Chicago Bears: 2012 Regular Season
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran roughshod over the Bears' postseason dreams in Minnesota, hours after the Bears barely took care of the Detroit Lions.
This was a just ending, a lousy win over a lousy team in a cold, grey city and no help from the Green Bay Packers.
Asked if the team's critics, which is to say everyone outside of Halas Hall, were correct in saying the Bears didn't deserve to make the playoffs, defensive tackle Henry Melton was brutally honest.
"Who does?" he said. "Is there a 10-6 team that really deserves to be in?"
Read the entire story.
Raiola responded to Melton’s verbal jabs the next day when he called the defensive tackle “a clown” and wondered why Melton had been named to his first-ever Pro Bowl.
“I don’t think we said anything to each other,” Melton said. “I think we had a couple of stare downs, that was about it.
“We started off a little hot on them. There wasn’t much said. You can’t really say much when you are losing. It was just fun. If you are going to say something you better back it up and I think we did that today. We had a lot of turnovers. Didn’t get the stops when we wanted to and we needed it… we did get the stop there at the end but we let some points slip away there that we shouldn’t have.”
Melton returned from a two-week absence to record a pair of tackles and recover a fumble that was later overturned by the officials.
Television replays appeared to show Briggs make little contact on the play as the Bears defender flew over the top of the quarterback as Stafford hit the ground.
“I thought I slid over the top of Stafford,” Briggs said. “I understand you want to protect quarterbacks. It was a third down, a critical situation where he is trying to get a first down and I’m trying to stop him from getting a first down. He was still running and he went down as soon as I started to lunge at him. I have no problem flying over the top of him but the referee apparently didn’t see it that way.”
With the Bears clinging to the lead on their own 47 with 3:28 left to play, Cutler broke off a 19-yard scramble on third and 3 to preserve not only the 26-24 win over the Detroit Lions Sunday, but also the club’s playoff hopes.
“That was a huge run,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “That might have been the biggest play of the game.”
Bennett and Jeffery combined to catch nine passes for 185 yards and a touchdown on just 13 targets, one less target than Marshall, who finished with only five receptions for 42 yards.
Bennett led the Bears with five catches for 109 yards and got his team on the board in the first quarter when quarterback Jay Cutler audibled to a swing pass and hit Bennett in stride heading towards the team's sideline. After picking up a block from Marshall, Bennett did the rest and outran the Lions' defense for a 60-yard touchdown.
Forte, who rushed for 103 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown, also went over 1,000 rushing yards for the season (1,094) for the third time in his five-year NFL career. He reached 997 yards on the ground last season before being forced to miss the final four games with a knee sprain. In 2009, Forte rushed for 929 yards despite playing through a variety of injuries.
DETROIT -- The doors to the Chicago Bears locker room opened shortly after their 26-24 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, and anticipation may as well have been running down the walls as the club awaited its postseason fate.
Inside a locker room littered with discarded athletic tape and sweaty piles of socks and football pads, players clutched Freschetta pizza boxes in one hand and leaned against rolling luggage, eyes glued to old tube televisions broadcasting Sunday's matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.
"They've already scored," backup quarterback Jason Campbell said.
Not a good sign for a Chicago team needing their most hated rival -- the Packers -- to deliver a victory over the Minnesota Vikings for it to advance to the NFC playoffs. If the Packers win, the Bears win the sixth seed for the NFC playoffs and will face the No. 3 seed (provided Green Bay wins) San Francisco 49ers in the first round at Candlestick Park.
DETROIT -- Despite a fast start, the Chicago Bears wound up escaping Ford Field with a 26-24 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday to keep alive their hopes for salvaging the club's second consecutive late-season collapse.
The Bears scored 16 points off four turnovers, but the performance on offense didn't inspire much confidence about the club's prospects in the postseason, should it advance.
Let's look closer.
What it means: The Bears finish the season 10-6, but it's still unknown whether they did enough to advance to the playoffs. Chicago certainly took care of its part, but now it needs the Green Bay Packers to defeat the Minnesota Vikings. If the Packers defeat the Vikings later on Sunday, the Bears advance to the postseason as the sixth seed, and will face the San Francisco 49ers on the road to open the playoffs.
Diversity pays off: Jay Cutler completed passes to six receivers in the first half, which is the most he's hit in a game since the club's 21-14 loss on Dec. 9 to the Vikings. With the Lions geared up to shut down Brandon Marshall, Cutler fired a 55-yard strike to Alshon Jeffery on Chicago's first play from scrimmage before hitting Evan Rodriguez on the next play. By spreading the ball around early, Cutler opened up things for the entire team.
It's almost a given that on most passes, Cutler looks solely for Marshall. But against the Lions, Cutler gave his other receivers opportunities to make plays and they delivered. Earl Bennett caught a 60-yard touchdown from Cutler with 4:33 left in the first quarter to give the Bears a 7-3 lead after Olindo Mare's extra-point kick.
With 13:37 left to play, Bennett and Jeffery had already combined for 185 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions. The Bears certainly needed the contributions. With 6:50 left to play, Marshall caught a 19-yard pass, his fifth of the game. The Lions for the most part neutralized Marshall, holding him to just 42 yards receiving.
Turnover tally: The Bears scored 13 points off turnovers, but blew an opportunity to turn those giveaways into more; 28 points, potentially. Julius Peppers, Major Wright, and Eric Weems each scooped up fumbles, while Tim Jennings increased his league-leading interception total to nine with his pick in the second quarter.
Peppers' fumble recovery off a Israel Idonije sack and strip of Stafford marked the only takeaway the Bears turned into a touchdown (a 1-yard run by Matt Forte). Chicago settled for field goals on the rest. The Bears came into the game with a record of 50-12 in games in which they finished with a positive turnover margin.
Decision-making costly: During the week of preparation for Sunday's game, special teams coordinator Dave Toub talked extensively about the need for Devin Hester to make better decisions when fielding punts. Toub should've discussed decision-making on kickoffs with Hester as well. Hester fielded a kickoff 5 yards deep in his end zone and attempted to bring it out. Lions special teams ace Kassim Osgood dropped Hester on the Chicago 5, forcing the Bears to start in bad field position on their first drive of the second half.
The offense managed to move the ball 41 yards before punting after eight plays. But Hester would have given the offense a better chance to succeed by downing the kickoff for a touchback that would've given the group possession at the 20 instead of its own 5.
What's next: The waiting game as the Bears fly on a charter home that isn't even equipped with Wi-Fi to keep them connected to what's going on in some of the other games. With the Green Bay-Minnesota matchup kicking off at 4:25 p.m. ET, the Bears won't immediately know their postseason fate. But if the Packers win, the Bears will face the 49ers in the opening round of the NFC playoffs. If the Vikings win, Chicago's season ends and an offseason of uncertainty begins.
The Bears don't need to tweak much in the locker room at the half. They simply need to maintain.
Let's take a look at a few potential halftime adjustments for the Bears:
ESTABLISH FORTE, BUT DON'T FORGET ABOUT BELL
Matt Forte ran for just 11 yards on four attempts in the first quarter as the Bears called six pass plays to start the game. Chicago can increase the effectiveness of the playaction passing game if it starts to call for more handoffs. Obviously, Forte remains the go-to back, and they need to call more plays for him. Forte broke off back-to-back runs of 11 and 13 yards on his first two carries of the second quarter, and ran three times in a row to start a drive that should have resulted in three points, had Olindo Mare not missed a 33-yard field goal.
The Bears also utilized Devin Hester and Kahlil Bell in the running game. Bell converted a third-and-1 in the first quarter, and spelled Forte for a while at the end of the first half. Bell finished the first half with 12 yards on three attempts. Perhaps the Bears should utilize Forte and Bell more as a one-two punch because what they're doing now is working well.
CHICAGO BEARS at DETROIT LIONSWhen: Noon Sunday | TV: FOX, locally: Ch. 32, WFLD-TV
RADIO: 780 AM, WBBM & 105.9 FM; WLEY (107.9 FM)
CHICAGO BEARS (9-6)
Coach: Lovie Smith | Record including playoffs: 83-66
Career record (including playoffs) vs. Jim Schwartz: 6-1 | Career record vs. Lions: 12-5
Last week: Defeated Arizona Cardinals 28-13.
Key stat: The Bears have won eight of the past nine games in this series, including a 13-7 win in Week 7 at Soldier Field. The importance of a fast start for the Bears can’t be emphasized enough. When the Bears score first, they’re 7-2 this season and 12-5 over the past two years. The Bears are 13-2 over the past two seasons when they lead after the first quarter.
Offense rank: 28th (305.3 YPG) | Defense rank: Fifth (314.9 YPG).
Offensive leader: Recently named to his fourth Pro Bowl, receiver Brandon Marshall ranks No. 2 in the NFL in catches (113), which is already a Bears franchise record, as are his 1,466 yards receiving. Given the fact that he’s caught more than 40 percent of all receptions for Chicago, the Lions know they need to take him away and force the other Bears receivers to beat them. But can they do it? Other teams have tried and failed, while a few have experienced success.
Defensive leader: Cornerback Charles Tillman was named to his second Pro Bowl earlier in the week, and is coming off a performance against Arizona in which he returned his third interception for a touchdown. Tillman will be tasked with covering Detroit record-breaking receiver Calvin Johnson, and he’s experienced plenty of success against the Lions’ top target, holding him to just three catches in the first meeting. With Chicago’s defensive line playing the way it is, Tillman’s job might be easier this game.
Marshall needs one more 100-yard receiving game to take sole possession of the top spot in franchise history for the most 100-yard games in a single season. Marshall is currently tied with Jeff Graham and Harlon Hill for No. 1 on the list with seven.
With 25 touchdowns, Matt Forte needs one more to tie Hugh Gallarneau for the fifth-most rushing TDs in franchise history.
The Bears need one more INT return TD to tie the 1961 San Diego Chargers for the most in a single season in NFL history.
The Bears have won seven consecutive games in which they scored at least one defensive touchdown.
DETROIT LIONS (4-11)
Coach: Jim Schwartz | Record: 22-41
Career head-to-head record vs. Smith: 1-6 | Career record vs. Bears: 1-6
Last week: Lost 31-18 to the Atlanta Falcons.
Key stat: The Detroit Lions are on pace to average more than 400 yards per game for the first time in franchise history, and are one of only two teams (New Orleans is the other) to average more than 300 yards per game through the air. The Lions rank No. 2 in total first downs (363) and seventh in third-down percentage (42.1).
Offense rank: Second (414.2 YPG) | Defense rank: 13th (337.9 YPG).
Offensive leader: Receiver Calvin Johnson now owns the single-season record for receiving yardage (1,892 yards) and appears to have a chance to reach 2,000 yards. He can also set the NFL record for highest yards per game average set in 1961 by Charley Finnegan (124.7-yard average). Reaching those milestones won’t be a cinch, though, with Tillman set to cover Johnson.
Defensive leader: Ndamukong Suh ranks second in sacks by a defensive tackle since 2010 (21), but has shown a penchant for losing control on the field. Suh currently ranks second in sacks by a defensive tackle (seven), is tied for first with eight tackles for lost yardage on runs, and No. 2 in combined sacks and tackles for loss on rushing plays (15).
The Lions have scored 19 touchdowns on their last 26 possessions in the red zone.
With 4,695 passing yards this season, Stafford needs 305 yards to become the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 5,000 yards through the air in back-to-back seasons.
Detroit’s offensive line leads the NFL in games started for its current team. The starting five has combined for 563 regular-season starts and five postseason starts.