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Bears Survive In Lackluster Performance Vs. Winless Buffalo.....

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Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

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Who knew a trip to Canada could be so much fun?  Right?
 
For the announced crowd of 50,746 who packed into the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto to see the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills play the game was so exciting that you have to look ten stories down on the sports section of TorontoSun.com to see what happened.  A match up of the for sure worst team in the NFL and one of the worst 4-3 teams in the league is not exactly prime time viewing.  Interest was so bad for this game that walk up sales for tickets were reportedly being sold below face value.  People in Toronto care more about their Maple Leafs, Argonauts, and how the Raptors will move on from Chris Bosh over any NFL game.  In Chicago however the Bears 22-19 victory yesterday trumps the Blackhawks losing their second game to the worst team in the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers.  By the way if you want to read how the Blackhawks blew a lead in the third period to the Bulin Wall led Oilers, story number seven of the sports page on TorontoSun.com
 
The Bears did win.  The Bears are 5-3 and kept up with the first place Green Bay Packers who destroyed the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night.  Even with a Bears win coming off the bye week, there is no way possible that this win over the worst team in the NFL is a win to celebrate by any means.
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Coming off a bye week following two losses at home to teams considered "the easy part of the schedule" (Seattle, Washington), you would think that the Bears with extended rest following extreme disappointment in front of your home fans that they would want to make a statement of some kind.  What better opportunity for the Chicago Bears to make that statement than with a team like the winless Buffalo Bills on a neutral site in Toronto.  On paper you would think that the offense would finally show up as a collective and the Mike Martz offense would flourish against what most people/experts consider the worst defense in the NFL.  You would think that the Bears defense which ranks in the top five of the NFL overall would have no problems stopping a Buffalo Bills offense led by seventh round journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Again....on paper this game should have been a blowout.
 
The Bears won 22-19.  Where are the positives outside the outcome?
 
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The word balance was associated with yesterdays victory, which is something we have yet to see this year under the Mike Martz offense.  The Bears FINALLY RAN THE BALL and did a good job balancing a rushing attack with the Looking at the box score you see 31 rushes, and 31 passing plays (1 sack of Cutler on a pass play).  You would think that the 50/50 balance that Lovie Smith joked about earlier this season has finally arrived, but let's dive further into the numbers. 

Of the 31 rushing plays the Bears ran yesterday, five rushes were the part of Jay Cutler all which were broken passing plays.  You also have to look at the two reverse plays by Devin Hester and Earl Bennett adding up for a total of four yards.  Now we are down to 24 rushing plays outside the 43 yards on seven carries combined from Cutler/Bennett/Hester.  Matt Forte and Chester Taylor combined for 24 carries for 62 yards which is a 2.6 yard/carry average per run.  Looking at the combined runs of Cutler/Bennett/Hester, they averaged  a 6.1 yard/carry.  Understanding that Cutler's rushing totals were based on broken passing plays, is 2.6 yards/carry enough of a balanced running attack to satisfy the need for it?   
 
The Buffalo Bills defense were dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at 189 yards/game.  The Bears running attack (Forte/Taylor) finished with a combined total of 62 yards, 127 yds below the AVERAGE yardage given up by the Bills per game.  How can Bears fans truly be happy with what they saw on the offensive side of the ball yesterday in the running game?  The Bears may have attempted to show balance by running the ball with Forte/Taylor only one less time than the last two games combined, but never confuse effort with results.  The results still are not there.
 
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The Bears converted a third down! 

THE BEARS CONVERTED A THIRD DOWN!   
It is almost like the Bears have not converted a third down all season long judging the talk I heard from Bears fans after the game. The Bears converted seven of twelve third down opportunities finishing at 58% for the game, a season high!  How can you have a negative thought when a team achieves a season high in something? 

The Buffalo Bills have allowed 46 third down conversions (27th in the NFL), and allow 43% of third downs to be converted (28th in the NFL).  The Bills are the worst team the Bears have faced so far this season on third down defense.  So although it may be a season high mark for the Bears, keep in mind who they are playing.  If the Bears did not convert some third downs with two weeks to prepare on a neutral site against one of the worst defenses in the league on third down......that would be a basis for firing Mike Martz.
 
The Bears scored more than 20 points in a game for the first time in a month!  That is a positive because it shows the offense is moving in the right direction and putting up points.  However the Buffalo Bills rank dead last in the NFL in points allowed on defense.  Going into the game with the Bears, the Bills allowed ON AVERAGE 29 points per game.  Buffalo gave up over 30 points in five of their previous seven losses this season. For the Bears not to even meet the average points allowed by the worst defense in the NFL is simply inexcusable when you have two weeks to prepare for a game on a neutral site.  Especially when (by most reports) the crowd was mainly a Bears fans crowd.   
 
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Looking even deeper into the box score, as well as the Bears did on third down the Bills did better and against a much tougher defense on third down.  The Bears defense not only allowed the Bills to convert 63% of their third downs (Currently 4th in NFL on third down %), but of the ten third downs they did convert they were on average long third down plays (avg over six yards)Jay Cutler did not throw an interception, but numerous times throughout the game was one step or a drop away from being picked off.  You think the wide receivers are on the same page with every play in the Mike Martz offense?  How come Earl Bennett was Greg Olsen's next door neighbor on his touchdown catch.  You cannot have two wide receivers in the same (almost exact) area on a play that close to the goal line.
 
Two weeks to prepare for the only winless team in the NFL on a neutral site, yet instead of WINNING the game in convincing fashion....you escape with your tail between your legs.   
 
The Chicago Bears may now be 5-3 but yet with extra time to prepare they did nothing to convince me they got better at anything heading past that "easy part" of their schedule.
 
-RoCk
 
Rock Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and co-host of The Joe O And Rock Show on WSCR 670AM The Score
 
You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at twitter.com/mullyhanley
 
You can follow The Joe O And Rock Show at twitter.com/joeoandrockshow


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