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SportsMonday: Packers Induce Vomiting

Other than Brian Urlacher's interceptions, there isn't anything special about the Bears right now. There are no stellar playmakers leaving foes gasping for air. There are no defensive dervishes demanding attention on every snap.

Their special teams were almost special in the last two minutes on Sunday, of course. But then the Bears were called for holding an imaginary player on Johnny Knox's punt return for touchdown (after Devin Hester's epic fake) and that was that. The Packers prevailed 27-17 to drop the Bears to an aggravating 1-2.

The Packers on the other hand, couldn't be more special. They're so special they make you want to puke. How did this happen? How did they set up camp on the sporting mountaintop with such a relatively inexperienced team (second youngest in the league), led by a 27-year-old quarterback who could do absolutely no wrong throughout the playoffs last year and is doing it again so far this time around? General Manager Ted Thompson is smart but he isn't that smart. Coach Mike McCarthy is a great play-caller but the offense he ran in San Francisco the year before he took over the Pack finished last in the NFL. Argh.

At least the Bears stabilized the pass protection! Jay Cutler operated in a notably better pocket pretty much throughout, despite the Packers eventually recording three sacks. Of course, to create said pocket, the Bears apparently had to pass block on every play. No wonder Matt Forte averaged about a half-yard per carry.

There is a new problem, though, and it was typified by Aaron Rodgers avoiding a sack late in the game, buying some time and then passing for a big third-down conversion. At that point, the contrast between quarterbacks couldn't have been clearer. Cutler never seems to do that anymore; he never seems to move around the pocket smoothly, avoiding the rush and making a play. He plants and waits . . . and waits . . . and waits . . . for receivers to complete long downfield patterns.

I've never been an advocate of rollouts. Move your quarterback out to the side and the further he goes, the more it shrinks the field he has to work with. But the Bears need to do something to get Cutler going - using his athleticism as well as his big arm.

As for the big picture, well, there is actually reason for at least a little optimism. Not to be a Pollyanna or anything - who am I kidding, my middle name is Pollyanna - but the schedule eases up the next few weeks.

Then again I suppose that depends on whether you believe in the (3-0) Lions, whom the Bears face week after next. I vote for seeing if they can keep it going for at least a half-dozen games or so before proclaiming them the next great thing.

If not, a slate featuring Carolina next week (Cam Newton has had an amazing start to his career but slowed way down on Sunday despite his team's 13-8 win) and Minnesota on the other side of the Lions game presents an opportunity for a nice little win streak.

Game Notes
* Whew, that was a typically intelligent football fight between Devin Hester and Packer cornerback Sam Shields in the fourth quarter. At some point in a football player's career, wouldn't it become absolutely clear that punching someone wearing the impregnable personal fortress otherwise known as a football helmet is not a good idea?

No wonder they ran that fake punt shortly thereafter. After whacking Shields in the facemask several times, Hester probably couldn't feel his fingers.

* The pass protection was better but there was one huge breakdown and not surprisingly it involved Chris Williams, who blew it on the very first play of the second half. He moved to his right to double a tackle when over to his left was another lineman proceeded unimpeded to a sack.Williams was also victimized several times in the run game by quick defensive linemen slipping through his spot in the line and making tackles for losses. It is almost time to proclaim Williams, who has already washed out of the only position (left tackle) that justified his being drafted in the first round, an absolute bust.

* Paging Marion Barber . . . Marion? Hello? Did the Bears' backup running back's calf fall off? Will he ever return from the supposed lower leg strain that has now sidelined him for more than a month after he showed so much promise in the first few exhibition games? His ability to at least get a couple yards even when the blocking isn't stellar would surely be appreciated at some point this Bears season.

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Comments welcome.


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