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John Fox is too old and Jay Cutler too far along in his career for the Bears to totally tank this season. Management will make smart little moves like dumping ill-suited veterans (Willie Young could certainly follow Jared Allen out the door if general manager Ryan Pace can get anything for him) or injury-prone question marks if there are draft picks to be had.
But don't bet on them moving Matt Forte unless they lose all three of the games - eminently possible! - they have left before the October 28 trade deadline. And even if that happens a Forte trade probably won't.
And let us pause here to note that Mr. Forte had a hell of a first quarter of the season that concluded with the Bears' 22-20 victory over the Raiders on Sunday. After battling for 91 hard yards on 25 carries Sunday and adding 64 more on four receptions, Forte is second in the league with 367 total rushing yards, only five behind leader Adrian Peterson. He also has 13 total receptions for 133 yards.
Ridiculous in a good way: Pernell McPhee! More big plays from the linebacker/lineman the Bears had to have excel after the team fell so far so fast defensively the last few years. When you invest big free-agent dollars in one player in a single offseason like the Bears did in McPhee, he better make an impact both in a hurry and over time. McPhee's interception was big but his solo tackle for loss of Raider running back Roy Helu with less than three minutes remaining forced a Raider field-goal attempt and ensured the Bears would get the ball back with more than two minutes remaining.
Ridiculously bad: Latavious Murray are you kidding us? It wasn't enough for the Raider running back to bobble away what should have been an easy catch in the flat, essentially handing a pick to Mr. McPhee in the first half. But then he added a dropped fourth-quarter lateral that was right in his hands before becoming a turnover recovered by Sam Acho.
Honorable mention: And then of course there was Cutler's crushing interception shortly thereafter. It is amazing that after all this time he keeps making mistakes like that. But enough about that in the aftermath of a victory.
This week in sideline reporting malfeasance: Nice cheap shot from correspondent Jamie Erdahl when she said "This may be a first" before reporting that Fox had called Cutler "a tough cookie" when he assessed his first-half performance against the Raiders. The inference was that the veteran quarterback is soft and always described as such. The inference was dead wrong.
Say what you will about Cutler but he has proved time and again he has the toughness to shake off hits that would send other quarterbacks to the sideline and to come back from injuries faster than average. And he has been described as such by the Chicago sports commentariat on many occasions. Folks who have covered the Bears for more than the week leading up to the Raiders game remember the bad old Mike Martz offensive coordinating days when the Bears led the league in sacks allowed and Cutler kept taking big hits and coming back for more.
Oh, and there is also the fact that in reports about his hamstring pull a few weeks ago, no one predicted he would miss fewer than two games. Not only did he miss just one but Fox said after the game that Cutler had almost recovered in time to play against Seattle.
You call that special? Whew but the first half was bad again. Holding penalty after holding penalty on returns forced the Bears to start possession after possession inside the 15. And the blocked extra point, that was extra special, eh?
Especially when the Raiders took a one-point lead with just over two minutes remaining.
And while in general I am OK with coaches going for one in the first half even if they have a chance to tie with a two-point conversion, that equation has changed since the league backed up the extra point kick. In general it makes more sense to take the almost sure single point before intermission but I wouldn't have argued against a more risky two-point conversion after the Bears' second touchdown. And sure enough in the end (after the Bears won by two), it wouldn't have mattered if the Bears had failed on a two-pointer in that situation.
Then again, no return touchdowns against!
(Mis)adventures in clock management: It was a little dicey there at the end, wasn't it? The Bears were aggressive with their first timeout with 2:50 remaining but then let 40 seconds bleed off the clock before the Raiders kicked the field goal that gave them a 20-19 lead. If you are going to stop the clock at 2:45 with a first timeout, it makes the most sense to stop it at 2:40 with the second, especially when the Raiders are facing fourth down and you know they will kick the field goal (and not run more plays and run more clock).
And the Bears could have used a little more time. Fox almost pulled a Trestman after Forte ran up the middle for a yard with 34 seconds left. The Bears then had time to run at least one more play before taking their last timeout to set up the field goal attempt. Instead they just let the clock run down. Sure enough, Robbie Gould's resulting 49-yard field goal attempt started down the middle but then started sliding to the right as we looked at it from behind the goalposts. Fortunately, whereas Gould missed a long field goal attempt once after Trestman failed to run a play or two to try to make it shorter in one of the worst Bears losses of the previous two seasons, this time the kick held on to slip inside the post for the winning points.
Next up: At the Chiefs, Sunday at noon.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.
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