For three quarters the Bears did not look very convincing, but they pulled away at the end and ultimately achieved their objective in their 37-23 victory over the Lions.
Take it for what it’s worth against the worst pass defense in the NFL, but the offense — specifically Jay Cutler — looked good through the air for the second straight week. Cutler compiled 276 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on 22 of 36 passing. Devin Aromashodu was his top target again with five catches for 46 yards and two touchdowns. As expected, though, Cutler spread the ball nicely and hit Greg Olsen five times for 94 yards and a score. He connected with Devin Hester three times for 75 yards, Earl Bennett three times for 27 yards, and Matt Forte three times for 23 yards. Desmond Clark caught two passes for 7 yards and the fourth score.
Matt Forte had his second 100-plus yard game of the season while rushing for 101 yards on 16 carries. His only other century-mark came against these same Lions back in October. Kahlil Bell ran hard, too, and tacked on 44 yards on 11 carries.
My goodness, even a wide receiver screen to Devin Hester worked as it picked up a first down!
Again, this all came against a 2-14 team, but considering the alternative, I’ll gladly accept it. Entering the off-season with a two-game win streak and a 7-9 record does nothing for momentum into the 2010 season, nor does it erase all the negative that happened this year. But it does leave you with a much better feeling than a 5-11 record would have.
As well as the offense played, I was still discouraged by the defense. They allowed a washed-up Daunte Culpepper to have too productive a game. Culpepper recorded 262 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 23 of 34 passing. Calvin Johnson ate up the Bears secondary for 6 receptions, 86 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Maurice Morris had 65 yards on 16 carries, averaging four yards per carry. Alex Brown and Mark Anderson each picked up a sack and Zack Bowman tallied one more interception to his season total.
My postgame thoughts already are on next season. First, I’m wondering how quickly coaching changes will be made. I don’t expect Lovie Smith to lose his job — as head coach, anyway. He may remove himself as defensive coordinator. I do expect most of the offensive coaching staff to be replaced. How quickly the front office moves on these changes — for instance, if they make firings tomorrow morning — will give us an idea of just how disgusted they are with this year’s performance as we fans were.
Any move the Bears make on the offensive side of the ball needs to be geared toward Cutler. If they replace Ron Turner, the new offensive coordinator needs to be a coach whose offense caters to Cutler’s abilities — for example, allow him to roll out more and throw on the run. If, or I should say when they bring in new offensive linemen, these guys should have mobility and be able to execute a moving pocket. I think the Bears are content with their wide receivers, but if they bring in a veteran in the off-season, they should talk with Cutler about him and see if his talents fit what Cutler likes in a receiver.
I’m more concerned with what the Bears do on defense, though. The Bears already changed their coaching staff last off-season. They can try an overhaul again, but what they really need is a new scheme and/or new players. It’ll be hard to get what they need through the draft without a No. 1 or No. 2 draft pick. And certain NFL analysts say this year’s free agency crop will be bad because of the collective bargaining agreement mess.
Whatever the Bears do to the coaching staff — and I’m positive they’ll do something because how can you keep it exactly the same after a season like this? — they need to strike quickly because they can’t waste precious learning time and start next season on a learning curve.
If the Bears learn nothing else from their two-game win streak to close this season, let’s at least hope they’ve learned whose team this really is and who they need to build around to be competitive next year.