Fourteen games in, a 5-9 record, and 1-4 in the division. But things are looking up. The Bears lone division win came in green bay, and guess who’s coming to visit?
It’s virtually impossible to come away from last Monday’s game with anything positive, so I’m not even going to try. But there were several things worth pointing out.
The Bears had two drives for field goals in the first half that started in Minnesota territory, at their 14 and 43. On each of those drives they managed to get flagged twice, including three false starts and an illegal substitution penalty on 4th and one that ESPN’s Mike Tirico deemed “unspeakable.” This may have been the first time that word was used during a football broadcast, but it was sadly appropriate. And later in the game we found out why the Bears can’t seem to get off a play when it’s crunch time.
When the TV camera showed Ron Turner in the booth, you could see a small box in front of him with two or three blinking lights. It looked like something Inspector Dreyfus might have used in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. That box has to be the Auto-Suck machine. It has to. Turner accidentally presses a button and it sends a jolt to Fred Miller, Roberto Garza or John St. Clair, causing them to jump the snap count, or it activates some sort of electromagnet in the Bears huddle, pulling in that twelfth man. Bam! Five yard penalty, repeat the down.
This stuff reminds me of the days when Neill Armstrong was running the team and they’d routinely get two or three delay of game penalties a week. Figuring out when the ball is snapped in a hostile environment should be easy. Jim Miller described the process on the postgame show – you walk up to the center, pat him on the behind, and the center snaps the ball when he’s ready. Everybody else on the line should be watching the ball. Fundamental. Does anybody on the Bears’ staff know this?
Of course, a successful center snap exchange requires a center who can manage the task. This year we’ve seen three quarterbacks have trouble. Grossman and Griese each suffered fumbles pulling away from center, and Kreutz’s direct snaps to Orton looked like he expected Mini-Me to be back there catching the ball. Am I the only guy who noticed better than half the shotgun snaps were heading for Orton’s shins? One of those wound up on the ground, and on the rest Orton was looking down for the ball instead of scanning the coverage and trying to figure out where to deliver the ball. What’s Hawaiian for “My bad?”
Not that Orton was looking too far. Without an offensive line that can block for the run or a running back who can make someone miss or break a tackle, the defensive line could just set their starting blocks and tee off. It’s doubtful Orton was looking beyond the quick slant or out. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think he threw anything longer than 20 yards all night, other than the interception on the Bears’ last play.
And you watch, Ron Turner and his Auto-Suck box will take the fall for this year’s pathetic offensive showing. It doesn’t matter that the offensive line has been crumbling without reinforcement since late last year, and only a couple of meaningless late season games allowed them to survive the postseason, or that they handed the starting running back job to a guy who couldn’t be bothered to participate in the full offseason program while sending the true warrior packing, or that their wide receivers have the concentration of a jeeped up six-year-old on Halloween, or that their country club training camp had all the urgency of 19th hole drinks. Turner will be the scapegoat, and Lovie will spend the next year with a new flunky, the offensive version of Bob Babich, installing a new Bears offense while the rest of the division’s defensive squads use them as pińatas. Kind of like smurf running back Garrett Wolfe (or was that Garrett Morris?) being fed to the Vikings twin 310+ pound Pro Bowl tackles on first and ten from the Bears three. Who the hell made that brilliant substitution and call?
While they’re making Turner do the dismissed coach perp walk, they might want to think about hiring somebody to coach their players on how to deal with the media. Get some elocution lessons for Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester while they’re at it, and maybe convince Gillette to sponsor Kyle Orton’s post game press conference, too. Mojo observed he looks like he could be sued for kid support by a goat.
There were a few good things to come out of the Rollerdome. We finally saw the return of Nathan Vasher, who made his presence felt with an interception and another hit that forced a Brian Urlacher pick on the Vikings first possession. And Urlacher had another one of his monster games on national TV. Hepcat pointed out a pair of sacks on a couple of good old-fashioned “red dogs,” and he had a fumble recovery to go along with that interception, but somebody should have told Urlacher that the Pro Bowl ballots had already been tallied and if he wanted to take one of his Rush Street Floozies along to Hawaii he was going to have to foot the bill for both tickets. Maybe she’ll save him the cost of a limo and conveniently meet him at the Hinsdale Oasis.
On the bright side, the defensive resurgence isn’t coming a moment too soon, with our bitter foes arriving this week in dire need of a win in their attempt to wrest the number one seed in the conference away from the Cowboys. And there’s trouble in Dallas, with T.O. telling Jessica Simpson to stay away from Tony Romo, sore thumb and all, because she’s ruining his focus.
I wonder if Donald Driver has ever thought to have that same conversation with Deanna?
Happy packer week, indeed.