Monday Morning Quarterback: Bears-Giants (10.03.10)

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Last night’s 17-3 loss to the New York Giants was about as tough to stomach as any game in recent memory. Thankfully, the Bears’ defense played a competent game, about as well as any unit can staying on the field for so long. At least we had something to watch, and when the game was 3-0, I remember thinking to myself that the defense or special teams just might need to win the game with a pick-six or another Devin Hester punt return for a score. Visions of the Arizona Cardinals game from 2006, when the defense scored twice and Hester added the go-ahead touchdown, danced in my head.

That was quickly put to rest when the defense broke down in the second half and the No. 1 run defense in the NFL allowed 189 rushing yards. Giants quarterback Eli Manning was efficient yet unspectacular. The bottom line is that the defense played well enough to win with a competent offense, but the Bears were far from that.

The offense managed just 110 yards of offense, scored just three points, allowed ten sacks — nine in a record first half — and got their franchise quarterback knocked out of the game with a concussion. They ran for just 59 yards, 26 from Matt Forte on 12 carries and 22 from Chester Taylor on 3 attempts. We knew from the three previous games that the Bears couldn’t run the ball but they at least could hang their hats on Jay Cutler and the passing attack. Without a passing game, the Bears have one of the worst offenses in the league.

I’ll preface this by noting that Cutler hung on to the ball too long on a few of his sacks, but this Bears offensive line is one of the biggest collection of stiffs in the league. At one point during their swiss-cheese protection, a Giants defensive tackle slalomed past Olin Kreutz first and then Lance Louis second to annihilate Cutler. It almost looked like a practice drill against tackling dummies as Kreutz and Louis barely breathed on the defender. It’s confounding how that can happen to two offensive linemen on one play. General manager Jerry Angelo always talks about self scouting and he and his staff deserve a big F on their report card in that subject. How they could feel good about these players entering this season and not making any upgrades to the unit is baffling.

Even a nice performance by Greg Olsen — five catches for 39 yards — was soured by two key plays that led to interceptions. Olsen doesn’t become the proverbial defensive back on bad throws. He doesn’t try to knock the ball away from the defender; he sort of gives up on the play. Earl Bennett had a quiet four receptions for 26 yards, Johnny Knox had one catch for 26 yards, and Hester caught three passes for 16 yards.

Julius Peppers picked up his second sack of the season and it was another strip sack. Brian Urlacher pounced on the fumble. Israel Idonije picked up the only other sack for the defense. Zack Bowman, who was benched last week and started this game on the sideline, forced a fumble by chasing down Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw on an apparent touchdown.

In some cases, teams elect not to watch film on performances that were so putrid and instead metaphorically burn the game film and begin concentrating on the next opponent. That’s the way I feel about writing this particular article. This game was so out of hand that it was shocking the Bears were within three points for a large portion of the game. There weren’t even one or two plays where we can second guess or say, “If only this would have happened, the Bears would have won.” There was absolutely no protection for Cutler, Todd Collins, and Caleb Hanie and only the smallest of creases for the run game.

It’s funny how a performance like this can skew one’s thoughts on the outlook of the season. The Bears are 3-1, and if any fan — even the most optimistic of the bunch — was told in the preseason that the Bears would be 3-1 at this point, he or she wouldn’t believe you. We should be feeling happy about the Bears’ record. But after getting off to a hot start this season and clicking in the passing game, this demoralizing loss almost puts expectations back at square one.

The Bears can still win enough games to get into the playoffs — probably as a wild card — because they have games against average to bad teams like Carolina, Buffalo, Seattle, and Detroit, as well as middle-of-the-pack teams like Washington, Miami, and Philadelphia. But if they continue to play anything like they did last night, they’ll be fortunate to get to .500.

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