The flags were flying and the South Lot was its usual boisterous self on another perfect opening day, with our gracious hosts Bruce and Jim throwing down a veritable smorgasbord of homemade entrees that would have made any veteran tailgater envious. Of special note was the grilled chicken breast with Gouda, served on a ciabatta slathered with a garlic pesto aioli, as well as the grilled Cajun andouille appetizers. Allegedly they also phoned Trotterís To Go to see if he had any Brad Maynard Tender Groin for the group, but it turned out that was a hot selling item now that itís back on the menu. In any event the food was awfully good, and a great way to kick off the home dance card.
Unfortunately, we were only treated to half a game afterward, as the defense was stout and special teams stellar while the offense once again failed to show up. The excuse last week was that the Bears were up against the vaunted Chargers defense, but they were exposed by New England to the tune of 38 points tonight.
Itís kind of strange to walk out of Soldier Field with a win and feel deflated, but somehow the Bears managed to inflict that emotion on us this afternoon. If this keeps up, the D is going to run out of gas well before December, and weíll be left to reminisce about what might have been in 2006 had Tommie Harris been healthy for the Super Bowl.
We can look on the bright side and point out that Cedric Benson managed to top 100 yards with a 4.2 average, but thatís about all I can come up with when the Bears had the ball. That, and their first offensive touchdown of the season, scored by a tackle no less. What happened to all those skill position players?
So whatís wrong? Did Ron Turner call another conservative game? Iím starting to wonder, because I canít believe that the imagination he showed in his first go around has suddenly vanished. My guess is heís sending in plays with options that these guys canít execute.
Like a Rex Grossman screen pass to Garrett Wolfe, who had a wall of blockers in front of him, floating over everybody and directly into the hands of the Chiefsí Nate Harris. Grossmanís other interception was vintage as well, when he locked onto Rashied Davis coming over a clogged short middle and instead threw it to a waiting Donnie Edwards, sitting on the pattern. And he should have had a third pick when he underthrew Bernard Berrian into triple coverage at the end of the first half. Grossman was having a solid game up until that throw, but he was a train Wrecks after that point. Is that all it takes to push him off the rails?
Also, Iím tired of watching Grossman try to ďevadeĒ the rush. More often than not he steps back instead of up, right into the arms of a defensive end whoís finally getting around one of our tackles. Two of his three sacks happened that way today.
Another sore spot is the way he tosses balls into the flat. Hasnít Pep Hamilton taught him to throw the ball to the upfield shoulder of the receiver? Shouldn't he have learned that in Bloomington? On one throw Grossman had Jason McKie twisted into a pretzel, to the point that he probably would have lost yards had he caught the overthrown pass. Why is he in there if he canít handle a simple dump off?
Grossmanís line: 20/34, 160 yards, 1TD, 2INT, and a 56.0 rating. I guess thatís considered improvement when last week he posted a 53.7, but at this rate he wonít reach 90 before January, which isnít going to happen putting up 200+ yards of offense each week. Itís time for Lovie to split reps with the first team during practice, and every week for that matter. Brian Griese deserves a chance to see if he can find somebody downfield and keep it away from the guys in the other color jerseys.†
To be fair, it doesnít help Grossman when Davis and Muhsin Muhammad are dropping balls that hit them in their hands. Isnít Muhammad supposed to be their possession receiver? Iíve seen enough of his ďveteran leadership.Ē Start the tally now on Moose droppings because it looks like heís picked up (dropped off?) right where he finished last year, and if thatís the case, why not give Mark Bradley a shot opposite Berrian? Use Bradley until he breaks again and maybe youíll find out he can play. He showed he had the tools before he went down against the Lions as a rookie.
And while theyíre at it, consider reducing the role of Devin Hester in the offense. I know the thought is they need to get him more touches, but heís going to get killed with this Keystone Kops show. Iíd like to turn the old adage that you donít risk starters as return men on its head, because losing Hesterís return ability on this inept offense would be devastating defensively and in the field position game.
Benson had his hundred, but I canít help but think he would have had close to 160 had he had any kind of help from the offensive line. Itís early days, but the fear here is that the oldest line in the NFL is showing its age in game two, and if thatís true itís going to make for a very long year. Itís no comfort to say Jerry Angelo has nobody to blame but himself for that. Angelo better hope Josh Beekman can play, because he has completely neglected the offensive line while building one of the best defenses in the NFL. I guess thatís a good thing, because weíre going to get to watch that D play about 40 minutes a game if this keeps up.
Mojo summed it up well by deeming the victory unworthy of the cigar he traditionally lights after a win, keeping it tucked in its container for another day. Perhaps thatíll come at home next week against the 2-0 Cowboys, who sit atop the NFC with the resurgent (?!) 49ers, Lions and dreaded cheese. I knew the stinkkšse won because the wife remembered to turn on the lights in front of the house this evening, as sure a sign as any that the packers were victorious in their swamp tilt earlier.
Oh, thereís one more thing on the bright side. With their 1-1 record, the Bears are a game behind the Cowboys in the NFC standings. It may only be week three, but itís never too early to consider conference tiebreakers and the first one is head-to-head. So the Bears face a must-win on their own national stage this Sunday night, and with a victory theyíll be one step closer to sitting atop the conference. On the other hand, if they lose, thereís virtually no chance the conference championship game will return to Soldier Field in January.
So be happy. In a week either the Bears will be back on top, or you can look forward to your playoff money refund hitting the mail just about the time when those Christmas bills come rolling in.