The Chicago Bears played their worst game of the season on Sunday, losing 42-21 to the Rams in St. Louis but still held ground in the playoff race because the NFC North is about as solid as Derrick Rose’s knees.
The Bears should have won this game if you consider several things: One, they were playing the Rams. Two, they were playing the Rams. And three, Bears quarterback Josh McCown completed 36 of 47 passes for 352 yards, two touchdowns and one interception whereas Rams signal-caller Kellen Clemens completed just 10 passes for 167 yards, one score and no picks.
McCown’s rating was 102.4, Clemens tallied 86.7.
The NFL is supposed to be a pass-happy, quarterback league and when your guy nearly doubles the other guy you should win. However, someone forgot to tell the Bears that you can still do something called run the ball and the Rams obliterated their northern visitors in this regard, outrushing Chicago, 258-80.
The Rams rush parade began on the their third play from scrimmage when receiver Tavon Austin sprinted untouched for a 65-yard score leaving Bears defenders grasping and gasping in his wake. It was pretty much downhill from there.
Actually, the Bears didn’t play too badly for stretches of this thing. McCown, whose solid play is now expected and not surprising, kept Chicago close and the Bears were only down by six with seven minutes to play after Michael Bush ran for a one-yard score. But it was a run by Mr. Bush a few minutes previous which may have sealed the Bears’ fate.
The Bears trailed 24-14 midway through the third quarter when, after a very long, impressive drive to open the second half, they had first-and-goal from the St. Louis four. What followed was two incomplete passes, a McCown scramble to the one and then a Bush run. Or rather, a Bush pancake. Michael got hogtied and assaulted by Rams linebacker Jo-Lunn Dunbar for a four-yard loss. The Rams took over on downs and marched for a field goal and a 27-14 lead.
Can’t score from the four? Can’t get it in from the one? Didn’t want a good ‘ol field goal? The shame in this for the Bears is it keeps happening. Two weeks ago the Bears lost to the Lions, 21-19, because they couldn’t convert a two-point conversion when Bush got destroyed in the backfield. The Lions seemed to know exactly what was coming and the Rams must have watched enough tape because Dunbar did, too. Bears coach Marc Trestman has made his bones over the years by authoring solid passing attacks and making smart decisions. He hasn’t suddenly gotten dumb but he is suddenly being caught making the wrong call far too often. And when you keep making the wrong call it looks like you’re guessing. And guessing badly.
It seemed over at this point but it wasn’t. Devin Hester came to the rescue when the future Hall-of-Famer returned a punt 62 yards for a score to make it 27-21. But wait, there’s a flag. Holding on Bears blocker Craig Steltz. The Bears would then end up scoring on that drive on Bush’s touchdown but it was seven minutes later. And Bush’s TD was a minute after a McCown TD pass was called back because of a holding penalty.
The Bears racked up 84 yards in penalties on Sunday to just 39 for the Rams. This was one week after the Bears out-flagged Baltimore 111-46 (but won.) The Bears suddenly look like a sloppy team. And, considering the Bears’ onslaught of injuries, when you put sloppy on top of unlucky you either get a really funky sandwich or a suddenly slipping football team.
Those injuries are a big part of the reason the Bears cannot stop the run. It’s a reason, but not an excuse. And if it is an excuse, well then just shut up because this is the NFL which stands for No excuses you whining little Fink, you just Lost again.
A St. Louis gentleman by the name of Benny Cunningham ran 13 times for 109 yards and a score against the Bears. He then signed up for two weeks of standup in the Catskills.
Cunningham is a rookie out of Tennessee State who had never run for more than 72 yards in an NFL game. His jersey number is 36. And he torched the good kids for 109 yards?
Zac Stacy dinged the Bears for 87 yards and a TD on just 12 carries. At least he wears #30 which looks a little more like a running back number and less like a third string safety. Stacy is also a rookie. From Vanderbilt. Ouch and ouch.
Next week the Bears go to Minnesota to play the Vikings and a certain chap named Adrian Peterson. Mr. P. ran for 146 yards against the Packers in a 26-26 tie on Sunday, (Sidebar: How do you feel about ties? Who wants to sit in the cold for four hours in Green Bay and then go home not a winner nor a loser but just a victim of frostbite? This, of course, almost happened in the Broncos-Patriots game as well but, thanks to Wes Welker, someone finally lost. Sorry, Wes. You’re a good player. Still can’t decide, though, whether New England’s victory was epic or Denver’s collapse was pathetic. But should the NFL change to college rules for overtime? Heck no, Old Man NFL doesn’t like things like that. Why not? It would be fun as hell to see teams trade scores. The league wants to emphasize offense anyway so why not?)
…Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, Adrian Peterson, who is second in the league in rushing, ran for 100 yards against the Bears in September and had two 100-plus yard efforts against Chicago last year when the Bears’ defense was actually good. So what can happen this coming Sunday? There is serious discussion among Bears fans (and probably Vikes fans, too) that Peterson could do something historic or, from the Bears’ perspective, tragic, and run for 300 yards. This would break his own NFL record by four yards and, obviously, make him the first 300-yarder in league history. Will it happen? The Bears are allowing 145 rushing yards per game, worst in the NFL. It can happen.
Despite Sunday’s kick in the grizzlies, which dropped the Bears to 6-5, they are not out of the playoff race. In fact, they’re right in the thick of it because no one in the NFC North won on Sunday. As mentioned, the Vikings and Packers settled for a draw and the Detroit Lions lost to the suddenly seaworthy Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-21. The Lions might be better than the Bears, they beat them twice, but they’re not good.
But in the NFC North good might not be needed. Last year the Bears won 10 games but were left home for the playoffs. This year, nine wins might get you fitted for the NFC North crown. Maybe eight.
It’s a hill, not a mountain. But it’s full of rocks, broken glass, cigarette butts and bleeding dreams. Be careful where you step. But start running. Tackle, too.
****Extra Football Writing At No Charge****
Let’s give some credit to Jeff Fisher’s Rams. They’re without their top QB, Sam Bradford, but have won two straight (including a 38-8 thumping of the Colts two weeks ago) and are now 5-6 and possess an outside chance at the postseason. Too bad they play in such a tough division.
Speaking of the Colts, what has become of them? They were swinging big balls all season long but have now lost two of three, the blowout against the Rams and then this weekend getting eaten alive, 41-11, in Arizona by the Cardinals. Let’s talk about those Cardinals. How many NFL fans outside of Arizona, maybe even inside Arizona, realize the Redbirds are 7-4? Problem is, like the Rams, the Cardinals are in the NFC West behind the Seahawks and 49ers. Arizona plays those two teams in the last two weeks of the season and playoff possibilities could be at stake for all involved.
This past weekend’s NFL games were played in the aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Back in ’63, Commissioner Pete Rozelle made the decision to play a full slate of games two days after the President’s death and was roundly criticized then and in the years after and Rozelle later said he made a mistake. Rozelle had been told that JFK would have wanted the games played. The young President loved football. He was due to flip the coin for the Army-Navy game that weekend. That game was delayed.
Eventually everything went back to normal. But it never went back to the way it was. — TK