Monday, December 5, 2011

Hanie and the Bears? They Are Who We Thought They Are!

Good news or bad news first? Bad news? Caleb Hanie was 11/24 for 133 yards, zero touchdowns, three interceptions, and a sterling passer rating of 23.8. The Bears surrendered the only touchdown of the game on a hail mary at the end of the first half that of course ended up in the hands of Kansas City Chiefs RB/WR Dexter McCluster. Matt Forte is potentially lost for 2-4 weeks with a sprained knee. The Bears were 0-11 on third downs. More bad news? All of this resulted in a loss against a Chiefs team that had lost four games in a row, hadn't scored a touchdown in its last 45 possessions, and had a quarterback who had thrown three interceptions in each of the past two games (with the hail mary against the Bears being his first career TD pass). Oh, the good news? There was none, as the Bears (lack of) team effort essentially just cost them a playoff spot. Sure, they're still in the race, but a team that can't beat the lowly Chiefs, let alone must ONE SINGLE TOUCHDOWN, surely doesn't belong in the playoffs nor is capable of making them.

Where do we start with this mess? I'll start with the defense, the side of the ball that was supposed to keep the Bears in games until Jay Cutler returned from injury. The only positive that you can bring out of this game is the continued stellar play of Julius Peppers. Again, even without earning sack numbers that preoccupy the minds of other defensive studs, Peppers is a game changer unlike most in the NFL. He was consistently in Tyler Palko's face and make life difficult for the rookie backup QB, unlike anyone else on the team. As for the rest of the defense? There were some good things, like limiting the opposing team to 10 points. But don't let that fool you - this was a putrid effort that stinks of a typical Bears loss.

Bears D really had little to celebrate about
Just look at the offensive ranks for Kansas City this year. 30th in points scored per game and 30th in total points scored. 27th in yards per game. 29th in average yards per play from scrimmage, with a paltry 4.7 average. 28th in first downs per game, with only 16 per game! I could go on, but the point is, the Bears should have been able to pin back their ears and tee off on Tyler Palko the entire game. And Palko? Just look at his numbers before he was able to play the Bears yesterday. It was his third game as a starter. His first two games? Three interceptions in each game, with a passer rating in the 40s in both outings. Yesterday? One touchdown, no interceptions, and a passer rating in the 80s. And it wasn't just the hail mary pass he completed for the only touchdown. He led two massive drives, one for 15 plays at the end of the first half, and one for 16 plays in the third quarter, against the Bears defense that is utterly embarrassing. Did anyone else watch this guy play? He throws worse than Tim Tebow! And don't fret, we get the Tebowners next week. The Bears defense prides themselves on their ability to control a game when the offense can't cut it. They did that to a certain extent yesterday, but in far less convincing fashion than one would think against this offense.

Cue the Benny Hill theme song.
What is there to say about the Bears offense? Caleb Hanie was downright awful. There's no excuse-giving for him now. He faced an average defense that he should have been able to take advantage of and most of the time looked like he couldn't wait to get off the field. He's just not a good quarterback. At all. How many wide open throws did he miss, or take sacks he shouldn't have, or not throw the ball away, or throw a bad interception, or generally not look like he knew what he was doing? It was hard to watch, as seemingly everytime the Bears got the ball you knew what would happen: run up the middle for 2-5 yards by Marion Barber, incompletion on a short pass by Hanie, sack/incompletion on a third down attempt by Hanie. Rinse, repeat. The Bears have no - repeat NO- shot at making the playoffs with Caleb Hanie as quarterback. As I feared when Cutler first went down, Hanie's performance in last year's NFC Championship game was the result more of a defense unprepared to handle Hanie than of Hanie's supposed underrated quarterbacking skills. I understand that he's the untested and inexperienced backup. And knowing that, I don't care. He's a quarterback in the NFL, and one would hope that he could at least hit wide open receivers in stride. You'd think that he would learn that skill at the pop warner, high school, or college level. God, I hope by some stroke of luck he gets better, but I'm not holding my breath.

"Cupcake" Williams losing sight and bobbling the "big brown thing"
And it's not as if his teammates were any better. Players like Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, and most especially Roy "Cupcake" Williams, were either non-existent or downright awful. Williams had the biggest bonehead play of the game, dropping a sure touchdown pass from Hanie near that end of the game that killed the only offensive production of the entire game from the Bears. I can't say enough of just how horrible Williams is. What does he bring to the table? He's too big, he's slow, he's lazy, and worse, he's unaccountable. Williams, of course, blamed the fact that he'd been waiting around all game for the ball as the reason he dropped the pass, and then claimed that he couldn't see the ball because of a linebacker in his face so he ultimately only saw a "big brown thing" coming at him. Uh, Roy, that big brown thing is the football that you're paid $2.46 million more than you're worth to catch. What a disgrace.

Cutler is sorely missed
I don't even want to talk about losing Matt Forte to a sprained knee for 2-4 weeks. That's the proverbial nail in the coffin to the Bears season. Watch out Denver, Seattle, Green Bay, and Minnesota - Caleb Hanie, Marion Barber, Johnny Knox, and Roy Williams are comin for ya! The complete lack of offensive firepower merely underscores the importance of Jay Cutler to this offense. Remember those days, even if they seem so long ago, when the Bears looked like a complete team in huge wins over the Eagles and Lions? Yeah well, I think we all realize now that the ability of the offense to function with the inadequate skill players already on the roster is due in large part to Cutler's ability to raise the level of his teammates. Without Cutler, Knox is no better than a 3/4 receiver in this league, and you can say the same for Hester as well. Williams shouldn't be in the league regardless, the "sure hands" of Dane Sanzenbacher are a myth, and outside of 10 or so good catches this season from Kellen Davis, we have no offensive production from the Tight End position (its not like "guru" Mike Martz would use it anyways). Cutler made everyone better, something that Hanie simply cannot do. Add to that mix the absence of Matt Forte for potentially the rest of the season, and you have a disastrous finish that is going to be hard to watch.

The man, the myth, the legend! Jerry Angelo everyone!
And really, shouldn't there be a lot of blame on some of the coaches and the front office? Mike Martz is the worst. As each game progresses I get more and more irritated that he calls plays for the Bears. I can't wait for his contract to be up at the end of the year. I don't care if it means that Cutler has to learn another system - it's worth finding someone who has an offensive system that has worked in the last 10 years, and didn't only work when a team consisted of multiple Hall of Famers. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't include our favorite whipping boy around here, Jerry Angelo. Hmm, let's see - what are his responsibilities as General Manager? Should he have known how terrible the offensive line (surrendering 7 sacks yesterday) was and both found better players for the line and/or a better backup quarterback knowing the good chance that the franchise quarterback with the big contract would go down? Should he have gone out and acquired skill players that could allow an offense to survive outside of our quarterback, instead of keeping and relying on players that even a 10 year old playing Madden wouldn't choose? Should he have been ran out of town simply for the mere thought of signing Roy Williams? Does anyone even really know what he does, ever?

The sad reality is that we know all the answers to those questions, and they don't make us fans any more comfortable about this season, nor next if Angelo is still around making personnel decisions or Martz is around calling plays. I know that us Bears fans were so pumped for this season, especially as everything started to click right before Cutler went down. And just as quickly, the season has gone down the toilet. Yes, it's difficult to continue to win when your franchise quarterback goes down. But you can't lose against the Chiefs. You can't fail to muster a single touchdown and expect to compete for a playoff spot. You'd think that over the next four games, the Bears need to finish 3-1 to make the playoffs with the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, and New York Giants all vying with the Bears for the two NFC Wilcard slots. Yet how is this team, who couldn't beat the Chiefs, going to get three wins against either the Broncos, Seahawks, Packers, or Vikings? Personally, I think the Bears will be fortunate to finish at 9-7, missing the playoffs at the same time. And unless some magic luck descends upon Halas Hall this week, its looking more and more that our worst fears are becoming reality.