Once again the score of today's game was overly-deceiving as the Bears seemingly lost a close game to the now 3-2 Seattle team. However, for anyone watching the game, it was obvious that the Bears had no legitimate shot at a victory today. Were it not for Devin Hester's punt return with 1:54 left in the game, the score would have been a much better depiction of how the game went down.
For once, at least one of Lovie Smith's comments was dead-on: "None of us looked good today. We got our butts beat," he reported after the game. This could not be more accurate.
Cutler managed to throw for 290 yards despite being sacked six times, but could not find a way to put up a touchdown. The Bears defense, on the other hand, was able to get pressure on Seahawk QB Matt Hasselbeck, but was never able to record a single sack or force a turnover.
When the Bears' offensive line plays as poor as it did today and the defense is not able to bail them out by matching the other teams' pressure on Cutler, or is unable to create any turnovers, the Bears will look as inept at playing football as they did today.
Just a quick glance at the box score tells you how bad the Bears were today. The 0-12 performance on third downs is absolutely a back-breaker. On top of that, the Bears were only able to rush for only three first downs, and only ran it a total of 14 times. The Seahawks knew they only had to stop Cutler, and with the pressure that was on him for the duration of four quarters, I think fans should be thrilled that Cutler was able to play the entire game, let alone that he didn't throw any interceptions while running for his life.
The Seahawks were successful enough of third down, converting on seven of 18 attempts, and the Bears defense was not able to step up when and where it needed to today. Julius Peppers and company allowed 111 yards rushing while Hasselbeck was able to complete 25 of 40 pass attempts, good for one touchdown and 242 yards. This, my fellow Bear fans, was a complete loss.
The Bears now sit at 4-2, but remain atop the NFC North with the Packers losing in overtime to the Miami Dolphins today. Up next its Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins, who await the Colts tonight with kickoff in just over an hour. Currently the Redskins sit at 3-2, and should be a team the Bears can beat at home next week... but isn't that what we said about the Seahawks prior to noon today?
More times than not this year, the Bears have been able to overcome the disappointing play from the offensive line with timely efforts and turnovers from the defense and Cutler's insane fourth quarter QB rating, which was 133.4, best in the NFL, entering play today. When these magical things do not manifest themselves at the most opportune times, the Bears turn in frustrating performances like the one witnessed by all of Chicago today.
Positives from this loss are that Cutler appeared to remain healthy and coherent throughout
the game, and was able to remain relatively calm under constant pressure without throwing any picks. Although the Bears rarely ran it, they did average 4.4 yards per carry, which is an improvement from the team's 3.6 average entering today's game.
Otherwise, don't we know that if the Bears don't make key stops on defense, don't create any takeaways, and cannot provide decent protection for Cutler that the team is in trouble? Every game that the Bears win this season will be because the team was able to execute in each of those categories, or perform brilliantly in two of them. When this does not happen, disaster is imminent.
While the Bears surely did not play as badly today as they did against the New York Giants, the Bears were similarly out of this game despite what the final score indicates. When we create turnovers and stop teams on third down or in the red zone, our defense will keep us in games. If the offensive line can protect Cutler with some consistency, he will be able to win us some games. When these things do not happen, we see the Bears team that many of us were afraid of seeing before the season ever started.
Let us be happy that the Bears are not horrible; they have enough talent on this roster (somehow... I cannot believe I'm actually writing this) to give them a chance to beat any team that they cross paths with. I thought that faulty execution on the Bears' part would be enough to keep them under .500 this season, and while that is still possible, I am happy to admit that this looks unlikely. In fact, with the woes the Packers and Vikings have been dealing with, the Bears are still looking like a team bound for the playoffs at this point, and that surely is an unexpected treat.
The team could sputter out and fall apart the rest of the way, and end up not making the playoffs, especially if they find ways to lose to mediocre teams like the Seahawks (which is entirely possible). However, we have seen enough proper execution on the Bears part to assume that they will beat another team or two that they probably shouldn't before all is said and done. So, the Bears will lose some games that they should win, and will win some games that they probably shouldn't (both of which we've now seen already). Hmmmm.... sounds like the standard story in the NFL.
Hang on to your butts, Bears fans: its shaping up to be a long and interesting ride.