It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to write a Monday Morning Quarterback entry with a sunny disposition. Not even a victory over the Rams or Browns in the past two months could change the gloomy feeling I’ve had inside.
Something has to change off the field because nothing is changing on it. A portion of Bears fans are calling for the head of coach Lovie Smith while another portion is calling for the head of general manager Jerry Angelo. It would not surprise me if both men remained in their positions due to contractual obligations. But patience is certainly wearing thin by the week.
Last year, the Bears had difficulty finishing games. This year, they’ve had trouble starting them. On Sunday against the Packers, they struggled with both.
From the first series of the game, things looked bleak. The Bears won the coin toss and elected to receive. First, Johnny Knox returned the opening kickoff for a whopping 12 yards. Then, the Bears gained seven yards and went three and out on their first possession. The defense then promptly took the field for one play and allowed Packers running back Ryan Grant to scamper 62 yards for the game’s first score. Just over a minute and a half into the game, the Packers were up 7-0.
Being down a touchdown with almost an entire game to play is nothing, but it certainly was discouraging. However, the way the defense responded and played the rest of the game was both encouraging and inspiring — compared to the way they’ve played all season.
The Bears’ best two offensive drives came at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half, both drives that ended with touchdown passes. Devin Aromashodu caught a touchdown and half of his 8 receptions during those two drives. Jay Cutler’s line during that time was 10 for 13 for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns.
And then the Packers’ defense adjusted. End of momentum.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Cutler was intercepted by Nick Collins, who returned it 31 yards to the Bears’ 11-yard line. The Bears’ defense all season has had trouble defending a full field, let alone an 11-yard field, so I was not surprised when the Packers took the lead two plays later and converted on the two-point conversion to go up, 21-14.
Credit to the defense for not allowing any more points after that, but the Bears’ offense did not do its job despite having the ball for three more possessions in the quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter, after an incomplete pass to Greg Olsen set up a third down and 22 yards to go, a troubling sequence of events took place. First, the Bears had to burn a timeout because they couldn’t get the right personnel and the play in the huddle with the play clock winding down. Then, Lovie Smith challenged the Olsen incompletion when the rulebook clearly states that such a situation that which had occurred was correctly ruled incomplete.
Two timeouts and not a second had ticked off the game clock.
That situation, and rightfully so, has been heavily scrutinized since the game ended Sunday. It was an undeniable mistake on Smith’s part. What I won’t do, however, is blame the loss on that situation, as many Bears fans and analysts are doing today.
The claim made that had that sequence of events not taken place, the Bears would have had timeouts on their final possession is indisputably incorrect. Even if the Bears hadn’t used those two timeouts, they would have done so on defense the following possession when the Packers were trying to run out the clock. Sure, the Bears may have had another minute of game clock to use on their final possession, but as it turned out, they didn’t need it. The Bears were in no hurry and were taking their time when they went four and out to close out the game.
Three games remain in the Bears’ miserable 2009 campaign and not one of them has a sunny outlook. Losses to the Ravens and Vikings appear all but inevitable. The Bears should be able to beat the Lions on January 3, but that game is in Detroit and the way the Bears played against them in the first half earlier this season, a victory is not certain.
After the loss to the Packers, I’m sure Bears ownership has already made up its mind on what needs to be done in the off-season. I’m not so sure that anything the Bears do in the final three weeks will change that.
Pride doesn’t seem to be the most important factor on the line anymore. Job security for both players and coaches does.