Lovie: We will have more balance

539822.jpg

Lovie: We will have more balance

Monday, Sept. 19, 2011
Posted: 8:18 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin Lovie-speak

The Bears coach had some things to say on Bears Insider Monday night with play-by-play man Jeff Joniak on WBBM-AM 780. The matter of playcalling balance was among the first things brought up and it sounds like Mike Martzs passing fancy wont be allowed to continue for seven games the way it did in the 2010 season.

Its always concerning when you have that amount of rushes, Smith said. You need to have more and we will have more.

Smith looked at the Bears scoring a field goal just before halftime and another by Robbie Gould to bring the score to 16-13 before Jay Cutler was sacked and forced into a fumble that became a New Orleans touchdown five plays later. That turnover really hurt us, Smith said.

But while the offensive line has taken hits on and off the field, between injuries and criticism, Smith was clear that the problems are not all with the front five.

You definitely just cant blame the offensive line, Smith said, citing the receivers, quarterback, tight ends and backs. Its a combinationall of the above.

Receivers coach Darryl Drake joined Joniak and Smith and didnt have a lot to talk about. Not because of anything game-related, just because hes down two wideouts with the injuries to Earl Bennett (chest) and Roy Williams (groin).

I was really pleased with the way Dane came in and stepped up.

What Drake did have was an extended look at undrafted rookie free agent Dane Sanzenbacher, pressed into service after Bennett went down in the first quarter. For his first game with as many plays as he played, Drake said, I thought he did a good job. Sanzenbacher had a drop but managed to catch 3 of his 7 pass opportunities.

Keeping Cutler upright is not just the job of his blockers, as Drake highlighted. Receivers have evolving responsibilities as plays unfold and they can help with giving the quarterback the proper short-term options.

Just understanding whats going on, when pressures coming, when youre a hot receiver, just seeing those things and reacting fast, Drake said. Because theyre going to bring one more pass rusher than you can block, you have to handle that with receivers.

Devin Hester was unfairly credited with being thrown to nine times, and he caught only one. The numbers arent always what they appear.

There really werent nine times he was targeted, Drake said. Sometimes the quarterback is just throwing the ball away. That can sometimes be very misleading.

You might see that it says Devin Hester was targeted nine times and he only caught one, Drake said. Thats so far from the case.

The view from afar

Peter Kings Monday Morning Quarterback is always a worthwhile read, and hes got an interesting quick hit (pun intended) with respect to the Bears (http:tinyurl.com6bes6h9).

Peter still has the Bears in his Fine 15 (at No. 15) and right now he ranks the Packers (2), Lions (5) and Bears in his top 15 teams. One oddity, though, is the Bears being down at 15 and the Atlanta Falcons, whacked by the Bears, are up at No. 9 after beating Philadelphia after the Eagles lost Michael Vick to injury.

Bad timeing

Underscoring (and correcting by 2 seconds) a point made yesterday, one of the real casualties of the Mike Martz runpass program Sunday was the Bears defense. After the Bears controlled the ball for 5:29 on a TD drive in the first quarter, no Chicago possession lasted longer then two minutes 29 seconds for the rest of the game.

Only three of the final 11 possessions lasted even two minutes total. That is putting the defense back on the field too soon and too often when its Drew Brees on the other side.

Lovie Smith touched on special-teams shortcomings in the area of returns, with good reason. Besides the Bears getting just one meaningless takeaway, they started none of their 13 possessions in plus territory, the opponents side of the 50.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.