Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears
By Kevin Seifert
After the Chicago Bears' 23-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, here are three issues that merit further examination:
And here is one issue I still don't get:
- From a statistical standpoint, it's easy to track the reasons why the Bears have now lost three of their past four games. Put simply, their defense has fallen off the pace it set during a 7-1 start -- dramatically. As ESPN Stats & Information noted, the Bears had seven defensive touchdowns in their first eight games. Since then? None. They averaged 3.5 takeaways per game in their first eight games. Since then? A total of six in four games. Obviously there was more than that to the Bears' start, but if you had to name the top two reasons the Bears started this season well, it would be takeaways and defensive touchdowns. Many of you wondered if the Bears had set a unsustainable pace over that stretch, and it appears they did. On top of that, on Sunday, their defense looked worn down and old as the Seahawks' Russell Wilson ran through them like the young and spry quarterback that he is. Most of their post-30 crowd -- Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman -- is now nursing nagging injuries.
- You wonder if coach Lovie Smith was demonstrating any kind of concern in that area when he decided to go for it on fourth down from the Seattle 15-yard line in the second quarter. The Bears led 7-0 at the time. One reason for going for it is because you think your offensive line and power running back can overwhelm the opposing defensive line. Another reason is that you think you're going to need touchdowns, rather than field goals, to keep ahead of the opponent. Smith would never admit to it and we'll never know for sure. But the primary reason Smith has typically been conservative in those situations over the years, taking the field goal over a risk, was that he knew his defense had a good chance of making a lead -- any lead -- stand.
- Were it not for Wilson's heroics, we would have spent much of Monday discussing quarterback Jay Cutler's 56-yard pass to receiver Brandon Marshall on the first play after the Seahawks took the lead with 24 seconds left in regulation. I mean, how much confidence does Cutler have both in his arm and Marshall to throw that pass? It wasn't a typical Hail Mary pass. Against a defense aligned specifically to prevent a big pass, Cutler threw a dart to Marshall down the seam. The play put Robbie Gould in position for a game-tying 46-yard field goal, and you had the sense that Cutler and Marshall would have ensured a victory if they had gotten the first possession of overtime instead of the Seahawks.
In the video, Prim Siripipat and Eric Allen wonder whether we're seeing the beginning of the end of Urlacher's time with the Bears -- and possibly the NFL. It's not clear if Urlacher will be ready to play in Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings because of a hamstring injury, and the Bears' decision to allow him to enter the season in the final year of his contract spoke to their uncertainty about his future. Urlacher has gamely managed pain and age this season through limited practice time, but you won't find many football people who would tell you his play has been close to previous seasons. I'm not sure what the Bears' plans are, or if they even know them at this point, but Siripipat and Allen discussed a valid topic. It's not out of the possibility we are entering the final four regular-season games of the Urlacher era in Chicago.