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Bears Mon Oct 29 2012
The door was open to gain a game in the NFC North. With the shellacking the Vikings took on Thursday Night Football, all the Bears had to do was dispatch of the woefully underachieving (some might say, bad) Panthers at home on a windy Sunday afternoon. Easy, right?
Not if your receivers drop multiple passes that would've resulted in first downs. Not if your offensive line allows six sacks in the first half. Not if your defense can't get off the field on third downs despite being the best in the NFL at it coming into the game. Not if your kicker, who's the fifth most accurate in the history of the sport, misses a field goal in a situation where he shouldn't have kicked it.
Yet despite all the mistakes, half of which I haven't even mentioned, the Bears escaped victorious after Jay Cutler led the team on a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives, sandwiching a pick-six from Tim Jennings and the defense that just can't help but to score in games these days.
Hours after the melee, I still couldn't decide if Jennings had a good game or not. Sure, he picked off the Cam Newton pass that gave the Bears the lead late in the game, and had intercepted a tipped pass late in the first half that the offense couldn't do anything with. But Steve Smith brutalized him on countless plays throughout. Even the pick-six was a play where Smith beat Jennings to the inside, but a slip on the notoriously bad surface of Soldier Field allowed Jennings to make the play that turned the game. Smith almost returned the favor on the following drive, but failed to reel in the beautifully thrown touchdown pass from Newton -- one of the few good throws he made all game. In the end, you have to make the plays when they matter. Jennings did.
Give Robbie Gould some credit too. After missing a 33-yard chip shot with 12:09 remaining in the fourth (though the Bears should've gone for it down by 12 -- since three points still keeps it a two score game) because the wind switched directions mid-snap, he stuck with his plan and played a beautiful 41-yard draw into the face of the breeze to win the game as time expired.
Mike Tice, on the other hand, deserves every ounce of criticism coming his way. The game plan was garbage (ignoring Matt Forte for the majority of the first half, despite having eight carries for 61 yards, is mind-boggling), and the failure to make a change at one of the tackle spots (mainly Gabe Carimi) will eventually result in Jason Campbell starting a few football games down the stretch. The status quo must change.
Cutler sucked too. Sure, he wasn't getting much time to pass, but he failed to step up into the pocket on many occasions, and made some poor decisions throwing the football, including his first quarter interception that was bombed into triple coverage on a one man route. You won't hear much about it though, since he did put 10 points on the board when their back was against the wall.
Sloppy is the perfect word to describe the victory. But a W is a W, and you take them any way you can get them. Lovie Smith knows that, even if he won't admit it was ugly. But we should all know this by now. When it comes to the NFL, and the Bears especially -- nothing comes easy.