The Grass Is Always Greener..
For the past few seasons, Bears fans have depended on our team's outstanding defense to get us wins. With the exception of a few great games during the "Good Rex" period early last season, our offense has left something to be desired. So while Chicagoans have loved the sense of security the Monsters of the Midway provide on D, we've always been a little green with envy watching offenses like New England's perform. The end of this Sunday's Bears/Vikings game gave Chicago fans a taste of how the other half lives. Now it seems the grass is always greener…
The 1st quarter saw both teams feeling each other out a little bit. Each broke out for a couple decent runs, but neither offense managed to put together enough first downs to get on the board. Finally, with 1:56 to go, Devin Hester decided to make downs obsolete, returning Chris Kluwe's punt 89 yards for the score. Looks like the Bears will continue to get squib kicks and great field position in the coming weeks. Late in the 1st the Vikings answered, as Tarvaris Jackson found Troy Williamson behind Adam Archuleta for the 60 yard TD. Ouch. Those are the kind of big plays Bears fans aren't used to seeing from an opponent. You gotta wonder what this cover 2 would look like with Mike Brown and Vash on the field. No time to wonder, as the Bears get back on top quickly. The very next drive Griese Like Sunday Morning took a play out of Sexy Rexy's book, finding Bernard Berrian deep up the right sideline for the 39 yard six-pack. Berrian looking like himself again—streaking deep, legs churning, arms outstretched—was a welcome sight after a couple weeks of mediocre play from our receivers. Bears up 14-7.
The D held Minnesota to two quick 3-and-outs and it seemed the Bears were in control of this one until...late in the 2nd, Vikings rookie and apparent second coming of LT, Adrian Peterson, took over. Peterson turned a 2nd and 10 at the Minnesota 33 into a 67 yard touchdown run. Peterson, or as an acquaintance (and Vikings fan) calls him, "Purple Jesus," showed the kind of burst speed, cutbacks and accelerations that Benson could only dream of. His run turned a usually swarming Bears defense into a bunch of individuals in wide-open space (none of whom could remember how to tackle). With the score knotted at 14, the Bears headed into the locker room to face what I can only imagine was a repeat of Lovie's fiery halftime speech from last week.
With the 3rd quarter set to begin, the Bears lined up to kick off to Peterson, Chicagoans licking their lips, waiting for the rook to get lit up by a reinvigorated Chicago team. Instead, Peterson picked up right where he left off, returning for 34 yards and setting up the Vikes at their own 38. Fortunately, the soon-to-be-out-of-a-job Chester Taylor couldn't get anything going and the Bears took over after a quick Viking 3-and-out. Most of the 3rd quarter looked like the 2nd, with both defenses getting enough stops to keep the score locked at 14s. But, as in the 2nd quarter, he-who-shall-not-be-named was about to strike. 1st and 10 from the Minnesota 27 and the hand-off goes to Peterson, who smokes just about every Bear defender on the field on his way to a 73 yard score. Vikings and Purple Jesus up 14-7.
On the last drive of the 3rd, Griese once again stole some of the sweet stylings of his predecessor, hitting one of Rex's favorite targets: the other team. Minnesota linebacker Ben Leber picked off Griese near the 50, putting the Bears D right back on the field. Chicago kept LT Jr. under wraps on the opening drive of the 4th, and Griese found Greg "mmm, that IS a tight end" Olsen across the middle for a big 31 yard gain. While they couldn't find the endzone, Chicago at least managed to put some points on the board with a field goal. 14-10 and the Bears were definitely in this one. Just gotta get a big stop from our defense, who we can always count on, yes? Adrian Peterson says: "no." With 4:10 on the clock Purple Jesus struck again, this time racing 35 yards up the left sideline, leaving Bears defenders looking like living examples of what they call in basketball "matador defense." No doubt about it, this rookie was straight up owning us.
I'd have to look at game tapes (and maybe jump in at safety in a couple Bears practices), but it seems Chicago's front line isn't putting as much pressure on QBs or stopping the run at its inception as quickly, both of which make it more dangerous for our corners and safeties to take the kind of chances they're used to. This new tendency to give up big plays—both on the deep ball and on big runs—seems to result from gaps in the cover 2. Without being able to count on aggressive play up front, the safeties are getting burned trying to cheat up and cover guys hovering behind Urlacher and the corners.
Vikings up 21-10 with less than 4 minutes on the clock. Chicago fans find themselves in unfamiliar territory…the D keeps giving up big plays and we need the offense to put together a big drive. 1st play of the drive, Griese make Bears fans feel a little more at home—by throwing another pick. Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back on this loss, it's easy to point to Griese's two 4th quarter picks as the nail in the Bears' coffin. However…Bears fans were too busy hoping for an improbable last-minute comeback to point fingers. After our defense shut down the Minnesota attack, it was time for the impossible—a Brian Griese-led 2-minute drill for 2 touchdowns. And yet…that's just what happened. First, Griese found the recently absent Muhsin Muhammad up the middle for the easy 33-yard TD with 2:36 on the clock. Then, after another big stop by our D, Griese hit Hester deep up the right sideline for an 81 yard score to tie it up at 31. Good Lord I love Devin Hester.
Bears fans rejoiced! It really IS great to have an offense that can make big plays late in the game. It really DOES feel good to still be in a game despite a defense that allows a rookie RB 224 rushing yards on 20 carries and touchdown runs of 67, 73 and 35 yards. Nevermind that Peterson set a franchise record for rushing yards in a game and gained the most yards against the Bears in their 88-year history. We still had a chance! Our offense kept us in it! Griese IS Tom Brady! Except…there was still the matter of stopping Peterson. With 1:38 on the clock Lovie inexplicably called the kickoff to go to Peterson, who returned it 53 yards—just enough to put the Vikings in field goal position. Ryan Longwell drilled the 55-yarder and that was all she wrote. Griese, Hester and the rest of offense delivered two touchdowns when it counted most, and our defense couldn't stop the one guy on the field that had been burning them all day. A loss is a loss, so what feels better? Losing because of great offense…no defense? Great defense…no offense? The grass is always greener…