Sunday, December 1, 2013
5 things we learned vs. Vikings
By Jeff Dickerson
MINNEAPOLIS -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 23-20 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings:
1. Bears seasons continue to unravel in the Metrodome: Fittingly, the Bears' final game in the Metrodome turned out to be a complete disaster. That might sound a bit dramatic, but when you factor in the importance of the game with all the opportunities the Bears were given to win it, this is one of the most painful losses in recent memory. The Bears have won just two games in this old and run-down building since 2002, with several of those defeats altering the outcome of the season -- and that includes Sunday’s overtime thriller. With the Detroit Lions now holding essentially a two-game lead over the Bears in the NFC North with four left to play, you have to wonder if the Bears ruined their chances to make the playoffs. As far as the Bears are concerned, they can’t tear this place down fast enough.
2. Bears' botched overtime field goal attempt: Robbie Gould has made so many clutch kicks for the Bears in his nine-year career that I completely understand why Marc Trestman felt confident with Gould from 47 yards with 4:12 left in overtime. But Trestman’s decision to kick the ball on second-and-7 from the Vikings' 29-yard line was curious. Coaches tend to attempt game-winning kicks before fourth down to guard against a possible bad snap, but the Bears have the best long snapper in the NFL, Patrick Mannelly. So that rationale doesn’t make a ton of sense. Matt Forte was also averaging 5.2 yards per carry on Sunday. Why not hand him the ball a couple of times to give Gould a shorter kick? Forte fumbled the ball last week in the first quarter in St. Louis, but he’s generally pretty careful with the football. In the end, Gould missed the kick. That’s the bottom line. But Trestman had an opportunity to help out one of his players win the game for the team, and he failed to pull the trigger.
3. Josh McCown did his job: McCown made his share of mistakes versus Minnesota, but he passed for 355 yards and two touchdowns for a 114.9 quarterback rating. That means McCown is 120-of-184 for 1,461 yards, 9 touchdowns and 1 interception on the season. That’s a passer rating of 103.6. I know we mention this every week, but what McCown has done in 2013 is remarkable. It’s a pity the Bears went only 2-2 when McCown started. He played well enough for the team to win every game he appeared in. As McCown gracefully moves aside for Jay Cutler to return, likely next Monday night versus the Dallas Cowboys, one has to marvel at how efficient McCown looked since entering the mix when Cutler tore his groin muscle in Washington. We spent a lot of time in the preseason wondering if Cutler could be the next Rich Gannon, a former quarterback that tasted an inordinate amount of success with Trestman later in his career. This might sound crazy, but maybe the next Rich Gannon is actually McCown. That’s not to say that McCown is a better player than Cutler, but you have to wonder what McCown, 34, could accomplish with a full season running this system.
4. Defense played hard; results were the same: The Bears' defense showed some fight on Sunday, aggressively stacking the box in an attempt to slow down Minnesota’s star tailback, Adrian Peterson. Strong safety Craig Steltz, who filled in for the injured Major Wright, made several key stops and led the team with 12 tackles, while Julius Peppers ignited the pass rush with 2.5 sacks. The return of nose tackle Stephen Paea and the debut of defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff seemed to help the defensive line, but in the end, Peterson still rushed for 211 yards and veteran reserve quarterback Matt Cassel came off the bench to pass for 243 yards and one touchdown. Individual improvements are great, but collectively, it was the same old story for the Bears on defense.
5. Alshon Jeffery is in rare company: Outside of Matt Forte in 2008, Jeffery is the Bears’ best offensive draft choice since the 1980s produced the likes of running back Neal Anderson, left tackle Jimbo Covert and quarterback Jim McMahon. Bears general manager Phil Emery hit a home run when he moved up in the second round to grab Jeffery out of South Carolina in 2012. Jeffery broke his own single-game franchise record for receiving yards with 249 on 12 catches, including two impressive touchdown receptions. Jeffery is now over 1,000 receiving yards on the season. He has some of the strongest hands in the NFL. He can do it all. The future seems full of all kinds of exciting possibilities for the Bears and Jeffery in this offense.