Opponent: San Francisco 49ers
7-3 Green Bay Packers
6-4 Minnesota Vikings (Bye Week)
4-6 Detroit Lions
And with that, all of the NFC North teams have completed their bye weeks. Now the rankings actually mean something again, but there are so many intra-divisional games and the division is so tight that things could swing any direction in a matter of a week or two.
Now...I knew that Jay Cutler was necessary for the Bears to have any kind of offense. What I didn't know was that his presence was needed for the defense to function. I went into this game thinking along the same lines that everyone else was. Both teams' starting quarterbacks were out, both teams have great defenses, and this is probably going to be a very low scoring game. I honestly wouldn't have been surprised if this game had ended 3-0. I was expecting more like 10-13, but either result wouldn't have shocked me. Boy was I wrong.
Not much different from what I expected. Cutler was out from his concussion last week. I’m still glad that he sat out and didn’t even join the team out in San Francisco. He doesn’t need pressure changes from the flight to mess with his head any more. I think backup quarterback Jason Campbell looked a little more confident last night since he had had a week to practice with the starting squad, and also...ya know...not playing in the middle of a monsoon. The Bears showed more commitment to the running game than they have all year, but San Francisco is a great defense. They shut down our running game and when we did try to pass, our offensive line did little more than tissue paper. Last night did a lot for Jay Cutler's reputation. It highlighted just how bad our offensive line is at creating a decent pocket for the quarterback to throw from. Cutler covers up a lot of these problems with his mobility, and that's why I've always been a fan of his. He has his faults like anyone, but I still maintain that he's a much better quarterback than a lot of people seem to give him credit for.
What happened? Up until last night, no team had scored on the opening drive against our defense. Last night it took 5 drives before we finally got a stop. That's right, the backup quarterback scored 2 touchdowns and 2 field goals before we forced a punt. I don't know what happened, but I really hope that Rod Marinelli(Defensive coordinator) does and can patch up whatever hole the 49ers found in our defense. If not, it's going to be a long rest of the season. I also agree with the announcers last night. San Francisco has a great problem. They have 2 very good quarterbacks on their team.
It was hard to see since the game was going so badly, but I think special teams had one of their best performances all year. Devin Hester was averaging 25 yards per kickoff return on 5 attempts. Towards the end, he lost yards on punt returns because he was trying to do too much. We were down by a lot, and I'm sure he felt like he had to try to force himself to get some touchdowns, but the 49ers covered well. Overall though, I was glad to see the progress on the kickoff returns.
Now, I'm still optimistic. Cutler is due back next week after a much needed break, and I can only imagine that the defense will bounce back from this game with a vengeance. Everyone has speed bumps and hitting one when we knew the offense wasn't going to do much of anything may have just been good timing. I still have to wonder what's going through the heads of Phil Emery (General Manager), Mike Tice (Offensive Coordinator), and Lovie Smith (Coach). If I were Emery, I might be looking to replace Tice next year. He really hasn't stood out much this year as a good offensive coordinator, and he was the offensive line coach for the past 2 seasons. This line is as much his as anyone's and it's been lousy for as long as I can remember. I also wonder what kind of position Lovie Smith is in. I don't have any doubt that we'll still make the playoffs if Cutler can play in the rest of the games, but with how bad our offense is, how much of that rests on the defense oriented head coach?
Ah well, back to home turf to face a team no one thought would be any good this year, the 6-4 Minnesota Vikings. Bear Down!