Sunday, September 09, 2007

My Heart Hurts

I'm just home from one of the most heartbreaking losses I've watched the Bears take in a few years. I actually think I feel worse about this loss than about the Super Bowl. At least after the Super Bowl it was easy to point to things the Bears had done wrong. They should've been more aggressive on defense, for instance, and Wade Wilson should no longer be quarterbacks coach. After this game, though, it doesn't look like there's anything really wrong with the Bears. It would've been nice to see Benson get a few more rushing yards, but they were running on a very good defensive team, and they actually did manage to put together a few offensive drives in which the running backs were keys to success. And that's really the only are of the game where it looks like the Bears could've significantly improved over this performance.

What's most frustrating about this game is that the Bears actually outplayed San Diego for pretty much the entire game (or, at the very least, they played just as well as San Diego), but two of the three biggest breaks in the game went San Diego's way, and they both led pretty much directly to San Diego's only points. The three huge breaks were: that fucking punt that bounced off McGowan, Adrian Peterson's fumble, and Tommie Harris not getting called for offsides when he forced the fumble.

Tommie Harris getting away with offsides most likely prevented a field goal, which means it was a +3 points play for the Bears. That terrible punt that bounced off McGowan extended an offensive drive for San Diego about thirty yards, which kept a tiring Bears defense on the field just long enough for San Diego to get their one offensive play that really worked: LT's touchdown pass. That's a -7 swing against the Bears. AP's fumble probably lead the least directly to San Diego points, but it gave San Diego a very short field after giving up the ball pretty recently, and it also ended a Bears drive that was starting to look more promising than any Bears drive that had come before it. So, I'll call that a -6 swing for the Chargers (taking away a possible field goal from the Bears and essentially guaranteeing a field goal for San Diego). Which means the huge breaks in the game led to a -10 swing against the Bears, who lost by 11 points. Would a 7-6 game have been more palatable?

Actually, probably, yes. Slightly. But then there was that interception Grossman through, which was maybe a poor decision by Grossman to throw the ball, but it was also partly Berrian's fault for giving up on the route. That was another sure field goal for the Bears gone. I feel pretty confident saying the Bears deserved to win this game as much as San Diego did, and it was basically just luck that determined the victor.

What makes it hardest to take, though, is that the score 14-3, makes it look like San Diego really outplayed the Bears, and now Bears fans are going to have to sit through all this stupid press for a week talking about how the Bears are a worse team than they were last year.

(Case in point: I just checked out the game recap on, which starts: "Maybe this wouldn't be such a good Super Bowl matchup, after all.

At least not the way the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers looked on Sunday.

Sports reporters for ESPN and pretty much everywhere else mistake excellent defensive play for sloppy play. There wasn't really a whole lot of sloppy play here; it's just that both teams' defenses were significantly better than the opposing teams' offenses. Why are sports reporters so distracted by offenses? Ugh.)

Don't believe it. The Bears defense looked legitimately better than they were last year. Tommie Harris looked %100, with and amazing step: he looked like he beat the Chargers into the backfield on more than one play. Dvoracek and Javon Walker looked like immense improvements over Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone and Tank Johnson. Ogunleye finally looked like the player the Bears paid for and Mark Anderson looked like anything but a liability against the run. The Chargers hardly threw the ball in Tillman's direction, and Vasher had a sack. M. Brown had an interception. Archuleta had a few big tackles. Basically, the entire defense made huge plays. I hope Brown's not actually injured again, but even if he is, McGowan looked like he could be pretty huge on defense himself.

The Bears are not in trouble. They're offense will get better, and won't play against a defense as good as San Diego until the playoffs. There's every reason to believe this will be the last loss for quite a few weeks.

But none of that makes it feel any better. I just want to sleep until next week.

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