Overreaction Friday: Bears lose & the sky is falling

Looks like I did myself a favor by not posting an Overreaction Monday blog after the Bears hung 41 points on the Colts last week.

The narrative was too easy.

New offensive coordinator plus weapons on the perimeter equals what happened Sunday.

Four days later, it narrative has changed to: “New year, same Bears.”

After two weeks, one thing is clear to me. The Bears aren’t as good as the team that lit up the Colts and they’re not as bad as the team that was out-coached, out-hustled, out-manned and out-played by the Packers on Thursday night.

You probably don’t want to hear it (and judging by my timeline, you’re too busy to hear it), but the truth is in the middle.

The Bears Defense Might Be Good Again

I’ll start with some positives in an attempt to soften the blow from Thursday night’s loss. Fair deal?

The Green Bay Packers only scored one offensive touchdown, a 26-yard strike from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Driver with 11:17 remaining in the fourth, which iced the game after a Cutler turnover.

Let’s go a bit deeper inside the Bears defensive effort.

Green Bay made three red zone trips and came away with only a field goal that came right before halftime. Though, in fairness, who knows what would have transpired had there been more time on the clock.

The Packers only converted 4-of-14 third down attempts on Thursday night. That’s impressive considering Green Bay ranked fourth in the NFL in successful third down conversion (48.5 percent) in 2011. Green Bay converted 10-of-22 third down attempts against the Bears in 2011’s two meetings, which checks in at 45 percent, which would have ranked 8 percentage points higher than the NFL average last season.

Seeing Green Bay successful on only 28.5 percent of third down attempts is a sign of progress for Chicago’s defense.

Last night, Rodgers had 37 pass attempts and was sacked five times. In 2011, Rodgers dropped back for 69 pass attempts and was sacked only twice.

Rodgers was good, but he wasn’t great. Efficient, but not spectacular. For the most part, the Bears did whatever the football equivalent is of keeping Albert Pujols or Mike Trout in the park. It’s only one game, but if the Bears defense can have repeat performances such as the one from tonight, they’ll be fine.

Oh no, Jay sucks again!

Jay Cutler picked a bad time to revert to the stereotypical flailing gunslinger everyone loves to hate.

Cutler completed 11-of-27 pass attempts for 126 yards, a 4.7 average, tossed four interceptions and had a 28.2 rating. So, where does that rank Cutler on the Wall of Shame?

The 28.2 rating is Cutler’s worse since posting a 46.7 rating in a Week 4 Bears win against Carolina on Oct. 2. You’ll have to go back to the NFC Conference title game loss to Green Bay to see a Cutler performance so horrid where he posted a 31.8 QB rating.

Cutler’s 40.7 completion percentage is his second lowest in his 43-game stint with the Bears, rivaled by only his performance against the Ravens in a 31-7 loss on December 20, 2009, when he completed 10-of-27 passes for 94 yards.

In reality, we’re talking about 29 game weeks that have come and gone since Cutler has been that tragically bad. But based on tonight’s (over)reaction, you’d think Cutler played like this week-in, week-out. He doesn’t. Bottom line is that Cutler isn’t as bad as you think he is and he isn’t as good as you think he is.

While it will be easy to ride Cutler hard for the 10 days between games, I’ll be more curious to see how he bounces back.

Last time Cutler had a multiple-interception game (October 23, 2011 in a 24-18 win vs. Tampa Bay), he followed it up by throwing two touchdowns and posting a 96.9 rating in a 30-24 win against the Eagles on November 7, 2011, which came after a bye week. It was the beginning of a stretch where Cutler led the Bears to a 3-0 mark in which he threw four touchdowns against one interception as he beat Philadelphia, Detroit and San Diego, who combined to finish 26-20 last season.

 

Cutler will need to conjure up whatever he did in those weeks if the Bears are serious about being postseason contenders in 2012.

“New coordinator, same Bears.”

I’m not sure whether or not to write “and shame on you if you don’t” or “it’s probably for the best” in the following statement, but here goes nothing.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I haven’t subscribed to the theory of losing Mike Martz’s play calls and replacing them with those of Mike Tice is the panacea to what ails the Bears’ offensive line. And Thursday night was proof of why I took a cautiously optimistic route in regard to Chicago’s new play caller.

Not to say Tice’s calls were the reason Cutler struggled. They weren’t. But to make Tice some sort of offensive line savior when he isn’t just didn’t sit right with me. Now we’re at a point where your offensive coordinator is your former offensive line guru and your offensive line still has major question marks. That’s not a great place to be after Week 2.

But I digress.

Cutler was sacked only twice in Week 1 vs. the Colts. That was nice. Indianapolis also played most of the game without Dwight Freeney. Even if they had Freeney, we’re talking about a Colts team coming off a 2-14 year and is transitioning into a new defense. They were ripe for the picking and the Bears did what they needed to do.

Fast forward to Thursday when Green Bay sacked Cutler seven times. It is the most sacks the Bears offensive line had given up in a Cutler start since the team’s Week 2 30-13 loss to New Orleans on Sept. 18, 2011.

The Bears made no significant upgrades to the offensive line in the offseason, which made me believe games like today were possible. And to be honest, they are likely to happen again. I guess that is what happens when you don’t make offensive line a priority in the draft and try to patch together an offensive line without using aforementioned high draft picks or high-salaried veterans.

The conclusion

A slice of humble pie is probably a good thing for the everyone at Halas Hall and I’ll be curious to see how this team handles its first adversity of the season.

Just know that the Bears aren’t as bad as the team that showed up in Green Bay. But be warned that they’re not as good as the team that opened up the season by running wild on the Colts.

Moving forward, the good news is that the Bears have 10 days to learn from Thursday’s fiasco and rebound against the St. Louis Rams. The bad news is that we have 10 days to overanalyze everything that happened in a loss to a division rival after being teased with offensive firepower in the season opener.

Long story, short: Two down, 14 to go.

In other words, “Keep Calm And Bear Down.”

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