Monday, February 5, 2007

Super Bears, Super Weak

To once again quote the great Corky St. Clair, "I'm going to go home and bite my pillow!" Corky, by the way, is no relation to Bears' backup offensive lineman Bob St. Clair.

I couldn't even bring myself to pick up the newspaper today to relive the ugliness of last night. No, literally, it's -9 this morning and my fat fingers were too cold to pick up the paper.

Just like when Rhapsody In White lost the Mayflower dog show, this was surreal and extremely disturbing.

The Colts did their very best to give the Bears a chance. Heck, they let the Bears stay within 5 points into the 4th quarter, despite the fact that the Bears offense had barely seen the field and the defense couldn't tackle anybody. What the hell was going on out there?

Let's back up. Tony Dungy, the skeleton of a coach, is a bonehead. I have nothing against the man, otherwise I'd crackpot right now that he doesn't deserve to win a Super Bowl if he's not bright enough to kick away from Devin Hester. It's got to be the worst coaching decision a winning coach has ever made.

What could he have been thinking? Perhaps he figured out by game's end that it was the Bears' only chance of scoring, what with Rex Grossman repeatedly tripping over his guitar string, as Bruce Coslet used to joke of Chad Hutchinson. Coach Coslet always knew how to bust himself up.

What a move by Hester on that kick return. With one fart of thunder, you've got Vinatieri laying face-down in a mudpuddle and a 7-point lead 15 seconds into the Super Bowl. The most predictable return TD ever was as good as it was going to get for the Bears. If not for this, the jets buzzing over the stadium after Billy Joel's National Anthem (clocked in at 1:40, the Under) could have been the highlight of this night. Those jets kicked ass.

I'd say Hester outclassed his team, but even he didn't have his head on straight, watching himself on the jumbotron as defenders closed. He's done this before, Lovie's gotten on him, but apparently he thought there was room for showboating. Regardless, what a breathtaking runback.

Then the Colts come out with very uncharacteristic false start penalties and another early interception by Manning, which was a staple this playoff season. The interception by Chris Harris was an aberration. And in fact, it may have worked against the Bears in the end.

The Bears came out with a 3-and-out, frustratingly 2 of which were passes, followed by the flip-side of the interception. On 3rd and 10, with Tank Johnson hanging on his shoulder, Peyton Manning found Reggie Wayne for an uncontested 53-yard TD. The perhaps-overconfident Chris Harris opted to take up the chase with 3 other defenders on Dallas Clark while Reggie Wayne was left alone. If Harris stands still, Manning has to take that sack or, worse, chucks up another INT and starts doubting himself.

The Bears then fumble the ensuing squib kick, further showing what a fool Dungy was, then Alex Brown makes a tremendous individual play, nearly taking the handoff from Manning and forcing a turnover. A 52-yard run by Thomas Jones later, and the Bears cash in with the TD pass to Muhammad. 14-6.

This was almost the last hurrah for the Bears, but not quite. The defense turned in a fine 3-and-out, giving the offense good field position at the 35. Quick strike to Berrian for 13, and then Bob Sanders gets his hat in there and knocks it away from Cedric Benson to give the Colts the ball at midfield.

Things were still OK here, thanks to another 3-and-out turned in by the defense. But you did start getting that familiar feeling, the one where you wonder how many times the defense can hold up and bail them out.

The Bears followed with a very ugly 3-and-out that included the end of Cedric Benson's season. Losing Benson was big, because he'd run so tough throughout the playoffs, then Sunday ends with 2 carries for 1 fumble and 1 knee injury. Bad times.

The injury wouldn't turn out to be as profound as expected, because the Bears would have the ball so rarely for the rest of the night, there was no risk of Thomas Jones needing a breather. Although we wouldn't have minded seeing Adrian Peterson get a few chances.

Somewhere in here, I recall one other golden opportunity the Bears had to put a chill into Peyton Manning. It may have been much earlier, but Nathan Vasher had an interception hit him right in the chest on a play in which Marvin Harrison fell down. Ian Scott later had a screen pass bounce off his hands, but that was a 1-yard rocket that I doubt I could have caught, so I don't blame the big fella. But Vasher should have snagged his when he had the chance.

Also early in this game, my buddy Pez made an astute observation about the ballyhooed commercials: in nearly every one, someone got injured. That was the payoff to the bit. Whatever they were selling, they were doing it by hitting someone with a wrecking ball or having a monkey kick them in the nuts.

Sadly, there was more carnage and pain being doled out in the ads than by the Bears defense, who simply couldn't tackle anyone. I give them a tiny bit of slack based on the aforementioned turnovers and 3-and-outs in bad situations created by the offense and special teams.

But as the game wore on, I stopped apologizing for them, especially when the Colts have a rookie offensive tackle playing in place of mammoth Ryan Diem. The Colts are riding a rookie tackle and backup cornerbacks in the Super Bowl, and the Bears had no answer. Extremely disturbing, that, both coaching and execution-wise.

Where I have to admit I started losing faith was the opening of the 2nd half. Prince had perked me up by fighting some Foo, but the Colts dampened the spirits again with a 7.5 minute drive that took back any wind the Bear defense had regained during the break.

Down 19-14 now, the Bears offense needed to sustain a similar drive and move the chains. Pass. Pass. 2nd-and-1. Guitar string. Sack. Fumble. Sack. Punt.

Bears fans ended the first half thankful that nothing went terribly wrong. Yet. To start the 2nd half that way, Rex, you're going to make me use that picture again. I can't help it. You earned it.

I blame the coaching staff and Ron Turner for not running, but it's got to be hard for them to call plays if they have to expect the circus is about to roll into town.

I may have missed it, but I don't recall seeing either Bears coordinator on the field. This was the case for the playoff games in Chicago, where they were up in the booth behind a cold mist, but I assumed they'd be on the field in Miami.

They may have been there and I missed them. I damn well saw the Colts' Tom Moore and Ron Meeks braving the rain. I also saw Peyton Manning on the blower discussing things, and I always wonder why Rex Grossman's always jogging off, putting on his baseball cap, and standing off to the side. Aaaap, doesn't anyone have anything they want to say? Anyone want to talk about what the Colts are doing on D and how to beat them? Pictures are worth a thousand words, is anyone looking over those and mapping out some good shit? I guess not.

Shockingly, the Bears were still in this game, if only they could pull out one big play. Not a bad deal to do nothing since the first 15 seconds of the game and still be in pouncing position. They even survived Todd Johnson slamming into Adam Vinatieri on a made field goal, which the Colts were forced to leave on the board when the refs called it a 5-yard Running into the Kicker penalty.

It was a glancing blow by Johnson, but we've all seen 15-yarders with far less contact on the kicker. The way Johnson came barreling in like a fool, it probably should have given the Colts 1st-and-goal on the 1.

There weren't too many questionable calls in this game, but there were a few fishy ones, and the Bears caught breaks on all of them. It's what makes the loss all the more frustrating. With the benefit of a Bears crowd, "conditions not 100%" as Nantz put it, and calls by the refs, the Bears contributed nearly zero through skill.

By the time Grossman threw the crushing Pick Six, it wasn't a surprise. He'd already thrown some ill-advised lobs and was using all of his powers just to take a snap from center, while the Colts were working the shotgun without incident.

Small observation, but Lovie did the famous Jauron challenge on the Pick Six, which was surprisingly rubber-stamped by the announcers who said you have to challenge just because it was such a big play. You have to blindly hope for the best. Yeah, the guy almost stepped out of bounds, but he didn't. It's a waste of a timeout when what you really want to review is why (the hell) no Bears offensive player could bring the guy down for a straight 56-yard dash up the sideline.

Definitely saying this out of hindsight, but the review would have been better used on the next Grossman interception, where Bob Sanders picked it off, bounced off of Berrian then the ground, then got up and ran for 38 yards. Lovie would have won that one, but it had just become a moot point, because this severe underthrow to a wide-open and behind-the-defense Berrian was officially the end for the beloved Bears.

The Bears have nothing to be embarrassed about for the 2006 season, of course, but I'm sure they're very embarrassed by their performance last night. We got our asses whipped, gang.

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