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October 17, 2006

What I Thought They Were

There are a couple things I might have told you about the Bears (had you asked) going into last night's revival of the NFL's original crosstown rivalry.

First, I would have insisted that the Bears' game is so well-rounded right now, from passing to rushing to their o-line, d-line, defensive backs and special teams, that they could suffer a severe breakdown at any one position and still easily come out on top.

I still stand by this... sort of. But they sure tried their damnedest to prove me wrong.

Okay, clearly there were multiple points of failure. All of the missed tackles on Arizona's TD drives were like a sore reminder of last year's frustrating loss in Pittsburgh (though Rex's first pick didn't really serve to help his defense much). That the defense also wasn't able to shut Leinart down in Cardinals territory with the game on the line, and had to settle for that Rackers shank, was disappointing, to say the least.

But, all told, outside of the first quarter the Bears' D held Arizona to 9 points off of 5 turnovers (though I swear I counted 7 total, myself). Things could very well have been much, much worse (obviously).

No... For all intents and purposes, and any early lack of offensive line protection aside, there was but one true problem last night, and it was glaring: Sexy Rexy Glassman. I don't know if it was just a bout of the Monday Night Willies (for all the talk of last night being Leinart's MNF debut, it's easy to forget it was Grossman's as well), but there was absolutely nothing redeeming about that performance. Not a thing.

He looked worse than awful and had me mentally reverting to 2005: ever-hopeful, but dreading the prospect of the Bears' offense taking the field... i.e., don't make me beg for Griese, now.

Grossman was bad enough to quite literally give the game away on his own. 4 picks. Should have been more. But then the defense stepped it up something big and refused to let him.

We need some turnovers of our own...

We need the defense to manufacture some points...

We need Prime Time Devin Hester to dust off his wheels...

Yeah... we all had an inkling, didn't we?

My favorite moment was watching the line prop up Edgerrin James' alleged 220 lbs. long enough (progress schmogress) to allow Urlacher to do what he always seems to manage to do in these situations: to just make things happen.

Overrated my ass. Shades of his 2001 heroism there.

And then the moment that punt dropped into Hester's hands, with room to run, you just kind of knew the breaks were going the Bears' way for good.

So, defense and special teams remain the saving grace. Which is nice. And on the sunny side of the offense, if there's one thing we've learned about Rex over the past four years, it's is that his self-confidence is almost unreasonably unshakable. He'll bounce back. If it takes a full bye week of shame and severe corporal punishment up in Lake Forest, he'll bounce back.

The Bears are 6–0 and I think we're feeling just fine about everything for the time being, thank you.

* * *

The second thing I might have told you about our Bears (had you asked) was that the only really disappointing thing about the season up until last night was that blowouts kind of make for shitty highlights packages. And it's hard to really, fully enjoy the wins when the greater sports world refuses to obligingly salivate with you.

To be perfectly honest, there are really only so many English synonyms for "crush, kill, destroy." And there is only so much malicious satisfaction to be had from a post hoc jaunt through this comment thread meltdown.

After that, 34–7, 37–6 and 40–7 can get surprisingly boring.

This changed slightly when last week's shellacing of the Bills garnered a decent-sized national tonguebath (peaking about the time we heard Mike Ditka tell Michael Irvin that he was wearing 'a real nice outfit' on last night's pregame show). And yet everything TO-in-Philly still ruled Week 5...

And why not? As deliriously fun as the games have been to watch for a Bears fan, they've been, by and large, fairly short on pathos and NFL Films drama, let alone anything terribly Deadspin-worthy (in constrast to last season).

Well, this is all clearly inoperative today.

Last night offered pathos and drama in spades, what after a near ROTY-Crowning Upset-of-the-Season precipitated by a Chicago offensive meltdown, followed by a defensive stiffening, back-to-back defensive TDs, an 83-yard return for 6 and then the lead, a 41-yard shank wide left with 0:53 remaining and a Denny Green presser meltdown for the ages (which even put Leinart's post-Bowl whining to shame)...

I may be too young to really remember the '85 Bears' loss at the Dolphins, but last night I bore witness to one of the most memorable Monday night games ever played.

And this one counted in the win column.

That's why they took the damn field, Denny.

(Though I think we should probably wait a few more weeks before we crown their ass.)

* * *

Update (via Gapers Block > We Are True...): Chicago's own Coudal Partners may be chummy with the Astros and their logo may look a bit like the Steelers', but they're with the Bears all the way home.

Update the Second: Actually meant to link this above as it's fairly apropos to my regular beat (such that it is right now)...

It's the Cardinals fan's perspective on the game considered in terms of Burkean aesthetics:

It is a sublime pleasure, TOTALLY, for a national audience to see just exactly what life is like as a fan of The Buzzsaw That Is The Arizona Cardinals. Jesus. Welcome to the desert, Matt.


CameronFrye says:

Edmund Burke's definition of "sublime":

[A]n artistic effect productive of the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling and wrote 'whatever is in any sort terrible or is conversant about terrible objects or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the Sublime'.

Yup, that's the Buzzsaw. Well played, Will.

To which I would add:

The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully, is astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it. Hence arises the great power of the sublime, that, far from being produced by them, it anticipates our reasonings, and hurries us on by an irresistible force.

"What I Thought They Were"
Posted by Dan at 03:08 PM


The one thing I would worry about--and I'd like to see some breakdown of film on this--is whether there was anything specific to Arizona's defensive play that lead to their almost-but-not-quite level of success against Grossman and the offense. You know every team that has a chance of facing the Bears will studying that game, trying to see what they can use; if they find something and it works again, expect to see it for some time, and in the hands of better teams than Arizona.

But yeah, amazing game, and the best team in the league tight now, even if we shouldn't crown their asses yet. I'm inclined to give Grossman the benefit of the doubt on the INTs right now. I think you're overrating the value of exciting games, though, at least for those in which one has a rooting interest. I've had enough of them, give me the blowouts (in my favor, of course.)

Posted by: JL on October 20, 2006 at 05:57 AM

> The one thing I would worry about--and I'd like to see some breakdown of film on this--is whether there was anything specific to Arizona's defensive play that lead to their almost-but-not-quite level of success against Grossman and the offense.

Perhaps the film will show Rex failing to look off defenders when he's under pressure or reveal some weak points in the line, but otherwise I think it's probably a fairly simple matter of pressuring him into bad decisions.

The standard knock against him is that he's a 'gunslinger.' Given an ability to throw downfield alongside an overabundance of confidence, he's been known to push it too much at times. (Hence the Week 1 endzone pass into triple coverage that was brought down for a late INT.)

Still, he's shown an ability to remain fairly patient so far this season and to properly check down his receivers. (Much of the Bears' offensive success this season stems from their rediscovery of the position of tight end.) This patience in the pocket, though, could very well be a factor of not having to play from behind. Getting up early against him might just be the key. I'd say the biggest thing opposing teams ought to look at is how Leinart was able to move so well against the Bears' defense on that opening drive.

Apart from trying to push it too much, though, Grossman's biggest problem Monday was his total lack of accuracy. This season has seen a few minor lapses, lucky breaks and remarkable catches (read: Bernard Berrian). But, by and large, Rex has been impressively on-target, always hitting his receivers in stride. Not so much Monday night. And I don't think it can all be chalked up to pressure—I think he was simply off. (He may also have been the victim of a few poorly run routes, but that certainly can't be the whole story either.)

I still feel the biggest test of the season (not discounting the Giants in Week 10) may come in Week 12 at New England. It'll be the Bears' third road game in a row, and if anyone can gameplan their weaknesses, I figure Belichick can.

Posted by: Dan on October 21, 2006 at 02:23 PM

Referenced in this post:

Bartleby.com: Edmund Burke (17291797). On the Sublime and Beautiful. The Harvard Classics. 190914.—Of the Passion Caused by the Sublime
Coudal Partners
Coudal Partners: Logo
Deadspin: God, We Hate The Buzzsaw
Deadspin: Hall Of Fame Inductee: Kyle Orton
Dictionary.com: Word of the Day Archive—schadenfreude:
ESPN.com: Page 2: Green with envy—Bonami Jones
Field Gulls: Game Day Open Thread—Week 4: Seahawks at Bears
Gapers Block: Merge—'The Bears Are Who We Thought They Were'
Google Search: 'I still think we're a better team. They just made the plays in the end'
Iconoduel: Playoffs been very very good to me
Thesaurus.com: shellac
We Are True: Arizona Cardinals Fifteen Straight T Shirt
Wikipedia: 2006 Chicago Bears season—Week 5: vs. Buffalo Bills
Wikipedia: 2006 Chicago Bears season—Week 6: at Arizona Cardinals
Wikipedia: Brian Griese
Wikipedia: Devin Hester
Wikipedia: NFL Films
Wikipedia: Rex Grossman
Windy City Gridiron: Headlines
Yahoo! Sports: NFL—Chicago Bears/Pittsburgh Steelers Box Score Sunday December 11, 2005