So, there it is. The Bears picked up win number one on the year. If you were present for yesterday's WCG Sunday Livestream, you know Sam pretty much nailed this one. The Bears' new defense appears to be starting to come together, a process that started to show fruition last week but faltered in the second half and that came through shining this weekend against the Raiders.
When I gave my prediction for the game (and this is the reason I don't enjoy the prediction bit in the slightest), I didn't have faith that the Bears' defensive unit could limit the opponent - any opponent - to a number that the offense gave them.
This game was weird, in that the defense didn't... and did. It was the defense's strongest showing since the end of last season against the Lions and Vikings. It wasn't... great, mind you (and don't forget to give Latavius Murray a nod of recognition for his effort in the Bears winning by dropping a pitch). And it had to be won on a fourth quarter field goal with two seconds to play. But it was a game the Bears had to have to attempt to right the ship, and they did so in a close, close game.
One thing before I hit the bullets: For me, it wasn't that they were 0-3 after facing a very rough opening schedule. It was that they had gotten beaten so convincingly, or fallen off so heavily at the half, or looked miserable without their starting quarterback (which happens, honestly - backups are backups for a reason). They found new ways to not win games, or not have tools to win games. Against the Raiders, they put it together enough to get the win. It's enough to rekindle some optimism for me, though I would love to see it again next week.
- Speaking of the WCG Sunday Livestream (and let's just jump right in with this one), please ignore that I called one interception, to somebody not named Charles Woodson. Never bet against Charles Woodson.
- However, when I initially looked at that play, I split the blame between Jay Cutler for the throw and Martellus Bennett for kind of floating back away from the ball and allowing Woodson to jump the route. After looking at it again, Cutler did significantly underthrow Bennett, which gave Woodson plenty of room to come in. I do think Bennett could have done a better job locating and adjusting back to the ball, but in addition to the underthrow, it shouldn't have been that close to the middle, and instead more towards the corner. I don't fault the decision, just the throw. For me it's about 75-25 Cutler, but your mileage may vary, there's a heavy case for 90-10 or 100-0. And that's fine.
- The rest of Cutler's day, for a guy who was a game-time decision with a hamstring injury, was really solid. He clearly couldn't run out of the pocket with open lanes, but could still scramble within the pocket, saving several plays for good yardage, and very few questionable tosses. Coupled with some very solid receiver play from Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson, he had a very sharp, decisive day. The interception, however, was a missed opportunity to stack onto the lead (and I'm not talking about the decision to make that play - remember, if it doesn't work, the other choice was guaranteed to work, or something, because second-guessing).
- I am a little concerned that so far all three interceptions for Cutler have come on throws to Bennett, but is there anything there in sum? Probably not; Bennett was targeted 13 times, and caught 11, for a typically really good day against a Raiders' defense that's typically allowed really good days to tight ends.
- Of course, it's easy to have a really good day when you can basically stand completely uncovered in the side of the end zone. Attention Oakland, you have Martellus Bennett, Cameron Meridith, and Marc Mariani lined up - I advise covering the biggest threat. I hear it helps win football games.
- I was happier not knowing J'Marcus Webb was still in the NFL. Then I was happy he was still playing right guard for the Raiders, because he got beat like a drum pretty damn good.
- Of course, I think I just broke a window in our own glass house, but for an offensive line that lost its starting center early on, the unit was acceptable. Matt Slauson and Cutler botched a handoff which was recovered by Oakland. Vladimir Ducasse continued his weekly penalty hour on CBS. I thought Kyle Long struggled some. But Charles Leno exceeded every minuscule expectation I had for him in handling Aldon Smith. He did have some help schemed to his side, and Smith did pick up a sack, but Leno played just fine for his first career start.
- On Oakland's second touchdown (to Roy Helu), Christian Jones' overpursuit opened up a perfect cutback lane. Jones did not have himself a good game. Also, yes, Roy Helu is still screwing with your fantasy team, just like he did in Washington. (Although Mike Shanahan never needed help destroying the fantasy dreams of people relying on his running backs.)
- Pernell McPhee and Jarvis Jenkins, however, did. McPhee's interception wasn't exactly a lot of work, just being in the right place at the right time and accepting the ball willingly given to him, but he had a key third down stop at the line of scrimmage and made some good plays elsewhere as well, and on Jenkins' sack, he just dispensed of Webb like he was nothing. Eddie Goldman's sack went straight through Webb as well.
- Is it just me, or did it seem like on more than one of the many injury timeouts, there's Jenkins rolling through someone's leg or landing on someone?
- Kyle Fuller made a pass breakup leading with his head that was so good, he went back to it on the next series as his main tackle. Predictably, it didn't quite result in a tackle.
- Tracy Porter drew the Amari Cooper matchup, and took credit for waving his arm at a pass that had the maximum effect of maybe distracting Cooper from making a catch. For the future, I love the core of Derek Carr, Cooper, and Murray.
- I'm starting to really like the look of Sam Acho on the field. The last two weeks kind of make you wonder a bit about the impact of career 4-3 end Jared Allen playing out of place on the defense.
- Back to the offensive side, and Marquess Wilson was the leading wide receiver for the Bears, going 6 for 80 on 9 targets, including a couple of key catches on the final drive. Yes, he had a pretty rough drop that most wide receivers make, but today was a day for the kid to step up, and from the 35-yard catch on, Wilson played well. Maybe, just maybe, he'll be okay as a supplemental receiver. When Jeffery returns, we may get to see him as a 2 or a 3 (alongside Jeffery and Royal in the slot/outside). After going last week without a catch and having three entering this week, I'd say he's earned another hard look with Cutler at quarterback.
- Forte is still a ballplayer, and the Raiders are still trying to bring him down on that 38-yard scamper.
- You know, if you didn't look at the final score and instead just looked at the numbers, you'd almost think this was a blowout. Seven more first downs. Ten for seventeen on third down, and another fourth down conversion. Eighteen more plays run, another 128 yards of total offense. Almost seven minutes of possession advantage to go with those eighteen plays. Yet, it came down to one final drive with a quarterback who, as soon as he threw the interception, it was the same old Jay Cutler. That was the 22nd game-winning drive of Cutler's career. He does throw picks, but he does offer a better chance to put points on the board. Yesterday, he put points on the board and got the Bears in a position to win the game.
- Also, I'm not going to go after the refs (or, as Jeff Triplette might say, the guys wearing black and white that are trying to make the calls on the field). But I have no idea what the call on the Eddie Royal spike was for (aside from some curmudgeon feeling besmirched at not being handed the ball or tossed the ball in an expedient manner), nor the call on Tracy Porter. I do, however, wish special teams and Vlad Ducasse would stop doing this whole "committing penalties" thing. It's not a good thing to ruin field position or stall drives, guys.
- Special teams... From after the first quarter:
Woeful special teams effort by Bears so far today. Two penalties, a missed PAT, a kickoff OB and mediocre punt coverage.— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) October 4, 2015
- And a partridge in a pear tree.
So, four weeks in and here we are, 1-3 and heading into Kansas City to take on the 1-3 Chiefs. Maybe the Bears can climb out of the hole they dug themselves - but they won't be able to count on a team not wanting to win the game. Getting Alshon back should help, but maybe a game like yesterday, while not perfect by any stretch, means a turning of the corner. What are your thoughts?