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Bears Mon Dec 10 2012
Games are defined by moments. An inch one way or the other drastically affects the outcome of contests. Take Marquez vs. Pacquiao this weekend. If Marquez's punch lands one second later, or if Pacquiao's right hand connects squarely just milliseconds before he takes the deciding blow, the fight continues. The outcome potentially changes.
It's hard not to look at Sunday's loss to the Vikings with a sense that opportunities were lost. It was the second easiest game remaining for the Bears (with the Cardinals game being the runaway favorite), and despite falling behind early, the win was there for the taking. What if Alshon Jeffery caught that TD pass late in the third quarter that would've tied the game? What if Devin Hester catches the sure TD with over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to seven? The result might have been different, sure, but the problems remain the same.
J'Marcus Webb was brutalized by Jared Allen on a number of plays, even with some chip block help from Matt Forte and Eric Weems. Devin Hester is clearly not an NFL-caliber receiver. And Kellen Davis isn't good enough to play tight end in the league. Those aren't all the problems offensively, but they're the main attraction.
Combine those facts with a defense missing a pair of its playmakers (Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings), along with additional stars fighting injuries (Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman), and others playing far below the level they were earlier this season (Chris Conte, the rest of the defensive line), and you've got a disaster. Sure, the defense held Minnesota to 14 points, and only seven if you leave out the interception that allowed them to take over at the three yard line, but it's nowhere near what we saw earlier in the season. No turnovers, no chance.
The Bears playoff hopes are closing fast. There's little chance of beating Green Bay this weekend, which leaves must win road games the final two weeks of the season. With Washington and Dallas notching comeback victories yesterday, the NFC playoff picture is packed. 9-7 isn't going to cut it this year.
A lot of people are calling for Lovie Smith's head, and the voices will be louder if the Bears do, in fact, miss the playoffs. I have a hard time getting behind that. He isn't the one that builds the roster (though, admittedly, he does play a role in it), and he isn't the one that actually plays. The Bears were in position to win the game, and had opportunities to do so. After getting throttled by Adrian Peterson in the first quarter, the adjustments that were made stymied him for the rest of the game. That's coaching.
But in this business, the outcome decides fates. The destiny of a game is the direct result of a few big moments. The standings are decided by a game here, and a game there. And jobs are lost and gained based on those standings, and where the team falls in them.
It's simple. Making big plays wins football games. It's something the Bears haven't done in weeks.