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Blue: What the Bears' offense showed us from last week: A strong-armed quarterback, fast receivers who have learned how to run routes and catch the ball, and a power running back who can catch the ball and move the chains with outside or inside runs. Mix in a revamped offensive line that is playing somewhere between okay and passable and combine this with a special teams group that consistently provides great field position along with a defense that can fluctuate between stellar and passable and you have the story of the 2010 Chicago Bears. Somehow this combination has been good enough to win the close defensive struggles as well as last week's 38-34 shootout over the New York Jets.
Problems from the Jets' game were many: Allowing a weak-armed over-hyped quarterback to carve up the secondary, a basic lack of pass rush, and an inability to lock down on run-defense at critical moments. Reading that, one would think this had to be a Bears loss - another case of the defense letting up too many points and the offense either not moving the ball to put points on the board or squandering opportunities with ridiculous turnovers. But that's last years' team, or the year before, and come to think about it, all years post the 2006 Super Bowl team.
Somehow, something has changed with the offensive equation. Is it the addition of more failed head coaches to take over in coordinator roles such as we've seen with Mike Martz running the offensive play-calling and Mike Tice the offensive line? Or is it the continued maturation of a previously suspect wide-receiving corps that is finding its rhythm with its quarterback? Possibly it's that we're seeing a well-balanced run to pass ratio made possible behind a just good-enough offensive line - now featuring a healthy Matt Forte who has shown that when he is 100% that he can be counted as a top 10 back.
Yes, the Bears allowed Mark Sanchez to look like the next coming of Joe Montana until basically the last play of the game. But, according to Phil Simms, that pass to Chris Harris was "tremendous" so even that play might not have been a positive for the Bears, though it did close out the game. A total lack of pressure on Sanchez was uncharacteristic of this defense and showed the weakness of the Cover-2. This has to be fixed, and if the Bears' ability to improve half-to-half and week-to-week are an indicator of things to come, it will be.
Devin Hester continues to be a weapon that has to be accounted for while the special teams coverage led by (surprisingly) Corey Graham keeps teams facing longer fields to play from on offense. These factors very well might have been the difference versus the Jets as much as the three-touchdown passes in the third quarter that Martz dialed up and Cutler executed to near perfection. Going against the best return team in the NFL and the most highly respected defensive back duo of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, the special teams and wideouts have shown that like the traditional Bears strengths of defense and running games, they can be game-changers.
The defeat of the Jets was a demonstration of a team that is still improving on the offensive side of the ball and is dangerous on special teams, with a defense that can be stymied by an offensive scheme predicated on a quick, accurate passing attack so long as the pass rush is shut down.If Rod Marinelli and the defense can figure out how to fix their problems so that they are no longer relying on last drive heroics, this just might be a team that makes an impact in the playoffs. Though it might be a bit early to order your Super Bowl tickets, the fact that the phrase Super Bowl is up for conversation shows this is a team to be taken seriously.
Bears at Packers
With a first-round bye and hom- field advantage until the NFC Championship wrapped up, these Bears have nothing beyond pride on the line. A win versus the Packers knocks a traditional rival out of the playoff picture, but will that in and of itself be enough to motivate Lovie Smith and crew to expose starters to injury just before the playoffs?
If history is any indicator, starters will play for the first half, and possibly into the third quarter, before giving way to the Garrett Wolfe and Rashied Davises of the squad. The Packers come in motivated by a win and in scenario for the playoffs, and they have been one of the hottest teams in the last few weeks and are playing at home. This kills me to say but I'm not envisioning a Bears surprise this week.
Packers 34, Bears 20.
Orange: The avid readership of The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report will no doubt recall the prerequisites we laid out for season-long success, after the less-than-convincing victory over the Detroit Lions in Week One.
The Chicago Bears can go 11-5.
However, the following must occur in each game:
* The Bears win the time of possession battle by ten minutes
* Jay Cutler throws for 350+ yards, including twice as many touchdowns as picks
* Matt Forte averages 200 yards of total offense per game
* The defense holds opponents without a first down for two quarters
* The offense outgains opponents three times over
Thanks to a win that left the barn burnt, the scoreboard lit and the record books heaved out the window (okay, the record books were placed on a ledge near the proverbial window; no single game records were broken), Coach of the Year candidate Lovie Smith (no, seriously), proven winner Jay Cutler (no, seriously) and the Mike Martz's balanced offensive attack (no, seriously) have combined their powers like some improbable Voltron-esque football machine (as opposed to the "probable" varieties of Voltron) to reach "V" number 11*.
They say you never forget your eleventh "V," so let's see if this win matched up with the formula outlined three-and-a-half months ago.
- Time of Possession: Check. The Bears had the ball about eight minutes more than the Jets.
- Cutler: No, but not a big deal in this case. Cut-head went 13/25 for 215 yards, three TDs and one INT. He hit the important marks and there wasn't much of an opportunity for him to get more yardage than he did (see below). Having said that, the interesting real fact of the day is that Jay Cutler hasn't had a 300+ yard game since Week One.
- Forte: A little shy of the glory, but you'll take that production every day, especially against a defense that hadn't allowed a 100+ yard rusher in 2010. The Bear Back finished with 169 yards of total offense, including 113 rushing yards.
- Defense: Yeeouch! The Chicago defense forced only two three-and-outs, though the well-defended fake punt was the fourth play on a four-play drive. Other than that, the Jets moved the ball utterly at will. Someone in the Orange household actually yelled "DAMN YOU SANCHEZ!!!" at one point. If the Jets staff has committed a blueprint for neutralizing Julius Peppers to film, the Bears have no chance in the playoffs.
- Total Offensive Yardage: No dice, but while the Bears were outgained by the Jets, the field position provided by turnovers and special teams need to be factored in. It's tough to rack up yards when most of your drives start near or past the 50. The Bears had only three drives that started behind their own 30.
- "Kevin" Knox Sporting What Appears to Be A 'Coonskin Playoff Beard: Maybe this wasn't a week one prerequisite, but all the same . . . check.
With one game to play, the Bears already have clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye. However with a little help, Lovie 'n' Friends are still statistically capable of capturing the No. 1 seed. The formula for determining NFL playoff seeding is complex, but here at The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report, we always go the extra mile to break down the nuances of America's favorite game. Here's how it can happen.
- Aaron Rodgers tears one of his lats doing a shoryuken early in the game, Greg Jennings badly cuts his hand on his own beard and Clay Matthews loses the Samson-esque powers bestowed upon him by his magical hair after he's forced to cut it off at halftime when it becomes tangled in the statue of Vince Lombardi that sits in the Packers' locker room. With few good players left on the Green Bay roster, the Bears' B-Squad are able to squeak out a win.
- Atlanta loses its final home game against the 2-13 Panthers, which is slightly less probable than the above scenario.
- Somehow tied in all meaningful categories laid out by the NFL, the Bears get the top seed over the Falcons by virtue of a coin toss, which is the final tie breaking procedure in the NFL playoff system (no, seriously).
Bears at Packers
Lovie's style is to rest players in this scenario. One couldn't fault him for running Todd Collins, Garrett Wolfe and Rashied Davis out there on offense to avoid injury to some of the skill positions.
Heck, it makes sense to run Joan Collins out there at QB, just to play it extra safe.
The Packers are playing for the life of their season; the Bears are playing to avoid a game in Atlanta in the NFC Championship game. Do the math.
Packers 30, Bears 17.
*Did you spot the optical illusion within this block of text? That's right! If you remove all of the parentheses from what appears to be a paragraph, it reveals a single complete sentence!
Andrew Golden brings you the Blue half of this report every week; Carl Mohrbacher brings you the Orange. They welcome your comments.