I’ve stared at a blank page all day and I still have no idea what to write about the Bears 33-28 season-ending loss to the Packers. Sunday was a microcosm of the Bears season. There were flashes of greatness on offense, defensive failures on 3rd & 4th downs, questionable calls that all seemed to go against the Bears, horrendous punting, and dumb mistakes on defense that resulted in big plays for the opponent. I feel like that was a summary of over half of the Bears games this year.
It was a tough loss to digest with one of the most painful endings I can remember, but the only thing that makes me feel any better is that this Bears team wasn’t winning a Super Bowl this season with a bottom-3 defense and probably would have got smoked against the Niners next week. A loss helped out the Bears draft spot considerably (14th overall) and probably sealed the departure of Adam Podlesh and Chris Conte, my two least favorite Bears. I will try to keep my negativity at the appropriate level, but no promises.
Jay Cutler: It is unfair to blame this loss on Cutler and his 103.8 QBR Sunday. He wasn’t great on the Bears final drive, but wasn’t helped by a crucial Marshall drop or an O-line that couldn’t control a 3-man pass rush. For most of the game, Cutler played well and led the Bears to 28 points which should have been enough to win the game. He made some great throws and didn’t turn the ball over till a desperation heave on the last play of the game. I might be in the minority, but I really hope the Bears bring Cutler back for at least one more year if not a short multi-year contract (3-4 years tops). I’ll be posting my thoughts on Cutler in-depth later this week.
Chris Conte: Enough already! What does this guy have to do (or not do) for the coaching staff to realize Conte is a stiff? He actually made a couple of nice plays in the first half including an INT in the end-zone before reverting to his usual incompetent self in the 2nd half. Conte missed 3 tackles on the day and gave up the game winning 48-yard TD to Randall Cobb. I understand that the Bears had no one better on the roster this year, but that needs to be remedied before next season. He’s become a laughingstock on a national stage and is getting roasted on local radio. For his sake and ours, Conte needs to be in a different uniform next year; My guess is a CFL uniform.
Adam Podlesh: I have complained about Podlesh all year. The Bears brought in 4 punters to try out in week 4 and didn’t sign any of them. I bet they are regretting that now after Podlesh averaged a paltry 34.3 yards on 4 punts. That is pathetic. I guarantee there are 5 free agent punters out there who can average 40 yards per. The Bears bet that Podlesh would turn it around and they were wrong. Hopefully they learned their lesson and we don’t see Podlesh next year.
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Matt Forte: I was disappointed that Forte was left off of most 1st & 2nd team all-NFL lists in favor of DeMarco Murray. I hope those writers saw Forte’s 157 total yards and 3 TDs in the Bears biggest game of the season. In comparison, DeMarco Murray had 90 total yards and no TDs. Forte’s big day capped off his best season as a Bear and he should be primed for another one next year.
Missed tackles: The Bears missed 10 tackles on Sunday making it the 8th game this year with 10 or more missed tackles. The Bears had 6 games with 10 or more missed tackles during the entire Lovie Smith era. How does a defense go from one of the best tackling teams in the league to leading the league in missed tackles? Obviously injuries played a part, but some of the blame has to fall on DC Mel Tucker.
Mel Tucker: This season the Bears have given up the most points and yards in franchise history. If that’s not damning enough, they led the league in missed tackles and gave up a league worst 161.4 rushing yards per game. The 2nd to last ranked team (Atl) gave up 135.8 rushing ypg. Somebody has to pay the price for that level of gross incompetence and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be Tucker. Good riddance.
O-Line: Every Bears offensive lineman graded out positively on the day according to Pro Football Focus. That’s the first time all year that the Bears have accomplished that. The o-line stepped up in the Bears biggest game of the season which is even more impressive when you consider how badly they played the week before in Philly. It should be noted that Jordan Mills, who is the lowest graded Bears lineman for the season, only played three snaps before leaving with an injury. His replacement, Eben Britton, had a strong game (3.1) and has been very solid for the Bears this year filling in at guard and tackle when needed. I hope the Bears keep this group together for at least another year, while drafting a potential replacement for Garza who has played well but will be 35 next season.
D-Line: Corey Wooten and Peppers played OK. That’s the only decent thing I have to say about the Bears d-line performance on Sunday. Jeremiah Ratliff has been solid since he entered the starting lineup, but he played his worst game since joining the Bears. He was on the field for 70% of the Bears defensive snaps and didn’t record any QB sacks, hits, or hurries. McClellin was his usual terrible self with only 1 QB hurry in 62 snaps. Back-ups Paea, Cohen, and Bass combined for a grand total of 2 QB hurries and 1 tackle in 71 snaps. Ugh.
Zach Bowman: Well that hurt his free agent value. After three weeks of solid play as the Bears starting DB, Bowman was over-matched by the Packers WRs and gave up 10 catches for 98 yards. Over half of the yardage was given up to Jordy Nelson who made it looks very easy all day against Bowman. On the bright side, Bowman played so poorly it might result in a discount for the Bears if they want to re-sign Bowman in the off-season.
Devin Hester: If that was Hester’s last game in a Bears uniform, he went out in style. He started the game with a 39-yard kick return, had a 49-yard punt return, and put the Bears in a position for a game winning TD drive with a 29-yard kick return to the Bears 40 yard line. Hester isn’t the explosive weapon he used to be, but still finished 3rd in the NFL in average punt return yards and would have had two TD returns this season if one wasn’t called back due to a penalty. Hester is a free agent now and I think his asking price will determine if the Bears bring him back in 2014 or not. I hope they do, but only at a reasonable price for a decent return guy. If he wants “ridiculous” money, then the Bears would be better off finding a new return specialist.