July 30, 2014

Bears 23, Panthers 22: It Ain’t Over Until You Realize How Bad The Panthers Are

If Robbie Gould weren’t an NFL kicker he would probably be employed as a surgeon or a sniper or maybe a tollbooth attendant.  All those vocations require icy veins and deaf focus and Robbie has polar plasma and ears that – like those of a politician or exotic dancer – hear only the heartbeat of their own ambition.

Gould’s 41-yard field goal as time expired at Soldier Field on Sunday gave the Chicago Bears a 23-22 victory over the visiting Carolina Panthers in a game that was so ugly several men actually ignored it and hit on Joan and Melissa Rivers instead.

The Bears weren’t just bad for most of this game, they were annoying.  Were talking Chris Berman after three liters of Dr. Pepper annoying.  Really it wasn’t that the whole team was so bad but it was the offense which played the first 50 minutes or so under the belief that forward progress is not only unobtainable but some sort of contagion.  The result was the Bears trailed the one-win Panthers 19-7 with about seven minutes to play when a small child snuck onto Chicago’s sideline and whispered into Jay Cutler’s ear “the Panthers stink.”

Jay and the rest of the Mortals of the Midway responded and Cutler hit Kellen Davis for a 12-yard touchdown pass.  Then, on the next play from scrimmage, Chicago did what it does best: took advantage of the misfortune of others.  This time it was in the form of Panthers receiver Steve Smith who slipped on an invisible banana peel just as quarterback Cam Newton threw another bad pass which landed in the cute little arms of Bears cornerback Tim Jennings who, with no one in his way, merrily cantered his way to the endzone and, faster than you can bribe an alderman, the Bears led, 20-19.

Hooray for the good guys. Boo for the dumb guys.

And the Panthers really are kind of stupid because when the Bears went for a two-point conversion Cutler’s pass was intercepted by Josh Norman who thought he was playing college football, or maybe rugby or jailbreak, and sprinted 100 yards thinking he had scored a touchdown.  No.  That’s not how the NFL does it.  When you intercept an extra point you get nothing.  It’s like dating an ugly girl – even when you score you don’t score.

But the Bears, or at least Cutler, gave chase to Josh nearly the whole way so maybe they need a rulebook refresher as well.  But we shouldn’t dwell on this, fun as it is.  In football, when you find the pigskin in your hands, or in the other guys’, the safe bet is always to run as fast as if you’d seen a goat smoking a cigarette because hey, you never know.

But back to our story.

The Bears led 20-19 and Carolina got the ball back and Mr. Newton adhered to Sunday’s theory of gravity and mediocrity which states that good football teams will often fall down to the same level as the bad, and bad football teams sometimes rise to the level of the good, and so he engineered his cats into Bears territory so that Justin Medlock could kick his fifth field goal of the day, which earns him a three-night stay at Daryl Johnston’s house.

Trailing 22-20 with two minutes to play, Chicago’s offense came to life and Carolina’s defense supplied the defibrillator by suddenly deciding that with the game and October dignity on the line it was best to suddenly give Cutler all the time he wanted and Brandon Marshall all the room he needed.  Cutler connected on seven passes on the ensuing drive, five of them to Marshall, and Gould was suddenly in position for his clock-beating heroics.

Bears 23, Panthers 22.  Ha-ha!

The Bears probably should have lost this game and it’s pathetic that they were outplayed all day by a 1-6 team and it’s an indication that the Bears, despite a 6-1 record, really are not very good.

Or, try this:

The Bears are a damn good team, with a stellar and perhaps historic defense, that knows how to win, never gives up, and can pull out a victory even on a day when they’re outplayed and not at their best.

The answer resides not somewhere in-between but somewhere against Green Bay, Houston, Minnesota or Chicago’s next opponent, Tennessee.

But let’s get back to Mr. Jennings; a man who intercepts more passes than a chaperone at a 1957 Catholic high school mixer.  Jennings now has six interceptions, tops in the NFL, and the Bears have returned six interceptions for touchdowns, which is the most in NFL history through seven games.  Chicago’s D now has the 1961 San Diego Chargers in their sights.  Those Chargers collected nine “pick-sixes” but that was in the AFL so, hey, who cares?

The Bears’ defensive philosophy is “you throw it, we’ll steal it.”  The problem is Chicago’s offensive philosophy is “you blitz, we’ll fall.”  The Bears let Cutler get sacked six times and Mr. 6 also made several poor throws and rash decisions and offensive coordinator Mike Tice insisted on continuing to throw the ball even though Bears running back Matt Forte was galloping through Carolina’s defense with ease and joy.

The Bears need to get this whole offensive thing figured out quickly because, as we all saw, you can afford to rely on your defense against the Carolinas, Detroits and Jacksonvilles of the world but against better teams an offense is needed or it will be scary.

But let us not criticize a 6-1 start.  Sundays in Chicago are something to look forward to.  Stay healthy, block a little better, trust your running game and maybe all these Sundays will add up to a season to remember.

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