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SportsMonday: Bears Burial

By Jim Coffman

Good quarterbacks kick Lovie's ass.

It doesn't help that Tommie Harris is the stupidest player in the NFL. And that just as Hunter Hillenmeyer was settling back into the middle linebacker spot he re-injured his ribs during the first Cardinal drive (he came back after some time on the sideline and was ineffective).

Ofman:
  • Blame Lovie

  • But just as Cincinnati's Carson Palmer carved up Smith's Bears defense last month, so did Arizona's Kurt Warner on Sunday. It was downright eerie to watch the Cardinals find a way to tack on the final field goal just before the intermission to ensure they would match the Bengals' 31-point halftime total of two weeks prior.

    Actually, Warner's third and fourth throws weren't impressive. They fluttered a bit and took their time floating to receivers. It was as if he hadn't quite warmed up well enough - or he was feeling the effects of a Harris hit on the second play from scrimmage that was set up by Hunter Hillenmeyer's perfect fake blitz.

    But the Bears failed to take advantage because the receivers on both plays were so wide open. And they were essentially running the same play, the play the Bears just cannot cover in Lovie's beloved cover-2 even when they don't blitz and should have a significant numbers advantage in the secondary.

    First, Arizona receiver Steve Breaston and then Larry Fitzgerald ran mid-range in-routes and had no trouble gaining separation from overmatched Bear cornerbacks with safeties nowhere to be found. After those two tosses, Warner's throws regained their zip. It helped that the Bears couldn't manage to put another decent hit on him until they were in a multi-touchdown hole.

    Just like Palmer, Warner knew what the Bear defense was going to do and just how to combat it every stinking time he barked out a snap count during four straight touchdown drives in the first and second quarters. Defenders carrying out Lovie's scheme didn't trick him in a significant way even once on any of those drives.

    Most importantly, Warner knew there were big swaths of downfield territory there for the taking whenever he needed a big gain. Just turn a decent wide receiver inside deep enough to clear the short zones (and that isn't very deep against this bunch) and the quarterback knew the yards would be there, time after time after time.

    The Bears' basic defensive scheme is a corpse laid bare in the morgue. The fact that they can't adjust to cover the same damn play that has killed them on literally dozens of third-and-long plays this season is a bitter joke and emblematic of everything that has gone wrong for this franchise, really, since the Super Bowl in 2006.

    When the Bears lost to the Bengals, many fans howled about it being a historic setback, a huge new low. But it wasn't. Just a year prior, the Bears didn't just lose big when they still had a chance to make something of the season, they lost 37-3 to the Packers. But the loss to the Cardinals combined with the debacle in Cincinnati, now that's a nadir. And if general manager Jerry Angelo and club president Ted Phillips aren't starting to plan for a coaching change, they'll have to plead insanity in the court of public opinion.

    The great thing about the Harris personal foul and ejection on the fourth frickin' play of the game, even more so than Harris whaling on the Cardinal offensive lineman well after whistles had blown, i.e. when there was the best chance that multiple men in stripes were looking at him, was that he wasn't just punching a guy. He was punching a guy who was wearing a helmet!

    In other words, he had a much better chance of doing damage to his own hand than to the Cardinal lineman's cranium.

    If Lovie can't convince Harris to issue a full-fledged, no reservations "I'm an idiot" statement on Monday (because it is clear, after an official suspension last season and an unofficial one this time around, that suspensions don't work with Harris), either Harris or his coach has to go immediately.

    And I know that Harris won't issue that statement and I know that he won't go and Lovie absolutely won't go. But hey, Jerry and Ted, it isn't just the rabid "fire the coach after every loss" guys calling for some sort of drastic measure (or at least an intense mea culpa from a prime scapegoat), it is everyone who really cares about this team. Everyone.

    Lovie Lacks Fight
    Lovie's big chance to at least raise a mild objection to the proceedings was the offensive pass interference call on Greg Olsen that effectively stymied the Bears' final drive of the first half. Bad call or not (and I guarantee that in retrospect - in other words, in the film room - the officials will not be able to justify that call in the context of at least a half dozen other calls not made on Sunday), the coach needed to at least make it clear to officials that he would be turning up the heat if calls didn't start evening up. He couldn't be bothered.

    Bears fans won't remember Lovie taking the team to the Super Bowl in 2006, they will remember the fact that he just doesn't care enough to fight for his team - ever.

    It followed then that the Bears couldn't get a call when Olsen was obviously interfered with on a critical play in the third quarter. On that one, after the coach again declined to muster even a mild rebuke for the nearest official, quarterback Jay Cutler stopped waiting for his coach to act. He let the officials have it and was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

    Oh by the way referee Ed Hochuli and friends, that's the most pathetic officials can ever be. When they blow a call and grow rabbit ears and tack on additional sanction, like a basketball ref whistling a "T" on a guy with an understandable beef, officials who do that have sunk to the depths.

    Great to see Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner, in his team's eighth game this season, finally figure out that if opposing teams load up to stop the run, the Bears need to throw it (even if the head coach keeps yammering nonsensically - he did it again last week - about how his team is a running team first despite the fact that his by-far best player is his quarterback).

    And they need to throw it 10 times in a row to start a game if need be. And if they can throw it effectively during that time, especially deep down the field, it will loosen up the defense for all sorts of offensive possibilities further down the line.

    Sure enough, the Cardinals resorted to blitzes more frequently as the game wore on and the Bears countered effectively with standard screen passes to Forte and bubble screens to Hester and Earl Bennett.

    Pass Then Run
    I was actually relieved when the Cardinals tackled Johnny Knox on the kickoff return after Arizona's second touchdown. If Knox had taken it all the way back, the defense would have been right back out there and surely wouldn't have had a chance.

    But it didn't matter, even though the Bears held the ball for at least a little while (mustering a first down) before the offense stalled. That was when Turner squandered the goodwill engendered by the great start with the moronic reverse call to Hester that resulted in a 12-yard loss and, soon thereafter, a punt.

    The third time the Bears had the ball, Forte busted out for just the sort of big run made possible when an opposing team knows early on that the Bears will pass the ball and pass it some more if the defense commits too many players to run defense first.

    Jay Cutler, who played a great game overall, would throw an interception in the second half but the only major mistake he made was taking a sack at this point. The Bears were eventually forced to punt and when the Cardinals drove it down the field yet again, the rout was officially on.

    Fire Notes
    Great win for the Fire on Saturday night and great time had by my son Noah, daughter Alana and I during the game in our seats in the AYSO discount section. The squad advances to a Saturday night Eastern Conference one-game final with Real Salt Lake at home with a spot in the MLS Final the next weekend on the line.

    It is hard to imagine our enjoying a sporting sequence more than Cuauhtemoc Blanco's 83rd-minute goal following exquisite service from hyper-hustler Patrick Nyarko preceding 10 more minutes of the manic defensive play that preserved the necessary 2-0 victory.

    Unfortunately we didn't have the greatest of times during the endless pre-game schlock (just because the Premiership and so many other high-falutin' soccer governing bodies insist on endless, vapid ceremonies before the game doesn't mean the MLS has to do the same).

    And after the game it felt like we barely made it out of the anarchic parking lot intact.

    Hey Fire, you and I both know that you play in a minor league facility (although it is shiny and new - you have to love that) in a minor league locale (you have to love even more the fact that in Chicago the major league teams play in the city and the minor leaguers inhabit the suburbs).

    But a team must acknowledge some new responsibilities when the crowd numbers more than 20,000. And you do call yourselves Major League Soccer after all.

    So the next time an event is clearly going to be big out there in Bridgeview, perhaps you could establish that the first few rows of vehicles can host post-game tailgate parties but that's it (so the rest of us can crawl out of there reasonably confident we won't run over some drunken dimwit).

    And perhaps you could set things up in the parking lot so it isn't absolute chaos as way too many vehicles try to get out of way too few exits. Thanks ever so much for your consideration.

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

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