have been at least ten yards behind Bell on the play, but sprinted downfield to pass him by and give him a block. That’s good hustle and good awareness on Knox’s part. As for Forte, he had just 34 yards on 14 carries for a 2.4 average. Same story, different chapter.

Switching to defense, aside from their continued woes defending the run, I was pleased with their overall performance. Two players that I want to single out the most are Alex Brown and Charles Tillman. Brown put constant pressure on Donovan McNabb all night and simply abused left tackle Jason Peters, most of the time with a straight bull rush. Tillman punched the ball loose from Eagles ball carriers three times and the Bears recovered two of those fumbles.

Robbie Gould had a solid night kicking, converting four field goals on five attempts. His one miss was blocked. Knox provided a spark returning kickoffs and provided the Bears’ offense with good field position. Hester couldn’t get anything going in the punt return department. Meanwhile, the Bears’ punt coverage struggled against the quick DeSean Jackson.

I know where most of the blame is going to go this week and I can’t say I blame anybody that wants to voice his displeasure about Cutler. He deserves the blame. He didn’t play well. But, I implore you, Bears fans, don’t flooding the radio stations with ignorant phone calls about how Kyle Orton is the better quarterback or how Cutler stinks, or any other nonsense like that. He played badly, he’s done that during a couple games this year, but he’s the right guy for this team when Jerry Angelo decides to put some talent around him — on both sides of the ball.

At 4-6, I don’t know if they’re mathematically out of the playoff chase. NBC showed a graphic that teams that have started 4-6 have made the playoffs 7% of the time. I would assume if they ran the table and finished 10-6, they’d be in the playoffs, but the Patriots finished out of the postseason last year with an 11-5 record. For all intents and purposes, the playoff door has slammed shut. The Bears have a terrible conference record (2-5) and they’ve lost tie-breakers to all the potential wild card hopefuls, the Packers, Falcons, 49ers, and Eagles.

The worst case scenario probably involves them beating the Rams and Lions — although at this point, I wouldn’t guarantee wins in either of those games — and losses to the Vikings (twice), Packers, and Ravens to finish with a 6-10 record. The best case scenario is probably a .500 record at 8-8. If I had to put in my prediction, I’d say they finish right between those scenarios at 7-9. Maybe they squeeze out a victory against the Packers or Ravens.

I know many Bears fans will be hoping they lose out to put more pressure on the organization to make wholesale changes. Believe me, the thought has crossed my mind, too, because of the stubborn refusal of Angelo to admit that there are talent problems on this team. But I would never go that far as to want the Bears to lose, especially when two hated teams will be playing the Bears three more times. And any time the Bears can beat the Packers or Vikings is a good day in my book.

The Bears will get their first chance at the Vikings this week in Minnesota, where the Bears have won just twice this decade. The Vikings, clearly one of the league’s best teams, could put a whooping on the Bears. Let’s hope the Bears can come out and put up a fight and at least keep the score respectable.

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