Monday, January 22, 2007

Chicago Bears Go Easy on America's Sweethearts, Cruise by 25

Contrary to popular opinion, the Chicago Bears are pretty good.

Many of this country's deepest thinkers forgot the way the Bears dominated games early in the season, much the same way they dominated this one.

The Saints may have been the best offense (on paper) that the Bears faced this season, but I'd be damned if their offensive line is better than even the Seahawks. The important thing now is how they compare to the vaunted Colts O-line.

Besides the obvious victory in the turnover battle this week, which the Bears were on the short end of last week, the Bears once again played nearly penalty-free and the coaches should take a bow for that. Other than the 4 clipping penalties on Devin Hester's punt return against the Seahawks, the Bears are keeping it clean and smart.

The frustrating, not quite putting their foot on the opponent's throat Bears were present in the first half again Sunday. Rookie sensation Mark Anderson popped loose the first of many fumbles by weather-unaffected Purdue product Drew Brees and the Bears had it surrounded.

But Adewale Ogunleye couldn't scoop it. Fall on it! Where's Hub Arkush to shout BALL!

Another missed opportunity for the Bears here, but this will not be this team's legacy. The Bears will not be known for outplaying the other team but failing to cash in. The Bears we know and love then emerged. The opportunistic, in-control Bears, who've seen a loose ball and have been there before.

The Bears came right back and popped another ball loose, this time from rookie Marques Colston. Turnover machine Nathan Vasher took charge of the situation, drew a bead on the loose ball that danced near the sideline, and began directing traffic.

That's what I'm talking about. Seeing Vasher in charge, Tank Johnson peeled off just in time to avoid another clusterbumble and started heading upfield to lead the caravan.

The caravan, however, ended after only 14 yards and the Bears would only get 3 points from it. But then the ensuing kickoff would bring another fumble, another Bears recovery and another Bears field goal.

By the time the Bears made it 9-0, it could have been 17 or 20. Despite not taking full advantage, the Bears had taken full control of the game, having spent almost all of the first quarter hammering away at the Saints' suspect front 7.

The groundwork was laid for the dominant performance that would follow. Not to go Roy Williams (Detroit version), but the Bears could have gone for 60 on Sunday if they hadn't called off the dogs out of mercy. They could have at least gotten one more to make it an even 46 as a tribute to the old days.

A tribute to the better days of this season was fine. The days when the tackling was so sure that one Bear could focus on ripping the ball out before the ballcarrier could get to the ground.

It wasn't shoddy tackling so much that gave the Bears their final scare. Chris Harris and Danieal Manning never got close enough to tackle little Reggie Bush on his 88-yard reception. Manning should have made the tackle about 30 yards downfield, or at least slowed him so Urlacher or other Bears could have punched a fumble loose.

Instead, ESPN rejoiced as the Saints closed the gap to 16-14. Reggie Bush scampered, he taunted, he taunted the Bears some more, and then he front-flipped into the end zone.

That's fine. If you're not going to act like you've been there before, then you may as well act like you won't get there again.

Not coincidentally, the Saints wouldn't get there again, even though only 53 seconds had elapsed in the 2nd half.

The Bears would spend the rest of the game running up 200 yards and 3 TDs on the ground, ending with Cedric Benson's triple jump TD run. They'd make Brees look like a rookie in taking a safety on an intentional grounding that made you wonder if he'd forgotten how to play. The refs are going to let Brees get away with that if he makes it look good at all, but the Bears wouldn't allow even that.

And of course, the Bears would work in the occasional heave to playoff superstar Bernard Berrian. Lost in last year's loss to the Panthers was that Berrian established himself as a force, a trend that has continued into this playoff season.

Weren't the Bears supposed to be shit-scared of Deuce McAllister? Did he play Sunday? Billy Cundiff, the Saints' "long-range kicker" who could never hit a 40-yarder in the first place, was more of a factor than Deuce. I'm still a little surprised that when Cundiff's ill-advised field goal predictably came down in the end zone, Devin Hester wasn't there camping under it.

Still a few things for the Bears to clean up if they're to beat the Colts in Miami. Rex will still put a scare in you, even if it doesn't matter. He's the only one who didn't know the first quarter was ending. Not a big deal, but I'd like to see my QB locked in.

Christ knows what they were doing to close the first half, following a blitzkrieg TD drive by the Saints. With 40 seconds left, Rex handed to Thomas Jones then headed for the locker room. When he noticed no one else was coming, he got back under center and winged one out of bounds without looking for a receiver. Then he took a knee and that was that.

Leave it to the Bears: before you can even debate whether to get the 40-second drill rolling and try for a field goal, they make a few spastic moves and you're relieved that they're taking a knee before something happens that's even more worse.

Let's find a way to keep that Lance Briggs, gang. A Super Bowl win would surely help keep the band together. Bearss.

No comments: