October 20, 2014

Seahawks 23, Bears 17: Strangled With Seaweed

It was an unseasonably warm December day in Chicago on Sunday, the type of weather more comfortable for annoying, scavenging water birds than carnivorous, right-leaning land mammals.

The balmy, breezy, and unexpected climate created an atmosphere of suspicion and, ultimately, doom.  It was like that odd looking guy on the bus whom you fear will ask you for a quarter but instead leaves you alone for the whole trip across town but then, just as you reach your stop, he stands up and drops his pants and asks if you’ve paid the rent.

Those damn Seattle Seahawks.

The Chicago Bears fell to the Seabirds, 23-17, in overtime at Soldier Field and have now lost three of their last four games to drop to 8-4 and possess genuine fear that the playoff train might pull away without them.

Despite the fishy weather, this game actually had a promising start as the Bears scored on their opening drive for just the second time this season.  Usually the Bears offense waits for either the defense to score first or for a special permission slip from Roger Goodell’s office before dipping its toe into the endzone.  This time the Bears O didn’t need a defensive score but did rely on a turnover and converted it into a 12-yard TD pass from Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett who got flipped violently across the goal line but held on, shook his head and was heard to say “Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like the redzone!”

Then, early in the second quarter, the Mysterious Gentlemen of the Midway had an opportunity to pluck a few more feathers with a fourth-and-one from the Seattle 14-yard line but Bears running back Michael Bush was stopped short and the Bears came away empty and perhaps even a little embarrassed.  A 14-0 lead would have been nice, to be sure.  A 10-0 lead would have sufficed.  It’s easy to criticize Lovie Smith’s decision to go for it in an obvious field goal situation because criticizing rich and famous folks is what people who sit on their couch watching the game while sipping a Dr. Pepper and smoking a Tareyton like to do best.  The Bears should be applauded for showing no fear but truth be told, if they had gotten 3 in that situation they probably would have ended up winning.

There were other chances.  Just a short time later Mr. Bennett had a golden opportunity for his second score of the day but dropped a deep Cutler pass.  Then Bush dropped a pass two plays later on third-and-three and the guy who sells hot chocolate said, “screw this!” and initiated a wrestling match with the 7-Up kid.

All of this happened with the Bears still leading 7-0 and Seattle’s offense eyeing the Bears defense trying to figure out where the old guys keep their wallet.   Seabiscuit quarterback Russell Wilson – who’s a rookie but plays like a guy who’s gone drinking with Tony Romo – engineered two scoring drives and Seattle led, 10-7, at the break.

Through the magic of the DVR, and the laziness of the blogger, let’s fast-forward to late in the fourth when, for the first time since Prohibition, pit stains out-numbered mustard stains on a December day in the Midwest.  The Bears led 14-10 when Mr. Wilson took his little chickadees on a 97-yard touchdown drive that made the daunting Bears defense look old and tired and, suddenly-shockingly-truthfully, the Bears trailed 17-14 with less than 30 seconds to play.

“Officer!  Those Girl Scouts followed me home from the library then pushed me down and took my bubble gum!  All of it!”

There’s little need to fear, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Robbie Gould are here!

Everyone in Cook County thought it was over but then Cutler hit Marshall for a 56-yard gain and Soldier Field exploded.  Out trotted Gould who nailed a 46-yard field goal as time expired and the hot chocolate guy and 7-Up kid hugged and exchanged tweets.

It appeared the Bears had gone from snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to kicking defeat back into hazy gray marsh it crept out of.   Problem is, at least until the Fiscal Cliff kicks in you have to play overtime and in that extra period the Bears lost the toss, the Seahawks got the kickoff and marched slowly, certainly and painstakingly down the field.  Wilson was a third-round pick.  From Wisconsin.  He’s short.  He wears a kicker’s jersey.  But damn, that kid can play.  The Bears offense never saw the field in OT as Wilson carved up an exhausted Bears defense with a seven and-a-half minute drive that ended in a 13-yard TD strike to Sidney Rice.

They reviewed it just to be mean.

Seahawks 23, Bears 17.

When Pete Carroll celebrates he looks like a frat boy whose parents have unlocked the liquor cabinet.

What the hell went wrong?

Blame it on the coin toss.  The Bears are now 3-4 in games when they win the opening coin toss, and 5-0, when they lose it.  Of course, Chicago lost the coin toss that really mattered, the one that started overtime.  Aren’t they supposed to change the overtime rules so that the Bears don’t lose at home to crappy road teams that have uniforms uglier than an Arby’s bathroom?

Blame it on the weather.  Oh wait, we tried that.

The Bears offense really wasn’t, you know, that bad.  And the defense wasn’t, you know, so bad either.  And Seattle isn’t really, you know, that good.  But Wilson is great.  And Carroll is like the dumb guy who gets all the easy questions in “Trivial Pursuit” and suddenly his pie is full of wedges and you’re vomiting into the laundry hamper.

The Bears are 8-4 and it doesn’t feel so good.  They just cannot beat good teams.  Next up is a trip to Minnesota to confront those Vikings whom the Bears gave a 28-10 noogie to just a week ago but there aren’t a lot of honest kids who think Chicago can duplicate such a result on the road because the Moribunds of the Midway are still a team that has an inconsistent offense, a quickly aging defense and no spark on special teams.  Remember Devin Hester?  Remember him?

After Minnesota the Green Bay Packers come to Chicago and they always bring brass knuckles, hand buzzers and curious riddles that leave the Bears dazed, puzzled and a tad forlorn.  (Timeout: Wasn’t “Tad Forlorn” a character from a Jacqueline Susanne novel?)

After the Packers do their business the Bears go to Arizona to face a Cardinals team that hasn’t won since the baseball Cardinals were still playing then Chicago finishes the season in Detroit against the Lions.  How many of those final four games do you think the Bears will win?  Certainly they should beat the Cardinals but will 9-7 get them into January?  Will 10-6?  Can Chicago possibly win three of its final four to finish 11-5?  What makes you think they will?  Step away from the cupcakes you meanie.  Why are you so happy?  Don’t you know the ice caps are melting, the sun is going to explode and two-for-one Big Macs are for a limited time only?

The Bears need to somehow return to their first half of the season formula of coming up with the big score on defense.  They need to keep running back Matt Forte involved in the offense.  Cutler needs to develop a target other than Marshall who was on the receiving end of 165 of Cutler’s 233 yards passing.  They need a couple of long returns to give the offense a short field and reason to say, “Well, look at that!”

Love Smith blamed himself after Sunday’s loss, saying he made poor decisions and did a “terrible job” of getting his troops ready.  Lovie likes to break the season into quarters and the Bears went 1-3 in the third.  The fourth quarter is here and Mr. Smith must figure out how to stop this slide and tap into every bit of this veteran team’s potential.  If not, Christmas in Chicago will be cold no matter what the weather is.  And the New Year could bring a foul wind.  And big changes.

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More Football Stuff:

The Texans, Patriots, Broncos and Falcons have all clinched playoff spots with a month to go.  That’s boring.

Speaking of boring, anyone who watched that 7-6 Jets win over the Cardinals who wasn’t getting paid or who doesn’t have an immediate family member on one of those teams probably also loves Sofia Coppola movies.

Is this the golden age of the NFL quarterback?  Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford.  Wow.  Maybe it’s just the golden age of offense-friendly rules.

The Rams and 49ers went to overtime again but this time, at least, there was a winner.  And it was…the Rams?  Colin Kaepernick might not be quite as cool as we thought.  Go ahead, blame him.

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