Posted by Matt Clapp | 11/20/2012 06:28:00 PM | Gabe Carimi, J'Marcus Webb, Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler, Lovie Smith, Mike Tice, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers
Awful, awful, awful. Just absofreakinglutely awful and embarrassing. Every single thing about that game from the Bears. Offense, defense, the entire coaching staff. Even on special teams, we saw Devin Hester running the wrong direction most of the time. Not a single damn positive across the board. Not one. The scoreboard said 32-7 at the end of the game, but it certainly felt like the score was about 32,000-0. I've never been so embarrassed by the overall effort of a Bears team than I was last night, and the fact it came from a veteran, highly prideful Bears team, was particularly astonishing.
On offense, the offensive line was a disaster, something we've become all too used to. Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb continued their spot-on imitations of turnstiles. The result was 5.5 sacks for the 49ers' Aldon Smith, which 1.5 more sacks than a player has ever gotten against the Chicago Bears in a single game (Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had four sacks for the Packers against the Bears in January 2005).
Brad Biggs shared his thoughts about the offensive line today on ChicagoTribune.Com:
It’s not a scheme issue. What the Bears have is a talent deficiency and this is a deep-rooted problem that goes back to the early years of Jerry Angelo’s administration. I’ve written time and time again how the Bears ignored the offensive line in the draft and therefore had no young players in the system. When Angelo made an effort to get one in 2008, he went bust with Chris Williams, now an ex-Bear. This isn’t a new problem and those who want to cast blame on offensive coordinator Mike Tice need to take a long look at the man who bears ultimate responsibility for the offense: Lovie Smith. But ultimately, what the Bears have here is a personnel issue on the offensive line, one that can be a surprise to positively no one, new general manager Phil Emery included. There is no quick solution and that is the answer no one wants to accept.
I'll admit that I was perhaps too optimistic, or even naive about the Bears' offensive line coming into the season, and maybe Phil Emery was as well.
Even so, there didn't appear to be any clear solutions out there on the free-agent market, and the same was the case in the draft. And everybody agreed that unless a premier tackle were available (and they're almost always not when you get out of the top 10 picks), a pass-rushing defensive end was the team's top need, and they indeed drafted one in Shea McClellin. Offensive tackle Riley Reiff was available, but there were question marks about his ability in pass protection, particularly due to short arms. In the second round, the team traded up to get Alshon Jeffery, and certainly nobody is complaining about that decision. And without Jeffery, the wide receiving corps overall doesn't look all that much better than the offensive line (especially once opposing defensive coordinators finally realized just how much the Bears rely on Brandon Marshall in the passing game).
Furthermore, a first round pick had just been used by Jerry Angelo in 2011 to select Gabe Carimi, and there were high hopes for Carimi as the starting right tackle this season, after his rookie campaign was cut short in week two due to a knee injury. I don't think anybody could've seen him being quite as terrible as he's been in pass protection this season.
Tthe biggest difference I thought would come from Mike Tice replacing Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. I thought the focus on pass protection and far less seven-step drops from the quarterback would make a world of difference. But you know what? The pass protection has been every bit as awful, and maybe even worse. So, clearly, it's not a scheme issue as Biggs said. It's a group of offensive linemen that is going to be crappy in pass protection no matter the scheme. In the upcoming offseason, Emery must address the offensive line. And do the same in the 2014 offseason. It's going to take multiple years to get the Bears' offensive line to even an average group in pass-protection. That's how far Angelo set them back.
And offensive line wasn't the only facepalm-inducing part of the offense on Monday. The quarterback position for the Bears wasn't much better. Yes, the offensive line didn't give Jason Campbell much help, but even when he did get enough time to throw the ball, he either held onto the ball too long, turned the ball over, etc. He finished with a quarterback rating of 52.7, and averaged 4.9 yards per completion. I expected a much better performance out of him, and while he's still significantly better than Caleb Hanie, it's clear the Bears are going to need Jay Cutler back as soon as possible if they want any hopes of making the playoffs. Right now, there's not a single game I'd pick the Bears to win the rest of the season with Campbell as the starting quarterback behind this offensive line.
The running game stunk. The receivers weren't able to get separation and make big plays. Just garbage every which way you looked on the offense.
And what's unbelievable is the defense was every bit as bad, and maybe even worse. Yes, the defense that leads the league in takeaways and was putting up once-in-a-decade (I'm talking the entire NFL) statistics in some categories, was nothing short of terrible on Monday night. Missed tackles everywhere, awful coverage in the secondary, little pass-rush up from the front four, looking confused and out of place all night, etc, etc. All of this against a quarterback making his first career start (and to be fair, Colin Kaepernick made some incredible throws). It was absolutely stunning. I would've never guessed the Bears would lose this game in large part due to their usually superb defense playing like the Tennessee Titans' unit.
Now, even with how pathetic the team looked on Monday night, and coming off two straight losses, should it be "THE SKY IS FALLING!", "SEASON'S OVER" mode already? Hell no. This team is still 7-3, and keep in mind their two losses came with Cutler absent for one and a half of those games (although even if he played on Monday night, they would've still gotten their asses kicked). They're tied for the NFC North lead with the Packers, and still get a chance to beat the Packers at Soldier Field, which would also wipe out the head-to-head tiebreaker scenario for deciding the division champion. They're also tied for the third-best record in the NFC.
And I don't expect the Bears' defense to play another game anywhere near as badly as they did against the 49ers. They've been good-to-spectacular in all of the previous nine games played, and it's a group with too much pride to let themselves have such a disappointing performance like that again.
Offensively, the talent is there, and even when the team was 7-1, it felt like they were nowhere close to peaking yet on offense. Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester (if only used as a deep threat and gimmicky wide receiver)... that sure sounds like an awesome group in 'Madden', and should be at least a decently-productive one in real life.
The problem is that the offense is only looking worse now, rather than making the improvements we expected to see. And when it comes to the offensive line, who knows if they're even capable of playing much better? If your offensive line can't block, it doesn't matter if you have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Calvin Johnson at wide receiver, Jimmy Graham at tight end, etc. Sorry to break the news, but J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi aren't going to transform into above-average offensive tackles anytime soon.
It's going to be up to Tice to make the necessary adjustments on offense to at least somewhat mask the pass-protection issues. Bring an extra man in protection, get Cutler out of the pocket, more, etc. Most importantly, establish the running game, something he hasn't tried to do enough in my opinion.
It's all very possible, and again, the Bears are still in solid position to at least make the playoffs at 7-3, assuming Cutler is good to go for the remaining games. How the Bears play on Sunday against the Vikings in response to the Monday night embarrassment will tell us a lot about the team. But until then, this is going to be an infuriating feeling for Bears fans.
Let's just hope the feeling isn't even worse when Sunday evening comes along.
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