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When Detroit defensive back Kenoy Kennedy embarked on an ill-advised interception return (instead of just taking a touchback, he left the end zone and was almost immediately tackled well inside the 10) during Sunday's first half, my cousin Carmen noted reassuringly "There's the Lions being the Lions."
That used to be such a satisfying put-down. But it's officially out the window, at least around here. On the other hand I would imagine fans of the visiting team were having a grand old time identifying all those "Bears being Bears" sequences during Sunday's debacle.
Sunday's game began so promisingly. For one thing, it was a beautiful fall day at Soldier Field and the Bears' bright orange uni's were just about screaming "Happy Halloween" (just the thing for the Bear fan who already has all manner of midnight blue and white Urlacher jerseys). For another, viewers quickly realized we would not be subjected to know-nothing Fox analyst Brian Baldinger for a third consecutive week.
One of the toughest things about the Bears' slow start this season has been watching the team fall down the broadcast pecking order. Where last year we regularly heard from top analysts like Troy Aikman and, on the rare occasions the Bears appeared on CBS, Phil Simms (both of whom quarterbacked teams to Super Bowl championships and clearly do so much more prep work, like memorizing the rule book, than scrubs like Baldinger), now we're getting deep into the depth chart.
Actually, the Bears moved up on Sunday, to veteran play-by-play man Sam Rosen and analyst and former Bear D-lineman Tim Ryan (he was with the team during the era known as the Fall of Ditka, 1990-92; 1993 was his final season). And it was a solid broadcast, although I must say I wasn't quite as tuned in as I usually am (I had Carmen providing color in my own house after all).
The pre-game promise didn't last long. The Lions made a field goal (thanks in largest part to the Bear safeties combining to draw a well-deserved, almost 50-yard pass interference penalty) and the Bears missed one. Kennedy soon grabbed that aforementioned Brian Griese pass (the first of four brutal interceptions - and even worse, he almost got Devin Hester killed with a high pass between murderous defenders late in the fourth quarter) and off we went. What a fun drive followed the initial Lion pick and dimwitted return. Rather than make the Lions pay for Kennedy's mistake, the Bears essentially escorted their visitors from Michigan 93 yards, the only extended touchdown march of the day.
* Many more examples of Urlacher's inability to shed blockers - ever. The guy is one of the great all-time linebackers . . . in pass coverage. His back may be barking but he doesn't make many plays in the trenches even in the best of times. And apparently he spent last week pouting because assessments of his play haven't been universally positive so far this season. That's more than a little lame, even for Chicago's Great White Hope.
* Several shots of Detroit head coach Rod Marinelli moving slowly up and down the sideline. Marinelli is the picture of a former tough-guy player - he has no cartilage in his hips or his knees and he has multiple hitches in his giddy-up, to say the least. On the other hand, you get the feeling he's just the kind of guy that players respect - big time. And nobody knows that better than close friend Lovie Smith, who tried, a couple times, to hire him as his defensive coordinator.
* A particularly infuriating sequence toward the end of the half during which Griese scrambled and then slid to the turf, untouched, a yard-plus short of a critical first down. He then compounded his mistake by calling a timeout, giving the Lions plenty of extra time to mount the last-minute drive they turned into Jason Hanson's bank-shot, 52-yard field goal.
* The Lions wasted their first timeout only four minutes into the third quarter. This always befuddles me. Why waste a timeout early in the third quarter on first-and-10? Wouldn't it make more sense to simply accept a delay penalty and a first-and-15 rather than give up a precious timeout? I'm still waiting for an analyst to suggest this.
* A long walk for a fat man. At the end of a deflating Lions drive sparked by a huge Kevin Jones gain on the first freaking play from scrimmage after Greg Olsen caught Griese's touchdown pass, Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams (listed at 300 pounds on the Bears roster but I'm guessing slightly heavier) makes a big play to stuff Jones on the last play of the third quarter. In so doing he sets himself up for the longest walk - the one from one one-yard-line to the other (as the teams switch sides) to start the final 15 minutes.
* The Lions would soon make a brutally dumb decision to go for it on fourth down down there (instead of kicking the chip-shot field goal that would give them the critical nine-point, i.e. two-score, lead), but again not pay for it. This time it's because Tommie Harris commits the stupidest penalty of the day - encroachment on fourth-and-one - to give them another chance. Even after that they still end up kicking the field goal.
* With 2:45 remaining, knowing the Lions punter has been told if he doesn't kick the ball out of bounds he will be cut (and Fox Sports, the next time you want to make light of a Marinelli quote about kicking the ball into the Lake Michigan, one shot of a ball bobbing in the local surf will be quite enough), the Bears still declined to send anyone to try to block a Lion punt. Sure, Hester has provided the two most significant highlights of the day (his first-quarter kickoff return and third-quarter punt return), but as expected, the punt flies high and far over the sideline. Soon enough Griese fires one final interception, the final score is 16-7, and that's all they broadcast.
And so the Bears officially take up residence way behind the eight-ball (and the Lions and Packers) for what should be an excruciating bye week. Their chances of making the playoffs are now about the same as mine of making a double-banker after several pints at The Map Room - or even before the pints. You won't catch me denigrating their shot at the postseason any more than that, though. At least not until they suffer a ninth loss.
For one thing, I believe most of the teams in the weak NFC will back up to right around .500 before the end of the regular season. And I always wonder about the purveyors of doom such as that certain columnist at the local tabloid who already announced the end of the Lovie Smith Super Bowl era. If that's the case, why keep bothering to buy the sports pages on Monday, big guy?
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