A Hypothetical Playoff Fantasy and Other Bullets

PlayoffsMeme

I had my own recap up yesterday afternoon which covered a lot of my own thoughts on the crucial road win. The one thing I’ll tease you with as far as the Bears playoff hopes? By my admittedly amateurish calculations, if they beat Philadelphia next Sunday night, and then end up making the playoffs, they would be assured of the #3 seed in the NFC. They’d have the tiebreaker over both Philadelphia and Dallas, and as both teams lost yesterday (to the Vikings and Packers, respectively) neither team could finish ahead of Chicago at that point. To get way too far ahead of myself, I’ll note that the #3 seed likely means avoiding a trip to Seattle until at least the NFC Championship in this wonderful hypothetical fantasy land I’ve created for myself. It’s warm and cozy here. Feel free to join me.

  • Before the game started, reports from ESPN and FOX’s Jay Glazer (Glazer’s is video only, you can watch it here if you’d like) stated that some Bears players were not entirely on board with the decision to start the returning Jay Cutler. I don’t have a lot of patience for anonymous leaks, and I doubt the Bears coaching staff and management feel any differently. Furthermore, the idea that these defensive players have any room to criticize the performance of a teammate is the utmost in hypocrisy. Let’s remember when Jay Cutler is ripped for being a bad teammate that there were no offensive players talking to the press about how poorly the defense has played this season.
  • David Haugh of the Tribune checks in with a story on Cutler’s mental toughness in the face of both external and internal pressures. He also notes that after Cutler’s second interception, Jay finished the game 14/18 for 161 yards and 3 touchdowns. Impressive adjustment from the coaches and an impressive righting of the ship for Cutler. I’ve always liked Jay (if you want to know why, just check out the quarterback chart I posted yesterday) but early in his Chicago career it was fair to criticize his ability to overcome poor starts. Of course, when you consider what he had to work with (in the huddle and on the sideline) maybe that criticism really wasn’t so fair.
  • ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson brings us quotes from Brandon Marshall, who attributed Cutler’s early interceptions to rust. Which makes sense to me. He certainly seemed fine later in the game, and neither throw was a bad decision; the first was an attempt to throw it where only Marshall could get to it (unsuccessful) and the second was a throw that sailed over an open Marshall. Tough conditions, out for four weeks; I tend to give the guy a break on those. It’s the bad decisions that always bother me more. The last thing I worry about with Cutler is his ability to throw the ball.
  • With all the new offensive talent that Phil Emery has brought with him, it can be easy to lose sight of Earl Bennett. As Kevin Fishbain reminds us, that goes for opposing defenses as well. He caught 4 balls for 23 yards against Cleveland, including the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. I’ve always liked Earl; he has great hands, runs solid routes, and is another able blocker. It’s a luxury to have him as the Bears fifth option on offense, and it’s one I’m not sure they can afford to keep going forward, sadly. So let’s enjoy him while we can.
  • ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright writes that the Bears defense finally bailed out the offense. They certainly did play better football, and it was very nice to see a defensive touchdown. We fans were so spoiled by their incredible run of touchdowns last year.
  • CBS Chicago’s Adam Hoge notes that Jeremiah Ratliff turned in a strong performance Sunday, recording a tackle for loss and three quarterback hurries. His presence has seemingly had a stabilizing effect; perhaps the potential return of Lance Briggs can help as well? Hoge also lets us know that the Bears once again avoided a major injury, which is refreshing. 2-INT man Zach Bowman left the game at one point in the second half, but he was able to return.
  • The Tribune’s Brad Biggs wrote a nice piece on Tim Jennings, and how he managed to keep Josh Gordon in check. The NFL’s leading receiver finished with just 3 catches for 67 yards, with most of those on a late touchdown courtesy of a poor play from Chris Conte. (So, just a normal play from Chris Conte then, I guess.) Jennings has been a great find for the Bears. Living in Indiana, I get a ton of Colts games on CBS, and when I watched him play in Indy I was never a big fan. When the Bears signed him I was a bit skeptical, but his development since the start of 2012 has been very impressive. With Tillman out, he’s been drawing #1 assignments, and with the Bears running more pressure schemes due to a lackluster defensive line, he’s played solid coverage without much help. (Just last week, Dez Bryant finished with just 2 catches for 12 yards.) Credit where it’s due: a great find by the previous regime.
  • Finally, Dan Durkin of CBS Chicago has a great breakdown of the Bears usage of the crack toss play. They’ve used it in previous games, but I think Sunday was the first time they’d sent Alshon Jeffery in motion pre-snap, threatening an #AlshonEndAround before running the toss to the opposite side. They ran it twice, including a big first down that set up the Michael Bush 40-yard touchdown late in the game. Durkin notes that Aaron Kromer brought that concept with him from New Orleans, and it really utilizes a lot of the Bears strengths; athletic tackles, tremendous blocking receivers, and a running back who can read and cut as well as anyone in the game. Jeffery himself had only one carry on an end-around, for a loss of three yards; defenses have obviously wised up to the fact that the Bears are going to run it. But by showing that commitment to the play, Trestman and Kromer are able to use it to catch defenses who are too eager to blow it up, leading to the effectiveness of the toss play. A great new wrinkle, and a perfect example of how this offensive coaching staff is able to creatively make adjustments to outsmart opponents. We have smart offensive coaches, everyone! I don’t know what to do with myself.

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.

35 responses to “A Hypothetical Playoff Fantasy and Other Bullets”

  1. jh03

    I haven’t heard anything since his injury, but *if* the Bears were to make the playoffs would Tillman be able to return? I’m fairly certain he’ll be eligible to return, right? So would he be healthy enough?

    1. JulioZuleta

      I really don’t know that we would want him back. He was really bad this year. He took lots of risks and got a few INTs put of it, but he was burned so many times. He aged quite a bit in one year. I don’t think it’s entirely a coincidence that the defense has been a little better without him lately. Briggs, on the other hand, we need back ASAP.

      1. jh03

        I disagree, but I’m no football scout. I still feel like Tillman is the Bears best chance at shutting down a reciever like Calvin. He’s big and physcial. Tim Jennings would get eaten alive by Calvin because of size alone. But, I’ve been wrong before.

        1. frank

          I agree–Tillman’s still the best corner they have. He hasn’t been fully healthy all year. But he’s probably also a better safety at this point in his career.

      2. ssckelley

        If the Bears did make the playoffs the likely opponent would be Arizona and I would want Tillman against Fitzgerald. Tillman is still a damn good corner, the only issue with him is keeping himself healthy.

        1. JulioZuleta

          Maybe it was due to injury early in the year, but Tillman was really, really bad this year. His best bet at prolonging his career is probably moving to safety somewhere. His cover skills just looks too diminished at this point. Regardless, probably not the Bears’ concern anymore, there’s a very small chance that we never seem him in the Blue and Orange again (which is kind of sad).

          1. ssckelley

            A move to safety would be great and it would better utilize his tackling abilities along with punching the ball out of ball carriers grips. But there is not anyone better at covering Calvin Johnson better than Peanut.

            1. JulioZuleta

              The Bears have covered Calvin well. Some of that no doubt was Tillman, a lot was scheme.

            2. JulioZuleta

              Just looked it up. In 13 career games against the Bears Johnson has 63 catches for 928 yards and 7 TDs. Those are still pretty dang good receiving numbers, but definitely a little below his career averages. Also, only 2 career 100 yard games vs. CHI.

              1. jh03

                It’s not possible to stop Calvin, though lol. I think the Bears, and Tillman, have done a good job at limiting him.

                1. jh03

                  I effed up my grammar there. Pay no attention to the idiot.

                2. JulioZuleta

                  No argument there. They’ve certainly done a better job than most.

              2. ssckelley

                If I am not mistaken I believe a couple of Calvins better games against the Bears was with Tillman out of the lineup.

                1. JB88

                  Tillman used to do a great job on Randy Moss also. I still remember Tillman’s rookie season when he pulled a TD out of Moss’s hands, one handed, just ripping it out of Moss’s grip. Tillman was underappreciated for far too long and now probably doesn’t have the speed/health to be a shut down corner. Too bad.

  2. JulioZuleta

    “When you consider what he had to work with (in the huddle and on the sideline) maybe that criticism really wasn’t so fair.”

    Are you implying that Mike Tice and Mike Martz aren’t superior offensive minds? Or that Gabe Carimi, Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale, and J’Marcus Webb weren’t O-line stalwarts? Or that Devin Hester, Roy WIlliams and Kellen Davis weren’t elite receiving targets?

    Preposterous!

    But really, when I type out all those name, it’s actually pretty unbelievable that he was as good as he was the last few years with that group. Just ridiculous. (Just FYI, Gabe Carimi is probably my least favorite Bear of all time. I know some scouts had a first round grade on him, but that was laughable. I watched every one of his game the last 2 years at Wisconsin and could clearly tell he didn’t have the footwork to start in the NFL. I also would see him out at the UW bars with his best friend, and 15th string Badger QB, Nate Tice (Mike’s son). I was furious when they picked him, and it still gets me going a little bit now. *End rant*)

    1. ssckelley

      Funny you bring up Gabe, after the Bears picked him I even had Badger fans telling me he was a long shot to make it in the NFL. They all said he had the size but poor work ethics and I have heard the poor footwork from a few of them as well. I find it odd how college football fans can say that about a player but pro football scouts see something else.

      1. JulioZuleta

        When there were reports of teams giving him a first round grade, I just figured the reports were wrong. When ESPN “experts” (Mel Kiper) gave him a first round grade, I just brushed it off as being ESPN. There was nothing about him that said “first rounder.” I’m a fairly knowledgeable football fan. I coached for four years with some pretty good talent evaluators and learned a lot, but I’m no expert. I was stunned that a team took him in the first round. Part of me wonders if he didn’t have the Tice connection, and the Bears didn’t pick him, if he would have fallen to the late second or third. I said it back then when he was a senior at UW, he was at best the 3rd best OL on the Badgers.

        1. ssckelley

          Weird, that was exactly what a Badger friend of mine said about him. That he was the 3rd best lineman on the team.

          1. JulioZuleta

            Yeah it seemed pretty clear to me. He was the last in a long line of laughable Angelo first-rounders. When you draft a guy as a Tackle in the first round, and then he can’t even adequately play guard…that’s just terrible scouting. I was 22 years old, sitting 500 feet away in the student section, normally with a pretty substantial buzz going on, and despite all that, and could still see that he wasn’t an NFL player. (I didn’t go to UW, my girlfriend did, I visited her pretty much every weekend, at least when there was a home game. I played with Scott Tolzien growing up, so I liked to go watch him when I could.)

    2. Funn Dave

      Aww. I went to high school with Gabe; he’s a really great guy. He was a bit overranked but I thought that if he hadn’t gotten injured he might have developed ok. I didn’t watch him much in college so I can’t really speak to how nfl-ready his skill set was, but one thing I can say for certain is that he has never for a second lacked in work ethic. He always excelled at both school and sports because he put in the time and he gave it his all.

  3. JB88

    I still wonder how good the Bears could have been if they fired Lovie and Angelo after the 2010 season. That defense was stellar, they had Cutler on board, and, as we’ve seen, it didn’t take a ton to fix the offense. Cutler, Forte, and Olsen would have been a decent enough nucleus to build an offense around.

    *Sigh* But alas it was not to be and now we have an actual offense, but a defense that is as long in the tooth as a saber tooth tiger.

    1. ssckelley

      I could not agree more, the Bears wasted some very good defenses by not getting decent coordinators and players for the offense. You put that 2010 defense with this offense and the Bears could win the Super Bowl.

  4. Serious Bears Fan

    Tillman seems to be out for the year with the tricep injury. Wouldn’t even play if we made the playoffs
    http://espn.go.com/chicago/nfl/story/_/id/10147631/charles-tillman-chicago-bears-not-return-season

    1. Serious Bears Fan

      I’ve heard and read from many that there is no chance he coming back. Anyone think he’ll come back on a cheap team friendly deal for the bears?

      1. frank

        From what I’ve heard on radio interviews, he doesn’t sound like he’s ready for retirement. I think it’s possible he’ll come back, but I also don’t think they’ll offer him the kind of money he’s making now.

      2. ssckelley

        I sure hope not, I like the idea of him giving safety a try. He is one of the best I have seen at creating fumbles and he has a good nose for where the ball is going.

        1. J. F. Edwards

          Tillman would be the best safety in football. He knows how to play secondary, at any spot, hands down. And the football punch? It works at safety, corner, nickel or dime. Put him back there anywhere and see what happens. I love Tillman.

  5. frank

    Glazer’s full of crap. Who’d he speak to? He makes it sound like he spoke to everyone from Virginia McCaskey on down–he probably spoke to the guy they hired to plow the snow from the Halas Hall driveway. And Jay, you’re absolutely right–for anyone on that historically bad defense to complain about any teammate’s performance is ludicrous.

  6. J. F. Edwards

    My biggest issue was that I got the sense Jay plays his favorites and he went to Marshall when he shouldn’t have. Jeffrey was not locked down by Haden for most of the game, and Haden even left for injury. And what was the turning point? A TD PASS TO JEFFREY.

    The reason players love McCown? He knows the secret that Montana, Manning, Rodgers and Brady know: the best receiver on your team is the guy that gets open, and the guy that catches the ball.

    If Cutler spreads the wealth, this team has the weapons to put up points. If he doesn’t find the open guy, the guy McCown found, then the defense and every fan has a right to say Cutler deserves no contract.

    Trust Trestman. Pay McCown. Draft Talent. See what happens.

    I love Cutler but he has to hit the open man, not just his favorite…