Well, it was a heck of a ride while it lasted.
With Jay Cutler out for most likely the rest of the season and now Matt Forte suffering a knee injury which should sideline him for an extended length of time, how does a team win without its two best offensive players?
Better question, how does a team without a competent quarterback win games, because I’m convinced Marion Barber can and will offer the same kind of production that Forte was giving the past three weeks — little to nothing.
At this point, do you even bother calling Donovan McNabb? Under normal circumstances, I would say no because what would be the point in bringing in a veteran quarterback if you’re not going to make the playoffs?
The thing is, the Bears are in no worse shape than they were before blowing a golden opportunity for a free win against a bad Kansas City Chiefs team. Atlanta, Detroit, and New York, the three teams in the wild card hunt with the Bears, all lost on Sunday, meaning the Bears remain in the fifth playoff spot.
But if the Bears can’t beat the Chiefs at home, how will they beat Tebowmania and Denver, who is on a five-game win streak? How will they beat a Seattle team that is much improved and playing better than the Chiefs? How will they beat the undefeated Packers at Lambeau Field? And how will they travel to a notoriously tough place to play in Minnesota and beat the Vikings?
The Bears might go 0-4 the rest of the season. From 7-3 to possibly 7-9.
You Cutler haters out there: are you still hating? Are you missing him yet? Is Hanie bringing back memories of Jonathan Quinn? How about Craig Krenzel? Chad Hutchinson? Moses Moreno? Henry Burris? The list goes on…
The fact is, the Bears finally have a quarterback and they’re sorely missing him.
The Bears were completely unprepared for Sunday’s game, at least on offense. I had a strong feeling the Chiefs offense wouldn’t get in the end zone and it took a Hail Mary for them to do so. They couldn’t move the ball otherwise. The Bears defense did everything they possibly could to win the game, but given how poorly the offense was playing, they needed a defensive or special teams score to win.
It’d be one thing for the offense not to put touchdowns on the board, but it’s a complete embarrassment to fail to move the ball into field goal range and grind out a win three points at a time. And on one of the few occasions the Bears did move into field goal range, Robbie Gould chokes.
What happened to this Bears offensive line? What happened to their improvement? Maybe it wasn’t so much improvement on their part as it was Cutler’s ability to read the pressure and step up in and out of the pocket to avoid sacks. All I know is that the Chiefs entered this week as the worst pass-rushing team in the NFL with just 13 sacks through 11 games, and they recorded seven sacks against the Bears, more than half of their season total to date.
Seven sacks. By the worst pass-rushing team in the NFL.
The game was over when Forte took a shot to the knee from veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson midway through the first quarter. It looked like Forte was planting his foot in the newly-sodded field and trying to make a cut to avoid the tackle but Johnson got him in the knee and the leg bent in a way it’s not supposed to. Forte lay on the turf for a few minutes before limping off, and took with him perhaps the Bears’ hobbling playoff hopes.
The rest of the game was painful to watch, resembling a high school game between two bad football programs. The Bears didn’t convert a first down and finished 0-for-11 on the day. Hanie misfired on several throws, the run game got stifled, and receivers — like Roy Williams, in particular — dropped passes.
Williams dropped a critical pass late in the game when the Bears offense was piecing together a potential game-tying drive. Midway through the fourth quarter, Hanie completed three straight passes for first downs, two to Johnny Knox and one to Earl Bennett, before he took a shot down the middle of the field to Williams. Williams, in the middle of several defenders, was worried about getting hit and didn’t complete a catch that could have gone for a touchdown, or, at the very least, a first-and-goal at the one- or two-yard line. The ball bounced off his arms and was intercepted, killing a drive they badly needed to conclude with points.
Hanie threw three interceptions for the second-straight week, but he’s certainly not to blame for all of them. He took much better care of the ball this week and the only interception worth pinning on him was his first one, in the third quarter, when he underthrew Knox down the sideline on a deep pass. The second one was Williams’ fault for dropping a pass and the final interception came off a desperation heave in the waning seconds of the game.
Still, that doesn’t excuse Hanie from not making enough plays, and if the Bears are going to win any games, they have to either explore other options at quarterback or figure out their problems in the run game and rely heavily on Barber.
Lovie Smith’s fourth quarter of the season is now upon us. The Bears have the proverbial lead, as they’re currently sitting in the fifth playoff spot. If they’re as good holding on to a playoff lead as they are holding on to fourth-quarter leads during the Smith era, they should make the playoffs.
Looking at the schedule, I’m just not sure from where the wins are going to come.
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