I have to admit that, as much as it sucks to start the season 0-1, yesterday afternoon's loss to the Packers wasn't a foregone conclusion at halftime, which at least forestalled any impending feelings of complete and utter doom. The first major takeaway is that this newfangled coaching staff of the Bears has some modicum of an idea of what they're doing, which is better than a certain prior regime.
Normally, you wouldn't be satisfied with leaving the field 0-1, but consider a couple things. This was a team that drubbed the Bears heavy, twice, last season. The Bears were a team that looked lost offensively, barely made it to the field defensively, and had enough scapegoating and drama to maybe start filling the Jets' locker room. This year's edition found ways to move the ball against the Packers' defense and play tight enough to be competitive in the fourth quarter until a Clay Matthews interception of Jay Cutler effectively iced the game with a subsequent touchdown. This is with a wide receiver group that put together probably made up two healthy bodies (including the deactivated Cameron Meredith), Kyle Long's first career start at right tackle, Vladimir Ducasse starting at guard (which should keep Bears fans up at night), and Aaron Rodgers having 73 points of quarterback rating on Jay Cutler.
No, moral victories don't count for anything, especially in the standings. But if the Bears showed anything yesterday, they at least won't get laughed off the field.
- Plenty to get into, so let's start in on Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers before people wonder why they can't just grab an Aaron Rodgers off the shelf at Wal-Mart. The lone interception thrown by Cutler is a ball that probably shouldn't be thrown, but it's hard to see a sinking Clay Matthews stepping up and then coming back to cover the quick-hitter to the tight end. That aside, Cutler was spotty, but leaning to the "better" side of spotty. No one should be proud of 50% completion rates; however, there were several catchable balls that were outright dropped (including a walk-in touchdown to Matt Forte) mixed in with the ones that were just flat out thrown to be uncatchable. The big improvement I thought was in his pocket presence and watching for lanes; it was almost reminiscent of the "Tell Martz I said F--- You" season where he broke the pocket at will. His running was a legit weapon on those four runs, and those first-down scampers gave the Packers a few fits and kept drives alive. Bottom line, more of this Cutler, please, and at least catch some more balls.
- The thing is, if you'd've told me that Rodgers would have a quarterback rating of 140.5, Jay would have a rating of 67.5, yet Cutler would also pick up more yardage than Rodgers, and the Bears would lose a one-score game, I'd laugh a little. It was largely possible due to the great day Matt Forte had. He was nulled a bit out of the backfield, but as a runner, he hit 100 yards before the half and finished with 141 of the 189 rushing yards.
- For the hoopla of John Fox relying on running-back-by-committee, Forte had 24 of the team's 29 non-QB carries. Jacquizz Rodgers had 4 for 16 yards, and Jeremy Langford had a single carry for a single yard. Behold the Forte skillset.
- Of course, Eddie Lacy also picked up his own good day, rolling for 85 yards and a touchdown, and generally being a tough one to tackle.
- James Jones and Randall Cobb picked up the three touchdowns Aaron Rodgers threw, but did we really need more evidence that Rodgers can put the ball in any of the receiver's pockets that he chooses? Alan Ball didn't exactly play a lot of bad coverage (though he did have a couple missteps), and Rodgers placed one exactly over Ball's head into James Jones' not-exactly-outstretched arm for an easy touchdown.
- That being said, it'd be nice if some of these playmakers on defense (You know, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Jared Allen, Kyle Fuller...) would actually make a play, as opposed to being blocked out turnstiles for Rodgers to escape through or into to make a play. Rodgers is a difficult quarterback to sack; however, zero sacks and zero quarterback hits just will not get it done defensively.
- Finally on to the offensive line, including Kyle Long's first ever start at right tackle, and, well, while he improved a lot as the game went on, he and Vladimir Ducasse were attacked viciously by the Green Bay blitzers, and with good reason. Ducasse false started twice and generally struggled, and Long matching up against Julius Peppers usually won't work out well... for now, anyway. There's ability and effort in Long, and if he can tighten up his hand placement and deliver a better punch, he may well be able to stick there at a high level.
- Adrian Amos stuck really well in his first game action, to be fair, and maybe the Bears have an actual player at safety. But the backfield can only do so much without a front seven that's creating havoc. Very little pressure on Rodgers all game, and very little action in the backfield. Shea McClellin led the Bears with 8 tackles, but I'd like those to be a little more aggressive to the line of scrimmage, and not trailing behind or eight yards downfield. Christian Jones looked really good, again.
- Marquess Wilson totally validated all the comments about being a seventh round pick who just needed a chance with a simple 50-yard catch and run. Sarcasm aside, that catch and run was a really good look for him. Alshon Jeffery's "pitch count" (why is that even a term?) still let him lead the team in targets and yardage.
- Martellus Bennett looked really strong in the receiving game. I'm okay seeing more of that.
- Bears opening the game in 3-TE sets with Eddie Royal as the starting receiver? Okay, it really helped getting the Bears moving on the ground. Next question is, why not even a single run with that package down at the goal line? Yes, if one of the four passes at the goal line connects, we aren't even having this conversation, but a run down there would have been a nice attempt.
- Looking at the stats, you would think this would be a Bears win, to be honest. The Bears committed fewer penalties, converted 25 first downs to the Packers' 21, converted 11 of 17 third downs and 2 of 3 fourth downs, outgained the Packers by 80 yards in total, led in time of possession by nearly 3 minutes (31:52 to 28:08)... The reasons the Bears did not win the game include a heavy dose of field goals instead of touchdowns and the touchdown swing from the Matthews pick. Instead of a case of the full numbers, it's a case of when the numbers happened and how. Having a potential touchdown drive killed by a Ducasse penalty and a sack and settling for a field goal doesn't help. A Matt Slauson hold at the Packers' 23-yard line pushing to 1st and 20, then 3rd and 18 didn't help. You could also look at the end of half drive where the Bears missed two deep throws to Alshon Jeffery, or their inability to punch it in at the goal line on 1st and goal, taking three passes from the 2.
- Why does it seem like every Bears/Packers game, James Starks does at least one thing to kick the Bears in the nuts, such as converting fourth down?
That's what I've got. What's on your mind this Bears Monday?