Sorry to break it to you, but that all happened. It wasn’t a horrible dream. The Bears really did lose that game.
Through a series of self-destructive events, the Bears managed to beat both the Vikings and the Metrodome itself in what appeared to be a race to implosion, falling 23-20 in their final visit to the Hubert H. Humphrey House of Horrors. The loss leaves the Bears a game behind the Lions for first place in the NFC North, although considering Detroit owns the tiebreaker, it’s effectively a two-game deficit. There’s a lot to get to (including a few bright spots, like the man in the picture there breaking his own franchise record for single-game receiving yards) so let’s jump right in.
- Much of the focus afterward has centered around Marc Trestman’s decision to attempt a 47-yard field goal with 4:07 left in overtime. The point of contention: he ordered the attempt on second down. Gould missed just wide of the right upright, the Vikings took possession and promptly drove down for their own game-winning field goal attempt, which Blair Walsh converted. Kicking on second down from that far away is obviously a cautious move; it was even more curious when you consider that in the plays leading up to the miss, the Bears had been running it with ease. Matt Forte had run for 24 yards on five carries, and I had hoped the Bears would continue to run it until they either had to kick or Forte crossed the goal line. (Judging by my Twitter feed, I wasn’t alone in my desire.) We have all week to analyze this particular decision (along with many others) and I plan on doing so in a separate post. In the meantime, I’m guessing many of you will be venting your frustrations below.
- For an idea as to just how violently the pendulum swung, check out this win probability graph from Advanced NFL Stats. I just glanced at it again, and now I’m having some trauma flashbacks. I might need to lie down.
- An up and down day for Robbie Gould, although in this case the “up” should linger a lot longer than the “down” as he and his wife welcomed their first child early this morning. On the field, Gould actually missed two field goals, one being a desperation 66-yard attempt at the end of regulation that would have set the NFL record for longest field goal. Based on his quotes after the game, he obviously took the loss very hard, but he has bailed out the Bears so many times over so many seasons that I can’t exactly be mad at him. They never should have been in a position that required him to make a game-winning field goal in the first place. There was more than enough blame to go around.
- Starting with the Bears woeful rush defense. As detailed by Rick Telander in this piece for the Sun-Times (beware a random video that starts after a few minutes), Adrian Peterson rushed for 211 yards on 35 carries, while wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson chipped in two runs for 27 yards and a touchdown. The Bears now sit dead last in the league for rushing yards allowed per game and per attempt, giving up 145.2 and 4.9 in those respective categories. On the season, they’ve allowed 1597 yards on the ground; for perspective, that’s just 30 shy of the 1627 they allowed ALL of last season, and the Bears have four games left on the schedule. If you’re trying to understand how the Bears could go from a top defense to one of the worst in one year, that’s a pretty good place to start. Outside of Jay Cutler, every single one of the Bears myriad impactful injuries has occurred on the defensive side of the ball, with a heavy focus on the interior. If teams can succeed against the Bears with a 1920′s single-wing offense, they’re not going to win very many games. The pass defense wasn’t necessarily better, allowing substitute Matt Cassel to throw for 243 yards and a touchdown. But considering the numbers the Bears were forced to commit to run-stoppage, it’s not surprising there was space in the secondary. Bright spot defensively: the play of Julius Peppers, who recorded 2.5 sacks, eight tackles, and a pass deflection while popping up all over the field. It was a vintage Peppers performance, and he has really come on strong of late following a slow start to the season; his strong finish could make for a very interesting salary cap decision this offseason.
- Midseason free-agent signing Jeremiah Ratliff debuted at defensive tackle; he was credited with one tackle. The Bears hope that he can stay healthy and stabilize the defensive line, which is a lot to ask of a player that hadn’t played in more than a year. But if his mere presence can trigger a positive chain reaction, it would certainly help. As noted above, it’s not like things can get worse.
- Especially if the offense doesn’t bail them out. The underlying numbers for the Bears offense were impressive as they totaled 480 yards. Matt Forte ran for 120 en route to 151 all-purpose yards, and Josh McCown had another nice line, going 23/36 for 355, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. But I think the holes are starting to show a bit on McCown. He may not have thrown an interception, and he’s still performing like an NFL starter, not a backup quarterback. But no matter how often Thom Brennaman tells me that there’s a brewing quarterback controversy, I just don’t see it. The Bears made it to the red zone once, and they failed to convert while there; 480 yards of offense doesn’t mean that much when you only manage 20 points. That’s not all on Josh, of course. But he also made one of the ugliest decisions this side of Bad Eli Manning; leading 20-17 at their own 19 yard-line, McCown stepped up in the pocket before being hit low. On his way to the ground, he attempted what I’ll charitably describe as an ill-advised flip pass to Matt Forte (writer Andy Glockner was less charitable on Twitter) that was easily batted back by a defender to poor, unfortunate Kyle Long, who snatched it and attempted to make something happen. (As would all of us, if we were offensive linemen. Moments of glory are few and far between.) Long’s instinctual play ended up costing the Bears when he fumbled on his way to the ground, giving the Vikings excellent field position they would then waste with a Matt Cassel interception. That was the sort of mental error that McCown hadn’t made since he was forced into action. I’m happy for McCown, who by all accounts is a great guy. But give me a healthy Cutler.
- We’ll close with the biggest bright spot, by far: the play of Alshon Jeffery. Not Alshon Jefferies. Please stop calling him that, broadcasters who are paid massive sums of money to talk about football players for a living. There’s no “s” at the end. (This has obviously bothered me for some time, to the point that I can’t not hear it. I’m apparently not the only one who’s noticed.) Alshon caught 12 balls for 249 yards and two touchdowns, breaking the previous Bears single-game receiving record of 212 yards that had previously been held by…Alshon Jeffery, set earlier this season against the Saints. I said on Twitter that he might be a top-ten NFL receiver, and that was BEFORE he made his ridiculous second touchdown catch, one of the most impressive plays I’ve seen a Bear make. (GIF and video of said catch can be found here.) Later in the week I’ll have a longer post on Alshon’s amazing day and development, but suffice to say, he was an absolute steal of a second-round draft pick.
Much like opposing backs, we’re off and running here on the football side of Bleacher Nation. I’m looking forward to the discussion.