Monday Morning Quarterback: Bears-Packers (09.13.12)
September 14th, 2012 - 10:25 am
It’s kind of hard to be an explosive offense when your quarterback is in this position all night.
Something sure smelled rotten up in Green Bay in the Bears’ 23-10 loss to the Packers Thursday night and it wasn’t the 50 shades of moldy cheese. Nor was it the stinky armpits of the fans with blocks of foam cheese on their heads or the deer urine they take baths in just before going hunting — or to their weddings.
No, it was the play of the Bears offensive line, still one of the worst units in the NFL and one that is going to prohibit this Bears team from achieving its ultimate goal.
I feel before I bury these guys in the pile of manure their play so closely resembled, I should preface my comments with a disclaimer of sorts. And that is: Jay Cutler played a poor game Thursday night. There was no question about that. But if you think he still would have thrown four interceptions with even marginally acceptable pass protection, you’re sorely mistaken.
Did Cutler force passes in the second half he probably shouldn’t have? Yes. Did he make bad throws using poor mechanics? Absolutely. But the guy was running for his life back there, trying to stay in one piece. How would you feel being sacked seven times and knocked around countless others?
It was as if the Bears offense trotted out onto the field for the 7-on-7 portion of the game while the Packers defense was ready for the full team drill. Somebody forgot to tell the offensive line their services were needed Thursday. They started the game the same way they did in Week 1, by allowing Cutler to get familiar with the ground with a sack.
It almost seems like Bears fans should give the offense a standing ovation next week against the Rams if the Bears are able to avoid a sack on the first offensive snap.
I feel like the Bears and Packers re-filmed the football scene from “Wedding Crashers” Thursday night. Jay Cutler played Vince Vaughn’s role while Packers linebacker Clay Matthews assumed Bradley Cooper’s role. Is it fitting that Cooper’s character’s name in the movie is Sack?
To paraphrase Vaughn’s character: Cutler was “dry humped up and down the field” all evening.
I don’t care if your name is Jay Cutler or Drew Brees or Tom Brady or even Aaron Rodgers; playing behind an offensive line as poor as the Bears have will make even the most extraordinary quarterbacks look extra ordinary.
At one point in the game, Cutler was seen verbally assaulting his left tackle, J’Marcus Webb, and even gave him a small shove in the back as he stormed away. Webb’s reaction? A smile.
Let’s see if Webb is still smiling when he’s unemployed next year.
At one point in the game with the play clock winding down, Cutler was frantically signaling for the shotgun snap and center Roberto Garza was busy calling signals. Left guard Chris Spencer, who I believe was responsible for tapping Garza to let him know when to snap — it’s a technique that many teams employ — missed the signal from Cutler. After which, Cutler got in Spencer’s grill.
Heck, even Gabe Carimi — arguably the Bears’ best offensive lineman — killed the Bears’ only successful drive in the first half with a late hit on Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk. Hawk, a veteran, baited the second-year offensive tackle by shoving him just before the end of the play. Carimi retaliated and was flagged for a personal foul.
With limited time in the pocket, Cutler could hardly get his new offensive weapons involved in the game plan. Brandon Marshall, targeted 15 times in the opener, found little room to operate in the Packers secondary and by the time Marshall finished his routes, his quarterback was on his backside. Cutler was finally able to get off a pass to Marshall in the third quarter, a pass that fell through Marshall’s hands in the end zone but one that could have, and should have been caught.
The Bears couldn’t get any other receivers involved in their game plan early. Marshall and Earl Bennett each caught a pair of passes but not until later in the game when Green Bay had the victory all but sewn up. Alshon Jeffery was barely heard from with just a 7-yard reception. And if not for a 21-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, Kellen Davis’ night would have been all but worthless.
And as long as we’re on the subject of Davis, he’s got to be one of the worst starting tight ends in the league and perhaps the biggest waste of God-given size and ability this side of Carlos Boozer. The man was blessed with a huge frame and soft hands — hands you’d come to appreciate if he ever got the opportunity to display them. But when he runs poor routes and is never in the right place where Cutler wants to deliver the ball, he’s essentially useless given his soft blocking skills.
Sticking with the tight ends, after such praise for Evan Rodriguez’s blocking skills out of the backfield last week, the rookie regressed in Week 2. Matt Spaeth got involved in the game plan with one catch for four yards and a first down, but he doesn’t have a future with this team considering he’s primarily just a blocker. Cutler sure could have used a safety valve Thursday night — and he certainly can use one for as long as this porous offensive line remains intact — because a tight end is a valuable asset when under heavy pressure.
To make matters worse, one of the Bears’ best offensive weapons, Matt Forte, left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. It was after backup running back Michael Bush stepped in and ably replaced him that the Bears finally committed to the run game to help move the chains and control the tempo of the game. Bush finished with 54 yards on 14 carries and Forte had 31 yards on 7 carries before exiting.
Cutler famously compared receiving all these new offensive weapons to opening up new toys on Christmas morning. But to continue with that metaphor, imagine the parents taking away the toys as soon as the child opens them. Cutler is then left staring at the tree.
Moving on to the defense, I couldn’t have expected them to play much better than they did. Of the two touchdowns the Packers scored, one was from a fake field goal and the other one came late in the game immediately following a Cutler interception that left the defense in a vulnerable position. To hold the Packers to three field goals and one touchdown while the Bears’ own offense did nothing to help the cause speaks volumes about how well the defense performed Thursday night. There are not many better offenses the Bears will face this season.
The Bears did what they needed to do with Aaron Rodgers. They kept him in the pocket — he wasn’t able to move the chains with his legs, finishing with minus-six rushing yards — and they sacked him five times. Julius Peppers led the charge with two sacks, Henry Melton continued his strong start to the season with a sack, and Corey Wootton added a half-sack. Meanwhile, rookie Shea McClellin showed up on the stat sheet and dropped Rodgers for one and a half sacks. For the Bears to generate pressure from a variety of players is a good sign moving forward.
I felt the linebackers played a strong game for the most part, but they still gave up too much to the Packers’ run game. Brian Urlacher managed to finish the game and he showed up to make a few plays despite laboring through his knee trouble. One play that stands out is when he took on a block by Packers fullback John Kuhn and knocked Kuhn backwards into Cedric Benson, taking down both players.
In the secondary, Tim Jennings continues to inspire a love-hate relationship with fans. The diminutive cornerback is tough-as-nails in run support and strong at making open-field tackles — even taking down tight end Jermichael Finley, a much bigger player than he is, after a short reception. Jennings also picked off his third pass in two games. But the way he continues to get beat in coverage is a cause for concern against teams with good passing attacks.
Charles Tillman returned to action after missing most of the Colts game with a lower leg injury. True to form, Tillman continued to maintain his reputation as the king of the ball punch after jabbing the ball loose from Finley and adding another forced fumble to his resume. Tillman also recovered the fumble.
There wasn’t much to criticize the safeties about. They let Donald Driver catch a 26-yard touchdown from Rodgers late in the fourth quarter, but they did a good job of keeping the offense in check for most of the game and preventing the big play by lining up deep.
Very rarely do you see a Dave Toub special teams unit get embarrassed like the field goal block team did in allowing a fake field go for a touchdown. But since it’s not a trend, it’s nothing to get alarmed about. It’s time for Toub to get his unit back on track with a touchdown of their own, perhaps as soon as next Sunday against the Rams.
So, are we done panicking, Bears fans? Has the media — both local and national — finished making snarky jokes about Cutler’s “good luck” comment leading up to the Packers game?
The quarterback was simply speaking confidently about the offense’s new weapons — as he should have.
He got in the faces of his offensive linemen about playing so poorly Thursday night — as he should have.
And he probably went to bed frustrated, upset, and hoping that general manager Phil Emery will bring him some help along the offensive line — as he, and the rest of Bears Nation, should have.
And rest assured, Emery surely has taken notice.
It’s not all doom and gloom from here. The Bears get extended time to recuperate and prepare for a Rams team that nearly beat the Lions in Week 1, but a Rams team, nonetheless, that still has a lot of holes. Not many people predicted the Bears would win the Packers game, anyway, so in a week and a half from now, the Bears could be sitting pretty at 2-1 right where they originally were expected to be.
And hopefully when the Packers come for a visit to Soldier Field in December, Thursday night’s game will be a distant memory.