Monday, November 27, 2006

I just wanted to say how much fun I thought last night's game was. Seriously. It was the type of game that I don't think has really happened with the Bears in a long time. It was a game against a high-quality opponent, and really the only important thing about the game was pride. Sure, I would have liked to see the Bears win, but it wasn't like they got blown out or demonstrated any glarins weaknesses. They played really well against the Pats, and maybe if Grossman hadn't hurt his hand or not fumbled that snap they would've won, but it really wouldn't have made too much of a difference. The game was really fun to watch, but it was a game between two teams who both know they're going to the playoffs and with little likelihood of effecting either team's seed in the playoffs. So, essentially, it was a practice game for the playoffs. Before I get back to feeling sad about the fact that the Bears didn't beat the Patriots, I want to be sure to really enjoy the fact that the Bears were in the position to be playing a playoff primer game. This team is really good, and I really think they're going to make it at least to the NFC championship game, which is something that has seemed basically impossible for so many years. Also, it seems pretty safe to say that they will be contenders for the next few years, and so, I guess, I just want to make sure that I enjoy it while it is happening, instead of wringing my hands over every little hiccup and then, in eight or nine years, when the Bears go back to stinking it up and looking up hopelessly at Green Bay and Minnesota, thinking how much better it was back when the Bears were at least competetive. I'd love to see a Super Bowl, but really I'm happy with the fact that the Bears are finally one of the best teams in the league, and look to be so for the near future.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Nobody's talking about Rex's hand. It seemed like he was playing really well until he hurt his hand, and after that all of his throws were really off. After they came back from the first half, though, and the sideline lady said the Bears had said Rex's hand was fine, there wasn't another mention made of his hand. All those downfielf throws didn't quite work because none of the throws were quite on target, and it seems like if he'd hurt his hand and it was hurting his accuracy, he's got to realize that and change his game appropriately, or the coaching staff's got to make a decision to put in Griese. Also, although I do think it's stupid that they went for the big throw when they had a full two minutes left to try to get a drive going, Davis did have Samuel beat and if the throw'd gone to the right spot it would've been a sweet play. Which brings up, again, the question of if Rex's hand was hurt and if that was effecting his accuracy, and if so, why he was still in the game if he wasn't capable of doing what he needed to do. Oh, well. I just don't think this loss was a very big deal.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Over at the FO blog, Aaron Schatz confirms statistically what was already obvious to anyone who has watched all of the Bears games this year: Rex Grossman is way worse when playing from behind than playing with a lead, and especially worse when playing from more than a touchdown behind. Mr. Schatz thinks that as a Bears fan I should be worried by this, since the Bears will be more likely to fall behind playing a good team in the playoffs than when playing a shitty team. While that claim may seem to be kind of a truism, if you look at recent Bears history I'm not so sure that it's as obvious of a truth as it seems at first. It seems pretty obvious that the biggest weakness the Bears have right now is overconfidence, and going back to last season, it has seemed like when they face a really good team their defense gets all amped and freaks out all over everything and pretty much makes it impossible for the other team to do anything. I fully expect that to happen in the playoffs this year. If that does indeed happen, the only thing that Rex Grossman has to do is not turn the ball over. Hell, he could throw only incomplete passes, but as long as they're handing the ball off to Thomas Jones enough to give the defense a little time for rest here and there, the Bears will win. They may not win by thirty points, but they'll probably win. That is, of course, barring some sort of random turn of events like DBs tripping over their shoelaces.

Even though this next week's game might be just about the least meaningful game on the rest of their schedule, I really really really hope the Bears hand it to Tom Brady and the Great Satans. I mean Patriots. Seriously. I hate New England. I hope they shut them out. Probably they won't though. I expect New England to put a little more into the game than the Bears do, and the Bears will at best walk away with an unconvincing victory. And it won't matter at all. The closest team(s) in the NFC is 6-4.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

LOL! Patriots fans are so funny! The Jets managed to cream the Patriots last week, but instead of everyone realizing that the Patriots are just not all that good of a team, they've all decided that the Jets are actually really good. I mean, I already thought that the Jets were better than everyone gave them credit for, but they're just running around with all of the slightly-better-than-mediocre teams, which make up about 90% of the league. Anyway, the Jets beat the Patriots last week and so this week Bill Simmons talks about how the Jets are actually really good and makes fun of Jets fans who don't think that the Jets are really good, and then he goes on to pick the Jets over the Bears! Which I think is pretty frickin' hilarious. For one, there's no way that the Bears fall into the same trap they did with Miami and Arizona, because no one thinks that the Jets are absolutely godawful. Some people are actually picking the Jets to win. Lovie Smith's 2006 Bears only lose games when they're unanimous picks and when the '85 Bears crap reaches a certain level.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The last sentence of Aaron Schatz's comment about the Bears in this week's foxsports dvoa commentary, "Here's what would worry me if I were a Chicago fan: can you really trust the inconsistent Rex Grossman to play well in three straight games?," is another example of the offensive bias seemingly everyone brings to their understanding of football. The fact is, Chicago does not need Grossman to play well in order to close out the season as the number one seed going into the playoffs; Chicago needs Grossman to not be ridiculously awful. Specifically, they need him to avoid turnovers. With the defense the Bears have, there is no way that they will lose another game this season unless the offense turns the ball over. There have been so few times that a team legitimately drove down the field and scored a touchdown against the Bears this season that the only one I can think of right now is the three- or four-play drive the Giants had yesterday that ended with B.Jacobs's longest run of the season. The scary thing, though, is that it has seemed sometimes that Turner does not recognize this fact, and therefore does not impress it strongly enough on the trigger-happy Grossman. Someone needs to impress upon Grossman that losing yards, failing to get the first down, throwing incomplete passes, none of those things is very bad when you have the caliber of defense behind you that he does. The absolute most important thing for him to do, possibly even more important than scoring points, is avoiding turnovers.

Anyway, I'm only so hard on FO because I think they're easily the smartest football analysis site anywhere, and it's annoying to see them making such simple mistakes sometimes. A simple look at Chicago's record and DVOA rankings in offense, defense, and special teams, even if one had not watched a Chicago game all season, should be enough to tell someone that the Bears' quarterback is not the most important player on their team, even if you're a Patriots fan and so trying to imagine another team winning w/o a Tom Brady-level quarterback stretches your noodle a little bit...

Monday, November 13, 2006

While watching the first part of the game last night I found myself thinking, "wow, the Giants really schemed the first part of the game incredibly well, I just hope that once the Bears adjust they turn out to be enough better than the Giants to win," which, I guess turned out to be kinda right. It made me wonder a little bit, though, if the Bears ever actually do work out specific schemes or game plans for each game, and how smart/dumb of a strategy that is. They always talk about how they don't really cater their system to specific opponents, but I think I've always kind of figured they were just blowing smoke, but it does sort of seemt that Lovie's brilliance lies in his scheme and general strategy. He doesn't appear to expend much energy on creating specific plans for specific teams. I don't know too much about Coughlin, but he seems more like the opposite kind of guy. I know from various media reports that he's absurdly anal and a total control freak, and that type of person would probably want to script as much of a game as he possibly could, which could never be more than very much of the first quarter, and then his ability to deal with what's happening in front of him would kind of fall apart as the game progressed, which is pretty obviously what happened last night. Although I don't know if it applies to any of his other games this season. It's hard to really tell how good the Bears are at half-time adjustments and things like that. They fell apart after the first half of the Miami game when they didn't have to and would have been served better by just focusing on what they normally do and continuing to do it, which is what they seemed to do last night. But in the Arizona game it seemed like they came out in the second half and, at least the defense/special teams, really went after a win. Pretty much the rest of the games this season they've been so far ahead at halftime that there wasn't anythign to adjust to.

Mainly, though, I wonder if the overall shape of last night's game (and last week's game) is something we should get used to for the second half of the season. It's been pretty obvious that the way to beat the Bears is to go all crazy at the beginning of the game and freak out their O-line and make Rex panic, which results in turnovers galore, so any team with a non-comatose coaching staff is going to come out doing exactly that. It won't matter, though, if Rex manages to reign himself in or calm down or whatever, like he did yesterday, and play like the good version of himself. But can he do that every game? And did he really manage to calm down yesterday or is it just that when Madison got injured the Giants' didn't feel they could keep blitzing because they didn't trust their nickel? I think, after the giddy first half of the season, it's going to become obvious again that what wins games for the Bears is their defense, since it's going to be up to Defense to play extremely well while Rex figures out each game if he's going to spiral downwards that day or if he's going to focus and make the defense really beat him instead of just scare him. We already know that the defense can win some games all by itself, so it's not so much of a worry to realize that Grossman's got some king-size flaws, but I can't imagine we're going to keep seeing the type of win we saw so many times in the first half of the season.

In other news, how funny is it that the 49ers just beat other NFC North teams two weeks in a row? Seriously, the Bears might have enough wins already to make it to the playoffs...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

LOL! John Madden on Giants' Madison getting beat by Mark Bradley for a touchdown: "He was beaten! He was beaten! He blew a hamstring, granted, but... he still got beat."

I'm so excited for the game tonight Although, for the first time all season, I'm actually kind of nervous about the game as well. There is a pretty decent chance that this will be the most important game the Bears play during this regular season, since it's possible that the Bears and the Giants could end up tied for best record in the NFC, in which case the winner of this game gets homefield advantage during the playoffs, and judging by how the Bears have played at home versus how they've played away so far this year, that is a pretty big advantage for them to have. I would absolutely love to see them beat the Patriots in two weeks, since I hate the Patriots so much, but there's just not much of a chance that game could end up meaning much of anything. It just effects the win/loss column. And that makes it kind of insignificant, especially considering how easily they've been beating pretty much everyone else all season and that there's every reason to believe that will continue as they play the rest of their games against bad opponents. So, basically, this game tonight is the most important game they'll play until the first playoff game, and I hope they realize that and come out like they did last season against Carolina/Atlanta, and how they did against the Seahawks in week three. A loss tonight would be so incredibly annoying. I might even cry.

So the lead-in blurb or whatever it would be called for John Clayton's mini-article about the Bears/Giants game on says, "Everyone expected the Bears to be what they are: perhaps the NFC's best team. But the Giants?" Um, really, everyone expected that? ESPN's Preseason power rankings put the Bears at number 13, with five NFC teams (including the Giants) ranked above them. After the preseason, the Bears were still at 13 with five NFC teams above them, this time including the Bucs instead of Washington. They did jump five spots after their week one humiliation of the Packers, and every NFC team that had been above them except for the Seahawks dropped tremendously. I think it's just kind of annoying for ESPN to be all like, "Yeah. We saw the Bears coming," when I don't remember anything on ESPN before the season started talking about how the Bears would probably be the best team in the NFC, or even be in the running. I think they mostly talked about how they had a decent chance to be in the playoffs because everyone else in their division was terrible, but they'd been "exposed" by the Panthers in the playoffs, and they screwed up their draft, so they would just not be as good this year as last. Why not just admit that you totally screwed up in your assessment of a team that has clearly become a powerhouse.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I finally got around to reading the AGS. Somehow I missed it when they posted it. I'd been looking forward to it, because I'd been thinking there'd been some good stuff on FO lately, but I actually thought the AGS was pretty terrible. It doesn't offer a very good explanation of how the Dolphins won the game, nor does it provide any useful insight to the Bears or Dolphins teams in general. I kind of wonder if he even watched the game or if he just analyzed the game based on box scores and FO statistics.

The stupidest part of the article is when Macey discusses the Bears special teams. He actually seems to say that the reason they fumbled so many times is because their special teams had been playing at such a high level before, so there had to be some kind of correction to that freakishly high level. This is a very common cognitive mistake people make all the time when they think about averages and things like that, but I'm surprised to see it pop up on a site where everyone gets all high and mighty about their superior statistical analysis. While the Bears special teams may not be able to maintain their mutant-like level of play for an entire season, they have proven that their a solid unit. We can probably expect that they'll drop off a little bit, but it's more likely that they'll play at a closer-to-average level than that they'll suddenly be terrible. Macey: "One final problem for the Bears is that much of their early success has been the result of an extraordinarily high level of special teams play. They have excelled in almost all aspects up to this point, creating enormous field position advantages for both their offense and defense. That is a problem because it is simply unsustainable." Hey! Idiot! It is never a "problem" when one aspect of your team is playing at a high level. Think about how blatantly stupid this would sound of someone wrote "One final problem for the Colts is that much of their early success has been the result of an extraordinarily high level of quarterback play. That is a problem because it is simply unsustainable." Macy goes on to mention that the previous high for special teams over a season was 7.8%, and that the Bears had been playing at 13.7%. He then says, "Their DVOA started to drop early in the second quarter." He seems to be assuming that the 7.8% level is some kind of actual concrete thing toward which the Bears will be pulled, and that they will actually be penalized for overachieving by having all sorts of things go wrong as DVOA asserts its omnipotence over their special teams skills. That's just not how numbers like this work. Probably more things will go wrong for the Bears special teams during the second half of the season than did during the first half, just because a way higher number of things went right for the special teams than one could normally expect. That does not mean, however, that they will have some kind of overcorrection of loads and loads of bad things go wrong in order to bring the average back to the center. Really, I'm just pissed off that FO published such an obviously stupid bit of analysis.

The other major thing that bothered me about this article is that it didn't really do much to describe the way the game actually went. Macey makes it sound like the Bears lost because they failed to stop the rush. That's not really what happened at all. The Bears only gave up one big drive that resulted in points: a field goal. The only other big drive the Bears gave up ended in ABrown's interception. The Dolphins scored one touchdown when they were given the ball within the Bears ten-yard line, and pretty much immediately scored another when Taylor got a great read on Grossman's throw. Obviously, the Bears defense will stop most teams from getting a touchdown out of that fumble more times that most other defenses would, but it's still a pretty high-percentage shot that the Dolphins get seven points. At that point in the game, the Bears were down 14-3 despite outplaying the Dolphins pretty significantly. Grossman's first interception, even, wasn't that horrible of a play on his part; it was a very good defensive play by a very good defensive player. The drive when the Bears scored, to get the game to 10-14, proved that the Bears were in control of the game, and if both teams had gone out and executed similar game plans to what they had in the first half, the Bears would've very likely won the game. The Dolphins didn't appear to change much, but the Bears did. Instead of calming things down at half time, the Bears came out and looked jittery and scared, like they didn't know how the win the game. It was actually kind of weird. It really bothers me that there isn't any mention of this aspect of the game in the AGS article. Instead, the Bears lost because their offense never worked w/o Berrian and because they couldn't stop Ronnie Brown and because Grossman was terrible. That's just not how the game was decided. That's only a description of the fourth quarter. And what especially irks me is that, over at the FO blog, Aaron Schatz, in his annoyingly neverending campaign to justify DVOA to people who are never going to buy it anyway (why is it, by the way, that FO's spent so much time trying to justify themselves, by the way? it's like they're more concerned with all the people out there who really don't want to inject intelligence into their football analysis and who probably don't even read what they say. anyway), Schatz wrote in his explanation of DVOA a fake description of a game in which a team outplays another but still loses the game. The funny thing is that his fake description works as a more accurate description of the first half of the Dolphins/Bears game, with just a tweak of minor details, than the AGS article this week.

Especially annoying, too, is that now I'm kind of suspicious of any analysis this Ned Macey guy does. If he fucked up this game so badly, why would I trust him on any other games that I don't watch...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

This weeks AGS feature on footballoutsiders is pretty well done but it fails to offer insight into anything but why the bears lost to the dolphins. Looking forward they failed to notice that chris harris and mark bradley were both inactive for the game. I would like to hear the coaching staff's explination for this, which I can only assume is health because otherwise it's incompitance, as bradley is clearly the second best deep threat on the roster and berrian has a tendency to get hurt at least once a season. also, Davis has apparently never practiced in the X slot and Gage is worthless unless griese is throwing. The whole situation is dubious to say the least. I can't remember exactly why turner was a bad head coach, but I think his player management was part of it. It seems that Lovie is going to have to step up on this front for the team to continue their early season form.
The bears run defense clearly suffered this game, though i don't think quite as badly as the numbers show. I don't really remember more than one sucessful run per possession for Miami, so I don't think there's too much to worry about. But I hope Harris is healthy next week because Johnson just isn't a starter. I didn't even know McGowen was practicing and suddenly he's active on sunday before Harris?
Anyway, I still think the bears are the most solid team in the NFL. Though they have one obvious weakness. They seem to lack composure. Every week that Rex has struggled the only answer provided after the game is "We'll have to look at the film, then we'll let you know what went wrong." What went wrong was that when you get down you forget that there's still time to win the game and Turner and Rex go all crazy. The coaching staff needs to step up their preperation level and more importantly their in game awareness level. When Rex starts to rush, Turner needs to slow down. Let the line block for Jones, maybe even call three running plays in a row!
Sorry, this post is a little rambly. I clearly should have mapped my thoughts a bit before writing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Well, that kinda sucked. The most annoying thing, I think, is that now that they've lost to the Dolphins, if they keep winning, it's just going to increase all the annoying '85 talk.

That was a really weird game, though. I would have felt worse if they'd lost to the Cards, I think, than I do about this game, because at least the Bears weren't really outplayed this game. Though Grossman failed to come through in the end to give them the win, it's not like he really threw the game away, either. The Bears were still very much in the game in the second half of the third quarter, down 21-13, and if Turner wouldn't have panicked and decided that they absolutely had to win this game immediately and started calling only passes, allowing the Dolphins to blitz every down and make Grossman feel uncomfortable, and an uncomfortable Grossman is a very bad Grossman, if Turner would have instead have stuck with what had been working all game, was a run-heavy balanced offense, the Bears could have easily won the game. The Dolphins offense only really earned 3 of its points all game. Grossman's first interception was a bad Grossman mistake, but the other two important turnovers were jsut kind of freak things. It seems like, this year, the Bears haven't played a game in which the breaks went both ways. Either everything is going the Bears' way or nothing is going the Bears' way.

I guess you just have to figure that, most games, you're not going to have such a ridiculous number of breaks go the other way, so you can't get too worried about this game. It revealed very little about any weaknesses the Bears have. But it did show us, once again, that Turner doesn't know how to call plays from behind in such a way to give his quarterback a good comfortable shot at winning. Which is kind of troubling. But it's not the type of thing that can't be worked out, if someone around there is willing to work it out.

Next week against the Giants, though, is suddenly far more important than it would've been if the gods hadn't decided to spit all over the Bears this week.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

how pathetic are the dolphins?

I just looked over the bears schedule and they literally have two difficult games on the entire thing. The Giants in NY in two weeks and two weeks after that NE at foxboro. Before the season this looked like the toughest spell of the year, which it is, but it looked far more daunting with a tough miami team coming to town before the three game east coast trip. The 'fins are dancing very close to the 2007 first overall pick and certainly aren't going to change that on sunday, but it's the old dolphins the undefeated dolphins who are really pathetic. They accomplished something amazing 34 years ago, 13 years before the bears last were dominant, and they spend every year getting together to celebrate the final first loss of every season. This isn't just a private ritual either, they make a big deal out of this event, and apparently they even feel qualified to weigh in on each teams chances of accomplishing what they did. Great guys you were good two generations ago, let it go! You don't know any more about the current NFL than Mark Schlereth and hes a flippin moron. This years bears probably wont go undefeated, but they have a very legitimate chance of doing it. The giants seem to me to be a solid team, but nowhere near the bears level. Eli has never taken apart a great defence and Tiki barber is merely good, not even great, and hes afraid of playing next year, so each week and each hard hitting defence he sees hes going to think of the end being oh so near. And Tom Brady and the Pats are going to lose to Peyton and the Colts, exposing all their defensive shortcomings and the bears are going to come in rested after the bye week that is the NY jets and Urlacher will, single handedly if necessary, ensure that Tom Brady starts to think the studio doesn't look so bad by the end of his pathetic day. Or maybe the bears won't come through in the end, either way i will still think the 72 dolphins players are pathetic human beings.