Be prepared, Bears fans. Be prepared.
You may be one of the fans out there who were discouraged that the Bears “barely” beat the winless New York Giants. And if so, discontinue reading. Your glass is probably half empty, anyway. But if you’re one of those fans who recognizes that a win in the NFL does not come easy, especially on a short week and without key members of the defense, then this Bud’s for you.
The Bears made sure they would not be the winless Giants’ first victim of the season Thursday night by securing a 27-21 victory. But something tells me that when all the stories and columns come out, and when the local radio hosts have had their say, the resounding message around Bear Nation will focus more on the Bears’ problematic defense than on the success of the offense.
Yes, the Bears looked awful on defense last night — minus the three interceptions they snagged from two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. And yes, it is part of a larger problem that they’ve had all season. But, as Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com notes, the Bears had to throw a patchwork defense together due to injuries all over the unit. Undrafted rookies (David Bass and Zach Minter), a free agent off the street (Landon Cohen), backup cornerback Zack Bowman filling in for the injured Charles Tillman, and a switch to rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic after D.J. Williams went down with an injury.
This is not your Bears defense of a year ago.
Again, I can’t stress enough that the Bears were having problems on defense from the beginning of the season, even when they were mostly healthy. So, don’t think I’m blaming last night’s performance strictly on injuries. But I refuse to listen to those who want to deny the Bears a hard-fought win with an injury-depleted defense, especially considering the Bears offense was efficient and solid and earned the victory.
Jay Cutler had yet another strong performance, proving — in my eyes, anyway — that this whole “nighttime curse” that he has hanging over his head had more to do with the quality of opponents he’s faced in those types of games than it has to do with a silly theory of his diabetes affecting his play or that he can’t handle the pressure of a primetime game.
Cutler completed 24 of 36 passes (66.7%) for 262 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 106.5. It was his fifth time out of six games this season finishing with a 90-plus passer rating. In each of the last two seasons, he only had five 90-plus passer rating games all season, so he’s well on his way toward improvement this early in the 2013 campaign.
Now, if you want to point toward some negative — some legitimate negative aspects of the Bears’ victory — point to the fact that Matt Forte only recorded 67 rushing yards. Going into this game, I preached the need for the Bears to get him involved more. The Bears fortunately did that by giving him 19 rushing attempts and 6 receptions, but the Bears offensive line just didn’t run block well enough. However, when you have an offense that has balance like the Bears’ seemingly does, you can afford to struggle in the run game if you’re passing all over the defense like Cutler did. Moving forward, though, hopefully they can shore up their run blocking.
One of the big stories leading up to this game was wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s comments about how he wasn’t getting the ball enough this season. In the “production carousel” that is the Bears offense this year, where a new player steps up each week, it was Marshall’s turn to have a big game against the Giants. Marshall caught nine passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Alshon Jeffery, who had a huge game this past Sunday, only caught one pass for 27 yards against the Giants and he also missed on an opportunity to make a big catch down the sideline which could have potentially gone for a touchdown. Tight end Martellus Bennett had a nice game against his former team with 6 receptions for 68 yards.
The Giants are not a good team, this much we know. Would it have been nice for the Bears to ground and pound them on national TV and leave no doubt that they’re real contenders? Of course.
But to have the glass-half-empty approach today and focus more on the Bears’ problems on defense rather than the success of the offense and a big victory — in the sense that it temporarily puts the Bears in first place in the NFC North — would be a silly thing to do.
There is time to analyze the defense, what they’re going to do about injuries decimating the lineup, and how they get better moving forward. But for now, let’s enjoy the fact that the Bears are 4-2, in the driver’s seat, and have 10 days to prepare for the Redskins.