The ABC's of the 2009 Chicago Bears

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The ABC's of the 2009 Chicago Bears
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I did this for the Cubs' 2009 season, and it went over really well. And since the two seasons have quite a few parallels, I figured I'd do it again for the Bears.

They finished 7-9 after winning their last two games, one they shouldn't have and one that had they lost. I wouldn't have been surprised to see Lovie fired right there on the sideline. So here we go...

 

A Is for Adewale Ogunleye  

Adewale Ogunleye was part of one of the bright spots of the Bears' season the defensive ends. He and Alex Brown both had really solid (but not necessarily spectacular) seasons.

Ogunleye had 6.5 sacks before he missed the last two games of the season with a broken leg. He's a free agent and will certainly demand big money. We'll see if the Bears want to pony up the cash to keep him in Chicago.

 

B Is for Brian Urlacher  

This was supposed to be the season where Brian Urlacher got back to being the guy he once was. His back was as healthy as it's been in a long time, and he was ready to lead the defense again.

Then, his season came to quite the abrupt end during the first half of Week One, when he dislocated his wrist. We'll never know whether or not his presence would have had a positive effect on the D, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt.

 

C Is for Coaching  

Oh, where do we start with the Bears' coaching staff? I guess we'll start at the top with Lovie Smith. As the season went on, it became more and more clear to me that Lovie Smith isn't the guy who's the long-term answer for the Bears.

His game-management decisions continually make Bears fans scratch their heads, and his defense is just plain old. He admitted a couple of times that he didn't do a good enough job preparing his team to play, and really isn't that what he's here to do? Add in several terrible losses, and you've got a coach on a seat as hot as a Chicago summer can be.

 

D Is for Defense  

The Bears had the 21st-best scoring defense in the league, giving up more than 23 points per game. It wasn't so much that they gave up points; it was that they seemingly couldn't stop anyone.

Teams repeatedly did whatever they wanted to the Bears, especially on the ground. They gave up more than 126 rushing yards per game, and if you can't stop the run, you won't be winning. Again, the injuries at the linebacker position may have something to do with it, but the fact remains, they pretty much sucked on D.

 

E Is for Earl Bennett  

Earl Bennett was reunited with his old college teammate this year after not playing last year, and everyone thought that he would sort of breakout. Well, he played pretty well, catching 54 balls for 717 yards and two TDs. Unfortunately, it took until Week 13 against St. Louis for him to get his first TD, but he was still a productive receiver.

 

F Is for Frank Omiyale  

The offensive line took a ton of criticism, especially early in the year. Matt Forte wasn't able to get going, and I put most of that on the offensive line. Omiyale came in as a highly-touted free agent, and he laid a big egg.

Granted he was playing out of position, but he struggled mightily, and it took the Bears a long time to realize it and replace him.

 

G Is for Games at Night  

The Bears played five games at night this season because the NFL thought they would be a good team. Clearly, they were wrong. They were 1-4 on national television, and Jay Cutler was even worse (for the most part).

The losses came to the Packers, the Falcons, the 49ers, and the Eagles. They finally broke through against the Vikings on Monday night of Week 16.

 

H Is for Hester  

Devin Hester tried to continue his transformation from kick returner to wide receiver. I'll be honest, I thought he improved a great deal this season as compared to last season.

In the past, Hester wouldn't adjust to a deep ball, or break off his route when he recognizes a certain coverage, but he got better. He's still got a long way to go, and he shouldn't be the Bears No. 1 receiver going forward, but he can be a valuable asset to the offense.

 

I Is for Interceptions  

Twenty-seven of them to be exact (26 from Cutler, and one from Caleb Hanie). Interceptions were the Bears' Achilles heel on offense all season, as Cutler often threw them at the worst possible times.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two games, and there's probably more, that the Bears had a chance to win, but a late-game pick put an end to their chances.

 

J Is for Jay Cutler  

Jay Cutler came to Chicago with the weight of a city on his shoulders. Frankly, he disappointed. Twenty-six interceptions later, Cutler often times looked frustrated with his young receivers. I think he was also frustrated in Ron Turner's offense.

God willing, he'll have a different offensive coordinator next season. He did rebound nicely in the last two years of the season, throwing eight touchdowns to only one interception. Believe it or not, he actually finished with a positive TD-INT ratio.

I think he'll be just fine, and Bears fans should be patient with him. We've seen him play really well when he has time to throw.

 

K Is for Kicking Game  

It's sad that I'm serious when I say that Robbie Gould might be the team's MVP this year. It's a joke that Bears fans have heard all too often. But, reality is, few kickers are as reliable as Robbie Gould.

Since he's from Jersey Shore, Pa., he deserves a nickname. How about Golden Toe? OK, everyone saw that one coming, but I like it. So Robbie "Golden Toe" Gould was 24-of-28 for field goals, and even made a couple of 50-plus yarders, which had haunted him in the past. When is this guy going to get a Pro Bowl mention?

 

L Is for Lance Briggs  

Lance Briggs was certainly the Bears' best player on defense this year, and he was rewarded with his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl selection. Maybe it was a product of him staying, for the most part, healthy all year, or maybe it wasn't, but he was the most dependable player on the defensive side of the ball this year.

 

M Is for Matt Forte

 
The Bears' second-year running back was picked up very early in a lot of fantasy drafts, but he disappointed early and often. I blame much of his struggles on the offensive line, as most times when he took the handoff, he ran into a brick wall of big fat men.

I do think he deserves some of the blame, though, as it seemed he was tip-toeing through the backfield, not hitting the hole (if there was one) as hard as he could. I heard today on the radio that he hurt his MCL earlier in the year, so that may have slowed him down a little bit, too.

 

N Is for NFC North  

The Bears' division was certainly one of the better ones going into the season, with the Bears, Vikings, and Packers all predicted to contend for a postseason berth. In the end, the Bears split their divisional games, sweeping the Lions and surprising the Vikings on Monday Night Football.

But in their three losses, they looked pretty pitiful. With both the Vikings and the Packers still playing, the Bears' divisional schedule looks formidable for a long time to come. I'm even including the Lions there because they're going to get another high draft pick, and I think Matthew Stafford is going to be an excellent quarterback.

 

O Is for Offense  

The Bears' offense was thought to be saved with the arrival of Jay Cutler, but that clearly wasn't the case. That's not to say that it won't be better in the future, but in 2009, they pretty much stunk.

The Bears were 29th in the league in rushing yards per game, with 93. That's where they were actually similar to a team like the Colts. But the Colts have Peyton Manning and a prolific passing game. The Bears really don't.

The offense showed signs of life in the last few weeks of the season, and maybe that's why offensive coordinator Ron Turner said he expects to stay. I think 99 percent of Bears fans want the opposite. We'll see what happens. His contract is up, so it would be easy for the Bears to just let him walk.

 

P Is for Pace  

Orlando Pace very well may be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. But it's clear that his better days are far behind him, because he certainly did not play like a Hall of Famer this year with the Bears. He was slow, committed a lot of penalties, and looked like he had no clue what was going on at times. An injury in the latter part of the year allowed the much younger Chris Williams to move to his natural position of left tackle, where he showed a little promise.

 

Q Is for Quarters of the Season  

Lovie Smith is famous for dividing the season into quarters. It makes a lot of sense, with a 16-game schedule there are four quarters. Through the first quarter of the season, his team sat at 3-1, including a defeat of the defending champion Steelers.

It was a very deceiving 3-1 though, as their record could very easily have been flipped. A combined four missed field goals allowed them to beat the Steelers and the Seahawks, and the victory over the Steelers turned out to be not that impressive anyway.

The second quarter saw the Bears go 1-3, with their only win coming against the Browns (ugh). They went 1-3 again in the third quarter, with the only win coming against the lowly Rams.

Keep in mind they had to survive a last-minute drive from the Rams that could have tied the game. They went 2-2 in the final quarter, when they got their best win of the season against the Vikings.

 

R Is for Receivers  

Coming into the season, the main gripe about the offense was that Jay Cutler had nobody to throw to. Well, the receivers have the offensive line to thank for not being the goat of the team.

While they were better than expected, the receivers were certainly to blame for some of Jay Cutler's interceptions. Dropped balls and stopped routes (mainly from Johnny Knox) highlighted their deficiencies.

The late-season emergence of Devin Aromashodu gives the Bears a glimmer of hope for the future at the receiver position.

 

S Is for Safeties  

The safety position is extremely important in Lovie Smith's Cover 2 scheme, and it was no different in 2009 for the Bears. They had probably at least five different starting safeties during the season, and they didn't always play well. That being said, Al Afalava played pretty well for a rookie, and Danieal Manning continued to play well, including kickoff returns.

 

T Is for Tommie Harris  

Tommie Harris is a guy who can have a huge impact on any defensive line. He hasn't played that way the last few seasons, but that was mainly because he was never 100 percent. The Bears said otherwise during the season, and that actually created some drama.

Harris was a healthy scratch for the Bengals game, which prompted questions about what was going on. He played much better down the stretch, and he says that now he'll have an entire offseason to focus on training, so we can expect that good play to continue.

 

U Is for Underachieving  

I think the word "underachieving" is an understatement for the Bears' season. SI's Peter King picked the Bears to go to the Super Bowl in the preseason, but they quickly made him look like an idiot (which he's really not). The offense, the defense, the coaches, they'll all tell you that they didn't meet their goals. Just ask Lovie Smith. He'll tell you, "We're a better football team than that."

 

V Is for Vasher  

Before the season, Nathan Vasher was slotted in as one of the starting corners. But his absolutely pitiful performance in the preseason led the coaching staff to bench him, and rightly so. He was slow, blowing coverages, and playing dumb football.

What happened to this guy? He used to be pretty good. He resurfaced at the end of the season, but only because the Bears ran out of other cornerbacks due to injury.

 

W Is for Wins

Seven wins just simply isn't good enough. Not for a proud organization, not for its fans, not for the players. Frankly, the Bears really should be 5-11 instead of 7-9.

The fact remains, they didn't get enough victories to make the playoffs for the third year in a row. They haven't been back since they made their Super Bowl run.

 

X Is for X-factor  
Come on, X can only stand for so much. But the Bears clearly didn't have what it takes to be a good football team this season.

Defense used to be their trademark, they lost that. Kyle Orton won football games by taking care of the football. He's gone to Denver, and his replacement didn't know which team to throw the ball to.

The team had no identity, and they need to get one back to be successful next year.

 

Y Is for Yikes  

I had several "yikes" moments during the course of the season. Whether it was all the Jay Cutler interceptions or the terrible losses or the holes in the offensive line, the Bears were that bad at times in 2009. If they can cut down on those moments, they should improve in 2010.

 

Z Is for Zack Bowman  

Bowman led the team with six interceptions, and he dropped a few more. He and Charles Tillman make up a decent pair of cornerbacks. The future is bright for Bowman, who just completed his second year out of Nebraska.

Let's hope the Bears don't completely screw up his development.

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