With nothing but pride on the line, the Bears took the field and did what they had to do to win a game they should have won.
There was nothing flashy about the victory. Jay Cutler threw for just 143 yards and a touchdown on 8 of 17 passing. Matt Forte had a modicum of success against the fifth-worst run defense, totaling 91 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Brian Urlacher should be happy about the Bears’ run-first, play defense game plan.
I don’t care what Lovie Smith or anybody else says, this was an ugly victory. The cliché that “a win is a win” no longer applies to the Bears this season. The Bears aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they don’t control their destiny, hence, they’re virtually out of it. And when a team is out of the playoff hunt, you no longer count wins and losses or see things in black and white. Instead, you start to evaluate performances and judge things by various shades of gray.
It was only his first start of the season at the position, but Chris Williams has a lot of work to do at left tackle if he’s to be the future there. The offensive line as a whole allowed two sacks, which isn’t altogether a bad number, but you have to factor in that the Rams had just 8 coming into this game, meaning they matched a quarter of that season total against the Bears.
Defensively, the Bears got gashed by Steven Jackson for 112 rushing yards, but in fairness to them, what team hasn’t that happened to? Jackson is the NFL’s second-leading rusher.
I don’t know what’s going on with the Bears’ punt returners, but I guarantee special teams coordinator Dave Toub addresses it this week. First, Devin Hester fielded a punt inside the 10-yard line, which is a no-no for punt returners. Then, he allowed a couple punts to bounce instead of fair-catching them and the balls were downed inside the 5-yard line, which pinned the offense deep in its own territory.
Hester then got hurt on offense and the Bears put Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett back to return separate punts. Knox bobbled his punt return and — looking identical to Devin Hester — began running backward and sideways while trying to make a play. He ended up getting tackled for no gain. Bennett muffed his punt and had to fall on it inside the 5-yard line.
I don’t know if it’s a lack of concentration or a complete breakdown in blocking, but there’s nothing happening for the punt return unit.
Also of concern to the special teams is that the Bears had to burn a timeout when Kahlil Bell failed to take the field as the personal protector for Brad Maynard, leaving them with just 10 players on the field. No sooner did that happen than did Bears Radio Network sideline reporter Zach Zaidman report that the Bears had just 10 men on the field during one of the Rams’ punts.
According to the box score on NFL.com, Tommie Harris, Alex Brown, and Marcus Harrison — all starters on the defensive line — registered just one tackle apiece. Mark Anderson recorded just one, as well. Adewale Ogunleye finished with two. That’s awful.
To prove just how poorly the defensive line played, the four leading tacklers, and six of the leading eight tacklers were all linebackers and defensive backs.
I do want to congratulate Jamar Williams, who had a terrific game filling in for Lance Briggs. Williams finished with a game-high 18 tackles and seemed to always be around the ball. He nearly intercepted a pass down the middle of the field, too.
When you play a team as bad as the Rams with a quarterback like Kyle Boller who throws passes like he’s shot-putting them, it’s hard to accurately gauge the performance of the defense. But the eye test alone tells you that with a good quarterback on the field, the Bears will struggle mightily. That doesn’t bode well for their remaining games against Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford aren’t too shabby, either. All four are much better than Boller.
Arguably, the most important of the Bears’ four remaining games takes place next week at Soldier Field when the rival Packers come to town. Every Bears fan knows that beating the Packers is a small moral boost to any dismal season. Plus, the fact that the Packers are in the wild card chase could allow the Bears to play spoiler if they can find a way to beat Green Bay.
I don’t think it will happen, but we can always hope.