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My wife is a Patriots fan and we both went into Sunday's action convinced that our teams were in no-win situations. Lose to bad opponents (the Pats were taking on the woeful-for-years Browns) and the standard amount of post-loss aggravation is at least doubled. Win and no one is impressed. After all, those guys haven't even won a game yet (that would be the Bills of course - the Browns had at least scratched out a few wins in the season's first eight weeks).
But we were half wrong. The Bear win felt like a win.
It doesn't really matter who the foe is when you win on the road (kind of - the game was in Toronto), especially if you do so with a fourth-quarter comeback.
And you can always build up the opponent by saying things like, "Hey, they've been playing much better football lately - they lost their last two games in overtime, against good teams, on the road."
(As for the half-right part, well, the Patriots didn't just lose but were thumped by the Brownies.)
In the end, the Bears game was primarily a disaster avoided and a small step forward.
Robbie Gould's errant 42-yard field goal attempt in the second half of the second quarter reminded fans how fortunate the Bears have been to have him. I can't remember the last time Gould missed a comparable kick - one that was inside 45 yards and featured a stellar snap, a sure-handed hold and passable blocking.
Gould is one of the many special teams stalwarts who have been responsible for far more big plays in wins than bad plays in losses during the past few seasons.
And in the second half, Gould partially redeemed himself. With dangerous Bills rookie return man C.J. Spillers back deep, Gould forced three straight touchbacks with beautifully deep kickoffs.
One and Done
As for the offense, well, the Bears better not be too excited about scoring from the one-yard line for the first time this season. We thrilled to see Chester Taylor slip into the end zone from a yard out in the third quarter. And it was even more exciting because it meant the Bears had actually scored in the first 15 minutes after the half, something they hadn't pulled off in their first seven games.
The problem, of course, was that when they needed one stinking yard to put the game away in the final two minutes, Taylor was stuffed.
But here came the special teams again. Brad Maynard was good and lucky as he put his punt inside the 14 and then watched as it took a fortuitous bounce and rolled all the way down to the one. The Bears immediately allowed the Bills to escape the shadow of the end zone with a first-down pass, but then the final pick sealed the deal.
On defense, well, the Bears safeties were exposed. Danieal Manning and Chris Harris (who did have one of the Bears' two huge second-half picks) have done a decent job so far this season against not great quarterbacks. And on several occasions against solid signal-callers (Eli Manning springs to mind), they've done okay when the defensive line and linebackers have been able to generate consistent pressure. Remember that the Giants struggled mightily to score more than a field goal for three quarters.
But there are much, much better quarterbacks on the schedule horizon- beginning with Brett Favre next week coming off one of the biggest games of his career. It's hard to be optimistic about the ability of Manning and Harris to meet the challenges ahead.
Then again, if rookie quarterback Colt McCoy could outplay Tom Brady on Sunday, I suppose just about anything is possible in the NFL.
The Official Highlights
Jim Coffman brings you SportsMonday in this space every week. He welcomes your comments.
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