USA TODAY Sports
We're looking over our notes from yesterday's victory against the Cardinals.
So, file this away under the "You Probably Don't Care Or Don't Feel Bad" department, but yesterday's game was enjoyed by me in a Las Vegas sportsbook on a minor screen - which, if you've ever been in a Vegas sportsbook, you know what an experience that is. Small screen, lack of detail, and no announcer audio (and if you were curious, I took the Cardinals +6 - I was still looking for the Bears to win, but I didn't think scoring was going to be what it was). So while I had contemplated the idea of trying to fill in fake announcer calls for some plays, I scrapped that in favor of an abbreviated set of Notes - kind of like the Bears playoff hopes. Man, I'm so meta like that...
- Good job of the Bears' defense taking advantage of what can only be described as a bad offense. I'm sorry (okay, not really) but Ryan Lindley is not an NFL quarterback. I know it can be hard to lead an offense with Julius Peppers riding your back pocket like a bookie on a deadbeat (Vegas metaphors!), but given that at times Larry Fitzgerald was open enough he could have had his own zipcode, Lindley missed an alarming amount of open throws.
- Speaking of missing an alarming amount of open throws, here's Jay Cutler!
- I know the Bears really only have one primary weapon in Marshall, but did Jay Cutler's first six throws have to all go in his direction? And on top of that, all incomplete?
- I should really stop expressing surprise when Matt Forte rips off a nice outside/off tackle run for really nice yardage, then his next three runs are interior for next to no gain.
- So, not only did Kellen Davis collect not one, but two catches, he caught one, didn't fall over, and continued to run for a first down. Yeah, I know, I got asked why I was so surprised by a Kellen Davis reception.
- On Brandon Marshall's touchdown reception - pretty interesting to note that that play was his first target of that series, with receptions by Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Earl Bennett preceding Marshall's blown-coverage grab.
- So, interesting also that when Chris Conte left the game and Anthony Walters was put in, Walters handled the Cover 1 free safety responsibilities, leaving Major Wright blitzing to the Arizona backfield. With a guy that hasn't gotten much time at safety all season (or in his career), why weren't the Cardinals trying to test Walters more?
- The Cardinals called so many screens and line-of-scrimmage passes on third down and long distance, I thought Mike Tice had copied his gameplan from last week and switched teams. I understand the screen, I understand what it's supposed to do, I just will never understand why coordinators oftentimes will expect a receiver/runner to make as many as three or four people miss to make a first down in a situation that requires a first down.
- If the Cardinals want to keep calling fake field goals when down by two scores and turn them into outside rushes, Amobi Okoye is ready to blow them up. Yeah... I didn't quite get the point of that call.
- As long as we're on special teams, two things to bring up. One, I think Hester's still trying too hard on punt returns, trying to make something happen that just isn't there. He actually looked a lot more fluid on his kick returns, with a bit of a subtle move in his cuts, as opposed to the "spin-o-rama up four yards back 8 yards sideways 40 yards up 2 yards back six yards loss of nine" play. Those straight-forward plays seem to net him better returns at this point in his career.
- The second thing is... On the blocked punt, it was just a rare special teams blocking breakdown. The Cardinals overloaded the kicker's open-side like teams generally do, and the overload just got through.
- Something to note in Zackary Bowman's fumble recovery for a touchdown - Zackary Bowman was on the field in a defensive situation early in the game. Yeah, I know, color me stunned again.
- On DJ Moore's helmet-touching-of-the-punt, someone will have to tell me if Hester was calling Moore off the ball or not, or if Moore was just continuing to play.
- And speaking of calling off the ball, Eric Weems' blocking his guy into Patrick Peterson was a thing of beauty, even more so that Peterson didn't even think to call for a fair catch when he saw Weems and his guy were coming.
- I didn't realize how much Peterson does for that team. Kick returner, punt returner, defensive back, as well as moonlighting as a receiver? Phew, that sounds exhausting. Next up, he'll start throwing the ball to himself and demanding the coach's headset.
- So, defensive line play. For those of you who wanted Nate Potter in the draft, Julius Peppers showed what a top-level defensive end can and should do to a rookie. Three sacks? Three sacks. Potter didn't stand a chance. The Cardinals doubled Peppers early, but as they started to give Peppers more one-on-ones, Peppers started taking advantage with a couple of inside sacks as well as one on the outside. One of Peppers' sacks came off the Wide Nine, something I'm still banging the drum for use with Shea McClellin.
- McClellin, by the way, was eased back in as the fourth end behind Wootton (who got the start again) and Idonije, who had a couple nice cleanup plays. As far as the ends go, it was all Peppers yesterday.
- Interior, Stephen Paea didn't have a bad game, and Okoye had the fake field goal stop, but as a unit, they did their job - the Arizona running game just couldn't really get on track, and what holes did open up were closed relatively quickly by Lance Briggs and Nick Roach.
- On Charles Tillman's interception for a touchdown - three INT-TDs on the year has to put him in some pretty heady defensive back company. This one was a textbook zone to the outside receiver (originally Fitzgerald, I believe it was Michael Floyd came into motion to the outside and Tillman adjusted further out); Tillman lets him run his short route then jumps Lindley's throw. If anything, I think that play tells you what the Bears thought of Lindley's arm strength.
- The Bears didn't give up a sack. Granted, the Bears didn't have to pass by halfway through the third quarter, but the offensive line held their own against the Cardinals' pass-rushers. Cutler had plenty of time on most of his throws; he just couldn't connect consistelty, which to me was pretty scary. Peterson was playing really tight coverage on Marshall much of the game, so I can see those incompletions - but there weren't any other targets available?
- Well, to be fair, the Bears were using quite a bit of 2-1-2 offset I formations early in the game and matching up the bigger Jeffery and Marshall against the Arizona defensive backs. But when Cutler's overthrowing or overleading receivers, it's hard to get a passing game going.
- Armando Allen was the first guy up after Forte's injury, and strangely encountered the same "up the middle" difficulties. Hmmmm....
- I know I just said the offensive line played pretty well, but they still can't get any push up the middle on those interior run plays. Maybe if they could, Forte's interior rushing wouldn't suck so bad?
- Mike Tice's playcalling confused me on a couple spots too. Third and long, play action to a screen with a couple pump fakes thrown in for good measure? Okay, whatever floats your boat. Second and six backed up against your goal line, play action and a defender right in your face? It's either fearlessness or insanity.
- The one thing the Bears' early playcalling showed me was that they were starting to go back to their old fearless ways of passing downfield. What 3-4 pass rush? I didn't think neither Webb nor Carimi had bad games; James Brown got beat once or twice but not too bad. Unfortunately, there aren't too many teams like the Cardinals in the playoffs.