Friday, October 31, 2008

The douche returns in DH

It's been awhile since I took the time to point out how truly worthless DH is as a Bears writer, but the first answer in today's column cannot go uncriticized. I don't play football but I know enough to know that this is a fucking stupid idea. It's hard to get two good corners in the NFL, its harder to keep them both healthy for a season. The Bears are in a privileged situation to be able to try and use Graham or Vasher at nickel, I remember Lovie saying Vasher was ideally suited to nickel during his rookie season. It makes sense to get them all on the field since they're all good against the run but taking any depth away from the corner position would be a huge mistake. Let corners play corner and stop trying to think of ways to fuck up a good thing.

With Corey Graham emerging and Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher expected to return from injuries this week, the Bears have three cornerbacks they trust. Any chance of moving one to free safety now or in the future?

It's a good big-picture question. Teams never can have enough good cornerbacks, but Graham's quick development provides them a luxury. He has played well enough at least to split snaps with Vasher at right cornerback. Moving forward, it might make more sense to consider moving Graham instead of Tillman to free safety. They have similar size but Tillman's a proven, Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback and those are hard to find. Graham has shown the smarts and savvy to make such a switch to free safety worth examining either next off-season or even in the second half if Mike Brown doesn't come out of his mini-slump. On the other hand, if Tillman shows any sign of decline after his sixth season then he always could extend his career by changing positions.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

what do the numbers say?

When it comes to sports stats I don't think there's anything more important than points. This is an area that other sports seem to understand better than football. There are indicators as to how a team is scoring but the important point is the points. Footballoutsiders in particular undervalue points in their analysis. There is just no credible way to rank the 4-3 Eagles as the top team in the league. But thats an aside.
When looking at the numbers the Bears are well on top of the division and there's no real reason to think that will change. Chicago ranks second in the NFL scoring 28 points a game. I knew they were good this year but that is still surprising. Green Bay isn't far behind at fourth with 27.7 a game. But the maligned defense offers another surprise. Chicago is 13 not great but not at all bad giving up 21.4 a game. Green Bay again isn't too far behind at 22.7, but Chicago's 6.6 scoring advantage versus GB's 5 is I think significant at this point. Minnesota by the way is at -1.9, they're not going to the playoffs.
Moving beyond points there are three important indicators that the Bears are on a better path than the packers. Chicago has created 16 turnovers, two more than GB's 14; the Bears also have two more sacks than the pack. As well Chicago is only relinquishing 86 yards a game on the ground. Green Bay on the other hand is giving up 141 yards rushing a game. That doesn't bode well for a cold weather team entering November. The Bears are a more dangerous defense for opponents who won't be able to rely on keeping the ball on the ground and shortening the game in cold weather when mistakes become more common.
Ultimately these are very close teams but I agree with Lovie, in November you start to see true separation in the NFL and the Bears look a lot better going into the second half than Green Bay does.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bring Back Bullet Bob!

The Bears entered the bye week with one pressing question, "How do we play defense if our front-four aren't creating pressure?"
The run defense has been fine with the exception of the 54-yard TD by Peterson, but he's the best in the league so that can be allowed for. The problem is that virtually every time the bears play a cover-2 zone they give up a big completion. I hope Harris is healthy following what I believe to be a more significant knee injury than the team has let on. If 91 is back, they don't even have to answer this question. But if he can't be as dominant as in the past what is the adjustment?
The Bears started the season basically playing 10 on the line, covering every gap and jamming every receiver and leaving Mike Brown as the true safety. They've gotten away from that and it has cost them. Even with injuries and inexperienced players, this defense is too good to play a shell. Briggs and co. are attackers and ball hawks and it just doesn't suit them to lay in wait. This is an easy formation to blitz out of, and the secondary should have enough experience at this point of the season to be able to play the system with any of their personnel. On this point, I think the signing of Terrence Holt could prove to be an inspired move. He provides true cover for Brown and fills the absence left by McGowan. Without Manning, Graham or Vasher available for the nickel spot, Babich seemed to think that he didn't have the physical presence and athleticism required to play the system. Thus he reverted to the soft-2. Holt provides that option and Steltz is far enough along that he should be ready to provide further options.
I don't know if it was just Samurai Mike's press conference Sunday, but I want the Burnt and Blue to come on the field and "hit people in the mouth, No. 1." I trust the Lovie 2 once they've already destroyed the other team, but until that point of complete demoralization the Bears need to be attackers.
The other fun point the bye week gave me a chance to ponder is that there is an actual chance, not a great one but certainly not beyond the realm of hope, that the Bears could clinch the division with their 8th win on Nov. 30. It requires that the Packers lose to the Vikings and that both teams lose all their difficult games in the next 5 weeks. But given the current situation, especially if the Williamses get suspended together after the GB game, it is a realistic enough possibility that I'm willing to hold onto hope.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Kevin and Pat Williams, colloquially known as "the Williams brothers," are so cute! They even get suspended together! Too bad they couldn't "rope" fellow lineman Jared Allen into taking a banned substance with them...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I hate bye week.

So if you go to the Bears website right now you'll see a featured article with the headline, "Bye week comes at ideal time for Bears." Really? Nice reporting.... Seriously, is there ever a time when a bye week happens, and the team is like, "this is a terrible time to be having our bye week. this sucks..." I doubt it.

But, whatever. It's not coming at an ideal time for me. Wtf am I supposed to do?! There's no Bears game this weekend! And this year, since the NFL in its infinite wisdom decided to make it the bye week for the whole NFC North that matters, there's not even a Vikings game for me to watch and cheer on the Vikings opponent. Same for the Packers. Triple fucking lame.

Which is why I have to send a serious "thank you" out to whoever it is that owns the 49ers for firing Mike Nolan. I mean, I kinda liked the guy and all, but since he's fired it means that this week is the first head-coaching game for Mike Singletary! I may not be able to maintain this level of enthusiasm beyond this week.... I dunno... but for now, there's actually a reason for me to watch non-NFC North football, the one time in my whole life that there's not an NFC North game going on. Go Mike Singletary! You (or at least Tecmo you) were my hero for some very important formative years! I'm glad you ate Mike Nolan and took his job! 'Bout time! Go 49ers!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Squib is a Four-letter word.

It seems I just can't shut about yesterday's game... There's lots of talk out there about how stupid it was for the Bears to squib at the end of the game, therefore, the argument goes, Lovie Smith is a terrible coach and should be fired. Then there's defenders of the decision, a defense most articulately described in Rahula Strohl's thing today. I think both sides are wrong.

King Kaufman's little ditty about the squib kick being a horrible decision comes closest to being right, I think, although he still comes to the conclusion that Lovie Smith is an idiot. What I think is right about Kaufman's article is that a lot of it is an argument about how stupid squib kicks are in general. That, I think, is the crux of the thing. I honestly cannot think of a time a squib kick makes sense. I just don't understand what is supposed to be gained by squibbing the thing. Usually teams to it do prevent a big return, but (I don't have stats here or anything, so I don't know for sure) it seems like more squib kicks end up with the other team taking over somewhere around the thirty-five or so than traditional kicks do. The squib is just one of those things that for some reason is a given in the basic coaching handbook. If you are trying to prevent a big return: squib it. And it just seems completely wrong to me. And dumb. It's not Lovie Smith himself who's extremely dumb for making the decistion. It's a decision most coaches would have made in that situation. It's just a stupid thing to do in general. It's a general stupidity that Lovie Smith was only symptomatic of yesterday. That's what I think.

The only case I can think of where squibbing it marginally makes any kind of sense is when people squib to avoid Devin Hester, but that's because (at least until this year) by squibbing to the Bears, you were just basically calculating that giving up field position was better than the (likely) possibility of Hester burning you for six. I don't think any returner aside from Hester (and I'd even be willing to entertain arguments there) has ever been so dangerous that the squib is strategically better. (Or tactically better? I can't remember the difference between tactics and strategy right now... sad...)

It wasn't that the squib didn't work or that it was a bad decision in that specific case. Squibs are always a bad decision. I hope the Bears never do it again.

Why me? What now?

Yesterday's loss is the type that leads me to all kinds of useless soul-searching. Especially useless because by soul I mean "the Chicago Bears," and I'm not even on the fricking team or in any way capable of effecting them at all. I can only imagine what it might be to be like on the team. (Actually, I can't... I'm not really sure how professional football players think about being on teams... for one thing, I think they just don't or rarely ever do love their teams the way fans do. Part of maturing as a football player seems to be coming to the realization that it's just a job... which is, like, so completely different from being a fan... anyway...)

Of course, everyone is calling for Lovie Smith's head, because that's what Chicago fans do any time the team loses. Thing is: we're very much still in control of our chances to make the playoffs. All we have to do is win more games than Minnesota or Green Bay, and I think that seems way more likely than the opposite happening in either case. Minnesota is pretty much disintegrating. Their offense is horrible. Against a Detroit Lions team that made Kyle Orton look all-world, they only managed to win because of a really questionable pass-interference penalty on the Lions. And that was even with the Lions spotting them two points when Dan Orlovsky forgot where he was and wandered out of the back of the end zone (quoth Orlovsky, "You're an idiot.") The Vikings are 3-3 but two of their wins were more the result of the other team sucking than their own goodness. Meanwhile, the Bears are 3-3, and all three of their losses involve bizarre fourth quarter collapses that are very much out of character. It seems unlikely they will continue to be in character for the whole season.

Meanwhile, Green Bay is basically using a pre-season lineup on defense. They'll probably stick with us longer than Minnesota just because of Aaron Rodgers being pretty legit, but they ain't gonna win more games than us.

That said, we do need to make some basic strategic changes, and here's what I think they are:

-Attack with the offense! Attack with the mid-range passing game, right out of the gate. That's the part of the offense that has been most consistently successful over the past several games, and it's becoming more obvious that the offense works best when it's put in the hands of Kyle Orton. Matt Forte is a really good running back, and it's not that he couldn't handle the load--it's just that the offense works better when it's going through Orton. Wait until we're up by two scores to start eating up the clock. And attacking works: every game we've started out by attacking on offense, (see especially the Philly game, the Detroit game) we've been in control of the game. Then we went out against Atlanta yesterday and just kind of hoped they'd make a few mistakes or something. We didn't really attack on offense until some time midway through the third quarter. The receivers are starting to run routes well and Orton is really starting to click, and the offense is capable of so much more, right now, than just being the side of the ball that tries not to lose. I have to admit, I do like the general trend toward attacking that the offense has taken, but so far it's seemed to be limited to aspects of the game plan against certain teams. Like, we'll attack, but then we get back to our base offense. We need to change what our base offense is.

-On defense? Jeez, I dunno, actually... it's hard to tell what's going on with the defense. It seems like the main problem is that they only play well when they're completely jazzed out of their minds. When they just sit back, like yesterday, letting the offense come to them, it just keeps coming. We need to switch to the always high-risk/high-reward defense of 2006 and (especially) early 2007. Whenever we lay back in a "safe" defense, we get destroyed. It has not worked, ever. Not once. So, Babich, Lovie, whoever it is that needs to be getting this done: get the defense angry before games. And set them loose. There is so much talent pretty much everywhere on this defense, but that doesn't mean that they're good enough to beat teams without trying, which is what seems to be the thinking.

So, I guess, basically that's the theme. When this team goes out clearly on a mission to take the game from the other team, it wins. When it goes out figuring it's just going to win and waits for it to happen, it loses.

Now I feel a little better. And we're going to beat the Vikings this weekend. I have no doubt.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Orton is good.

Okay, so lots of that game sucked--mainly the defense. Obviously the defensive game plan was to stop the running game and then sit back and wait for Matt Ryan to make some rookie mistakes. That never happened, but the Bears didn't adjust their game plan accordingly. And we got burned for it, culminating in probably the stupidest collapse I've seen since the Vikings gave up two touchdowns in thirty seconds to the Arizona Cardinals to miss the playoffs, way back when... Jeez, I remember watching that at mom's house in Aberdeen. Like five years ago? That was Jauron's last year... Anyway, apparently, that's sort of like what our defense is this year.

But, there's room for optimism:

Orton is good. He's showed that the more you lean on him, the better he plays. There's not going to be some carpet getting pulled out revealing him as a bad QB, like happened with Grossman. He's good. He's solid. He's really smart and knows how to run the offense. The Bears have not had something like that going for them in a really long time.

So what's up with the defense? It sucks right now, but there's time to turn it around. If they can even regain some of their intensity and form, by the end of the season we're going to be a really good team. I mean, we've never had an offense waiting for a defense to catch up. Ultimately, I think that bodes well. This is a defense with a ton of guys who are capable of playing better, and have shown in the past that they can play significantly better. So, likely, they will.

But they need to start working on it right quick here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nor rhetorical.

From our favorite whipping boy, David Haugh:

2. I know Tommie Harris opened himself up to criticism by injecting God into his explanation for why he was suspended and hasn't played well this season. It risked making spirituality sound like a trait necessary for all good defensive linemen, like a quick burst and low center of gravity.

But it would reek of insincerity only if this were the first time he had talked openly about Christianity. It wasn't. The guy known to wear Psalm 91 on headgear and bandages has referred to the role God plays in his life since the day he was drafted in 2004.

If fans or media members weren't mocking Harris when he proselytized all those times he commanded a platform for playing well, why now when his play has changed but the tone of his rhetoric really hasn't? As much as Harris shared, more revealing was the reaction to what he said.

What exactly is he talking about? Did I miss all the mockery the Chicago media was spitting out? Not that I suspect the Chicago media of being in any way noble, but I just didn't notice any making fun of Tommie Harris for his talk of his faith, either in the traditional media or in any of the too-many blogs I read... So, wtf is Haugh on about here? Did he just make up this idea just so he could disagree with it and seem extra noble? Or is he talking about some behind-the-scenes snickering that didn't actually make it into print, but he didn't realize it? Is this something that all those yelling-guys shows on ESPN picked up on and mocked (I don't watch them so I wouldn't know)? Or did he just assume that all this stuff was going on and decided to come out against it so he would have a full ten things to say he thought about?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Oh Tommie Harris we love you get up!

Harris apologized to teammates and asked fans to forgive him for bringing negative attention to himself.

As a person, Tommie, sure, I forgive you. Done. As a Bears fan, tho... For the first time in two weeks I'm going to wear my Tommie Harris jersey to watch the game. Give me a reason to be proud to wear it. Be the Tommie that was so good you made Arizona forget to block Brian Urlacher because they couldn't figure out how to deal with you both. Be the Tommie Harris that beat the snap to Philip Rivers on the goal line in San Diego last year. Be the Tommie Harris that made me decide I had to make yours my first Bears jersey. Seriously, I'm nuts about you. But I feel like you've been gone for a long time... Be the man I know you are, Tommie. It's as easy as that. You won't even need to be forgiven.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A few roster notes on the first post from my room!

Id first like to say, Welcome back Hass! Though I've never seen him play a minute of meaningful football I like Mike Hass and I'm glad he's in Chicago but sadly I can't really cheer for him to take any roster spots because I like all of the Bears receivers this year.
The other recent addition Marcus Hamilton is, I believe, a good signing for this defense. It allows for more safety flexibility and he proved that he's good enough to step in if the Bears reach that point.
The most interesting note of the week though is that Nick Roach is good enough to challenge Hunter Hillenmeyer and Jamar Williams for playing time. When the hell did this happen? It's great that another player is doing well enough to ask the question, and Hillenmeyer responded with a great game against Philly, but I'm annoyed that as an avid fan and roster junky things like this consistently happen and I'm sprung for a loop. I wish that the Chicago media was more consistent in relating this information or that the Bears coaches were less finicky in their player dealings. I get annoyed watching it so I bet it sucks for the players.