I was dreading yesterday's game against the Denver Broncos. The sports gods haven't been too kind to the Bears the last few weeks, and I had a sinking feeling the fortunes weren't about to be reversed.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Only a few weeks ago, I believed that the Bears were not only destined for a playoff spot, but they had built the kind of momentum that was making them a dark horse candidate for a run straight to the Super Bowl. The Bears have always had a strong defensive line and an amazing specials team, but it was the offensive side that was finally beginning to click and look really strong. They weren't just squeaking out wins, but they were racking up a decent pile of points.
Then Cutler got hurt. Right when he was really bringing the entire offensive side of the team together and it looked like they had created an unbreakable system. It made the future look a little less shiny with Cutler rooted to the sidelines for what is assumed to be the rest of season, but I also had faith that we were stilled filled with several more superstars.
Then Matt Forte got hurt last week. This is a bigger blow than Cutler. I know you don't want to lose your starting QB, who is often considered the leader of the offensive side of things. But you definitely don't want to say good bye to the guy who has provided over 50% of your offensive output. That was Forte. That is a massive loss.
So, I dreaded Sunday's game where we were down two huge parts of our offensive package. I was dreading it more because we needed to win. We couldn't lose a third straight and drop down to 7-6, which would start making that wild card spot look a little distant. We definitely needed to win that game when our main competition the Lions and Falcons were able to win their games and go 8-5.
You know what; I started getting some hope when watching the game against Denver. Yes, by half time the game was stuck in the scoreless zone, but the team for the most part had been playing really well. Or at least, the defensive line was super strong (which usually is the case, but still. . . ). But I was haunted by the talking heads during half time, who kept saying this score makes it a Tim Tebow kind of game. I wanted to ignore that because I knew they were right. But then again, upsets exist because experts can be wrong.
When it was 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, it was looking like the experts might be wrong. Bears were up 10-0, and they just needed to run down the clock to win this thing. The second half saw amazing performances from the Bears' special teams (Robbie Gould set a franchise record with a 57 yard field goal) and the very best was demonstrated from the tough Bears' defensive line (not allowing the Broncos to make much progress on the field). Even Marion Barber was doing a fine job of being the Forte replacement, and giving the Bears not only some yards but their only touchdown.
But then things fell apart.
Now, I know it can be annoying to hear an unathletic, "can't even play competitively against 12 year olds', after the fact, wannabe coach dish out how he would have won this game. But I've given up the whole avoiding to be annoying thing a long time ago. I disagree with the Bears' final ten minutes of offensive strategy. They basically decided to play it really conservative and run out the clock, while relying on the strong defensive team to hold down the Broncos. You know what, it can be a fine strategy, but it can also be a dangerous one when the game is still really close. It only would take the Broncos two good drives to win the game.
The problem is that the Broncos have started mastering the art of the fourth quarter comebacks. They've done it so much that if I was a Broncos fan, I'd just tune in for the fourth and watch how my team was going to make a miraculous comeback this week.
In my very non-expert opinion, I think the Bears should have made at least some effort to get some more point on the board. There should have been a bit of urgency to create a little larger of a cushion. To either force the Broncos to need to make three drives for victory or at least make two touchdowns.
I realize, in my magical scenario that things may not have gone any better. Hanie may have thrown an interception or someone may have fumbled (just like in the real world OT). There is a risk to playing it safe. But the advantage with my scenario is we will never know if I am right, and if the Bears could have got a few more points up there. I can sit in my magical world of bliss, and pretend Hanie did the unimaginable and threw a 45 yard zinger and brought the Bears up to 17 points. It is a nicer thought than what happened.
Bears played it safe, and relied on their defense. Tebow then did his fourth quarter comeback magic, and scored a touchdown with less than four minutes to go. Even then, Bears still had the lead, and things were still looking very likely they would win this thing.
But then Barber made a monumental mistake. Now, I don't want to rage on Barber, because I like him and he has played well this year. But with less than 2 minutes in the game, the goal was now to run out that clock and avoid Broncos ever touching that ball again. The Bears has been able to force Broncos to use up all their time outs, and with the right strategy, the Bears had the chance to run down that clock with their final three plays. They just had to make sure the clock would not stop.
Then Barber ran out of bounds. Going out of bounds stops the clock. Now, I realize Barber didn't run out but was sort of tackled out, but he never should have been near the sideline. Goal number one was to keep that clock ticking.
I'm not an unbiased sports site, so I don't need to tell you anymore. I don't need to recount anymore of the 'miracle' comeback. I just want to say that this game was a raging fireball to the gut and about 73 ninja kicks to the groin.
In my biased opinion, it sucked. So there.
I'm now shifting away from my optimistic view of the Bears' future this season, and dreading that my child-to-be will enter into a world that the Bears are settling into playing golf in January. What an awful place to enter into.
Please Bears, for the sake of my unborn child, you must win all your games from this point forward. My child deserves to know this is a place where the Bears are in the playoffs and dreams are a reality.
Cutler and Forte, we need you guys. We can win this thing without you, but life is full of a few more happy dolphins when you're playing and doing those wonderful things you do.
Bears can still be playoff bound.
But we sure can't have any games like this weekend. It isn't kind to pandas.