So week one of the Caleb Hanie era is in the books, the Bears lost, and they actually advance into the fifth playoff seed. Welcome to the NFL.
But for the ups and downs of Hanie's 18-36, 254 yards, 2 TD and 3 INT performance, including that miserable first half, there were some flashes shown against a very game Oakland Raiders' pass rush and defensive attack. Johnny Knox had the first 100-yard receiving game by a Bears' wide receiver this season, Hanie added fifty yards running the ball on scrambles including a couple key first downs, and Marion Barber showed up in thunderous fashion.
Let's see if the Bears can carry over the good and dispense with the bad when they face this week's opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs. Follow me past the jump and let's get into our enemies...
What'd They Do Last Year: 10-6, 1st Place in the AFC West; Lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round 30-7
So Far This Year: 4-7, 3rd Place in the AFC West; coming off a four-game losing streak in which they've scored 25 points combined and allowed an average of 23.75 points per.
When Last We Met: The last time these two played each other, like most of the AFC West, the Bears beat the Chiefs in Week 2 of the 2007 season 20-10. John St. Clair got the scoring started with a reception from Rex Grossman, Devin Hester added a punt return TD and the Bears never looked back. Grossman was 20-34 for 160 yards, a TD and 2 INTs, Damon Huard was 19-28 for 175 yards, a TD and an INT, and Cedric Benson had a 100 yard game, getting 101 yards on 24 carries.
What's At Stake: Right now the Bears hold the fifth playoff spot in the NFC, a playoff picture Kev will keep us most in the loop on. A win keeps the Bears there; a loss could knock the Bears off the spot with wins by Atlanta and Detroit. Hooray tiebreakers.
The Chiefs have taken a number of hits on the offensive side of the ball, including losing starting quarterback Matt Cassel and starting running back Jamaal Charles. The two most consistent options on that side of the ball are a fairly decent receiving corps and a fairly decent offensive line/running attack. If only they had a fairly decent quarterback up to speed to go with it. Tyler Palko has been nothing short of miserable. Picking up the slack for Charles have been Harvin-esque toy Dexter McCluster, ex-Bear Thomas Jones and undrafted journeyman Jackie Battle. Jones, Battle and McCluster all have at least 80 carries, with Battle leading the way with 104, yet the team only has three rushing touchdowns. One by Battle, one by fullback Le'Ron McClain, and, I kid you not, one by defensive back Javier Arenas. That should about sum up the running attack of the Chiefs pretty well. In the passing game, remember how the Raiders had so many guys with over 15 YPC? The Chiefs have zero, and only three above 10 - Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. Did I mention they also lost receiving tight end Tony Moeaki in the preseason?
The Chiefs' defense ranks in the bottom third of the league in points and 20th in yards allowed - yet the passing game numbers are a little weird. They've faced the fourth fewest passing attempts and are 12th in yards allowed, but they're 23rd in TDs allowed and 29th in net yards per attempt. In the running game, they've faced the third most attempts, allowed the 7th most yards, and the 10th most touchdowns. If Eric Berry were around, the Chiefs would have a pretty fearsome secondary, but it's just mildly good, especially because it's difficult for the Chiefs to get a pass rush going outside of blitzing with Tamba Hali. Outside of his 7 sacks, the Chiefs have all of 6. Brandon Flowers is having a pretty good year statistically - four picks and a touchdown, to go with 17 passes deflected and 45 total tackles. Kendrick Lewis has another three picks with a TD and six deflections, and Brandon Carr added another pair of picks. In the run game, Derrick Johnson is having a solid year stopping the run with 70 tackles, almost double everyone else on the team (Jovan Belcher, 43, is second).
If the Bears do this...
If there were a game for Hanie to get comfortable in the pocket, this'd be it. The protections generally only have to worry about Hali - Henry Melton has more sacks than most of the Chiefs' defense. He has to be more careful with his throws though, as five Chiefs have at least two interceptions. Aside from that, look for Barber and Forte to again split carries against the Chiefs' 4.2 yards per attempt allowed.
If the Chiefs do this...
The Chiefs run the ball, first and foremost, which is something the Bears have been much better against than earlier in the year. Passing the ball, while Bowe and Breaston get theirs, the offense hasn't generated much at all, ranking 29th in points scored and 27th in passing yardage. After Bowe's 55 receptions and Breaston's 43, the other receivers are McCluster (32, 4.9 yards per reception)), tight end Leonard Pope (20, 1 TD) and Jonathan Baldwin (13, 1 TD); then a list of guys with nine or less. The running game will be key for Kansas City, as the passing game just doesn't get it done.