Last Thursday I saw quite possibly one of the worst NFL games ever played. I mean what an awful game to start the slate of Thursday night games on NFL Network. It almost seemed like neither team wanted to actually win. It especially seemed like Cutler didn’t as he practically gift-wrapped the victory for the 49ers by throwing five interceptions. Everything was bad about this game except for the defenses. The defenses did a good job, but even they had their problems. Even the special teams were bad. So I’m going to go through the game’s bad parts (of which there were many) and then finish up with its good parts (of which there were very few).
First off, the offenses of both teams were very poor, but Chicago’s was worst. First off, there are Cutler’s five interceptions. At best, two of them you could blame on the receiver. In one case Devin Hester fell down coming back for the ball and on another tight end Kellen Davis didn’t keep going on the play and let Mark Roman come in to get the pick. However, on the latter play, Cutler didn’t throw that great of a pass to begin with. He thought Roman should have been called for pass interference. There was no way the refs could have called that because Roman played the ball perfectly. Heck, Roman didn’t even touch Davis until he was catching the ball. The other three interceptions were horrible decisions by Cutler. He threw into double or triple coverage on every single one of those picks.
Worst of all, on two of those plays, the coverage was right in front of who he was throwing it to as well. How can someone do that? Is he not seeing the red jerseys of the 49ers? Do they somehow blend in with the field like Boise State? The worst part was seeing the replay after already knowing he made a terrible decision because it made it ten times worse. Three 49ers are less than five or ten yards from him and he throws it right at them. I think if you had an extreme close-up of San Francisco’s defenders you would see dollar signs in their eyes. The last play was even worse. Cutler threw the ball right at Michael Lewis. I mean right at him.
What’s worse is you can clearly see Greg Olsen starting to run to the left right as Cutler threw it. On that play you don’t hope your receiver comes back to fight for the ball unless you know he will get it. You throw it to the open man. Cutler could have even tried to run it for a little bit as long as he either scored or got down and quickly called a timeout. He didn’t need to force it like he did. There were eight seconds to go when that play ran. He had time to do something besides try to force the ball.
Cutler also threw the ball 52 times. That is ridiculous in such a low-scoring game. When asked why the Bears threw so much, Larry Meyer, writer for the Bears on their official website, said it was because “they had little success running the ball against the 49ers.” Of course they did. They still haven’t learned that Matt Forte runs really well when he runs to the outside. Forte had a nice 16-yard run in the game which was due to his bouncing the run to the outside. On the other 20 runs, he gained only 25 yards because EVERY SINGLE ONE was an inside run. San Francisco’s linebackers must have been licking their chops at what an easy job they had. If the Bears ran, all they had to do was pick a spot between the guards and charge and one of them would get a tackle. Of course, if the offensive line blocked like Stanford did against USC on Saturday, this could be an entirely different story. However, the Bears still need to run outside a lot more than they have been.
San Francisco’s offense didn’t do the best job either, but you blame the Bears defense for that more than the offense. The 49ers had several long drives, but they would end up with a punt because the Bears defense would finally stop them. They only had four three and outs in the game. One area that would help the 49ers is some longer passes. Alex Smith went 16-of-23 for 118 yards and an interception. He had a good completion percentage, but he had a lot of short completions and quite a few quick throws. If he could have had some longer passes, he could have stretched the defense a little better and really opened up the offense more. He could have also taken advantage of the Bears’ inexperienced safeties. San Francisco probably would have ended up with more than ten points too and not just have points due to turnovers.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears defense had trouble stopping the 49ers offense at times. They showed once again that they can’t keep a team backed up toward its own end zone, instead letting that team get a first down or three before forcing them to punt. This especially hurt at the end of the game when stopping the 49ers would mean the Bears would get the ball with plenty of time on the clock or could even be able to get the ball twice. The 49ers last drive of the game went almost six-and-a-half minutes before the defense finally stopped them on the 34 yard line. On another drive, San Francisco was backed up to its three yard line on a second and 18 and came away with three first downs before Smith threw his lone interception. The defense needs to play better when they have the other team right in its clutches.
This was an ugly game special teams-wise as well. The Bears averaged 14 yards on its three kickoff returns. They have had a few bright spots on returns this year, but this unit does not seem to be having as much success as when Devin Hester was returning the ball. I think they need to put Hester back at returning kicks because he was a big threat doing that and he might function better this year at returning kicks than he was last year. A big problem for him last year was he was thinking too much on returns. Part of that was he was learning the entire offense instead of just a few plays. Now that he knows the offense a lot better, he has been returning the ball on punts better with few exceptions. I think that will turn into better kick returns, too.
Now for some good news. Let’s start with the 49ers defense. This unit played perfectly. Five interceptions. That is quite a stat. The secondary put themselves in good positions to make plays on the ball and played tight on the receivers all game. The front seven stuffed the run on all but one play. Aubrayo Franklin played a great game inside and out as he not only blocked the holes set up for Forte but he also got an interception. The linebackers were quick to take advantage of Franklin’s play as well and got into the holes on every run. San Francisco will have a shot at the playoffs if this unit keeps playing like it did Thursday night.
As for the 49ers offense, it ran the ball extremely well. Frank Gore ran for 104 yards and kept a lot of long drives going. The Bears had a hard time stopping him, especially at the end of the game. San Francisco’s first drive was its best passing-wise. Smith threw several quick passes and led the team downfield. It was too bad they didn’t get points out of the drive as Nedney’s kick went wide right, but it showed a lot of promise. I think if they would have kept up with that game plan they could have scored some more points than they did, especially if they would have been able to work in some deeper passes.
The Bears defense played well in that it didn’t allow a lot of points and kept the team in the game when they should have been out of it. It was also good to see Tommie Harris and Marcus Harrison causing some pressure as each one recorded a sack in the game. The defense was also getting enough pressure and covering well enough to hold the Smith to only 118 passing yards. However, it would have been nice to see them playing the run as good as they played the pass.
Of the few bright spots on the Bears offense, one was that they did a good job with screen passes to Forte. Forte was able to rack up 150 yards on eight receptions and a big part of that was due to the use of the screen. Kudos also goes to the offensive lineman for blocking well enough on the screens to let Forte break free. On the other hand, the wide receiver screen is still one of the worst plays in football. The Bears need to stop running this play because it is not working for them.
The biggest reason the Bears lost this game is due to the turnovers. It would have been a much different game if they didn’t have those. They might have even scored a touchdown or two. Nonetheless, they have a lot of things they need to fix and quick. Hopefully the coaches, especially Ron Turner, start to actually fix some of these problems for more than a week instead of fixing it only to have it go wrong again. It would be nice to see some better execution and better play from the Bears. Hopefully things will go better when they play the Eagles next…Sunday…night. Oh crap.
|To see the latest Bears gear and memorabilia, click here.|