Chicago Bears: Now, The Real Games Begin
It wasn't exactly how anyone drew it up, but ultimately, a win is, in fact, a win.
In a balanced league like the NFL, can anyone really be complaining about starting off a season 1-0?
Well, if they looked at the actual game Sunday between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions (or at least read about it), then surely there would be enough to keep anyone awake at night.
At this point, everyone knows about the touchdown that wasn't—you don't need me to bring it up.
In the simplest terms, Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions were robbed of their first road victory in over two seasons because a silly rule exists in the No Fun League that apparently harnesses a player's creativity and/or swagger and limits him to acting like a stiff.
Yes, as a Bears fan, I will take the victory.
But as a football fan who craves entertainment (and needs Megatron to produce for me fantasy-wise), I have more than just a sour taste in my mouth after Sunday's fake win.
When your running back is denied a half-yard not once, not twice, but three times and you can't reach the end zone to go ahead with a potential game-changing lead, you are not a worthy victor.
Nevertheless, the Bears did enough (I guess?) to start off as one of only 16 teams that are undefeated.
But before we celebrate a silly victory over an even sillier opponent, we must look ahead to some games that will really test the Bears.
The Good News
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There are plenty of positives to take out of Sunday's Week One triumph (wow, I can't believe I can write that with a clean conscience).
For starters, Jay Cutler was accurate (23 of 35) and deadly (372 yards, two touchdown passes), and although it came against a porous Lions' secondary, his performance Sunday (and for the rest of the season) is the most talked-about thing in Bears' world.
The stat to be aware of for Bears' fans is this:
Cutler is 16-0 when his passer rating is over 100, but just 9-29 when it's under 100.
If that isn't the key storyline for the rest of 2010-11, I don't know what is.
But maybe it's this:
Julius Peppers is the real deal.
He may not have filled up the stat sheet, but his sack of Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford was a game-changing play.
Stafford was injured on the play and watched the rest of the game from the sideline, leaving only Shaun Hill (who isn't very good) to run the show for Detroit.
The fact that Hill almost led a comeback victory notwithstanding, Peppers' play was crucial to the eventual victory.
But Peppers wasn't the only Pro Bowler playing at a high level on Sunday.
Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher were mad men, combining for 18 tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery (which Briggs also forced).
For Briggs, it was just another day at the office, but Urlacher hadn't played a meaningful game in over a year, so his play Sunday was especially encouraging.
If Peppers, Urlacher, and Briggs play the rest of the season like they did Sunday, this will be a Bears team in contention for the postseason.
Even the back-end of the defense played well, as the Bears' secondary limited stud wideout Calvin Johnson to just four grabs for less than 50 yards (again, his TD at the end of the game should have counted).
Matt Forte provided a spark on offense and the offensive line played well enough to give the team a chance.
All things considered, there were plenty of things to be smiling about in Chicago.
The Bad News
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Just as we have positive things to discuss, we also must look at what went wrong on Sunday.
The Bears turned the ball over four times (one interception, three fumbles) which will prevent them from winning another game in this league unless they can usher in the concept of ball security.
It's not rocket science—hang onto the football and you'll at least give yourself a chance to win.
There were plenty of dumb penalties as well, but that is inevitable in Week One, so we'll brush that aside for the moment.
The two biggest areas of concern after Sunday's win should be the play of the wide receivers and the questionable coaching.
Starting with the wideouts, there were several moments Sunday that made every Bears fan say, "Why didn't we acquire (insert name here) in the offseason?"
It could have been Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmanzadeh (both with the Baltimore Ravens), or Santonio Holmes (New York Jets).
All three changed teams and all three would have been better than Devin Aromashodu, who dropped a wide-open touchdown pass on the season's opening series.
Devin rebounded with five grabs for 71 yards, but dropping a touchdown reception is simply unacceptable.
The "other" Devin was a total non-factor.
Devin Hester, the team's supposed No. 1 wide receiver, managed just one catch for 17 yards.
He was less-inspiring on his punt returns, where he totaled just 17 more yards on five returns.
Think the league has him figured out finally?
Speaking of figuring things out, has Bears' coach Lovie Smith figured out that kicking chip-shot field goals means earning three points for your team, and that when you trail games late, that is the proper plan of action?
It hurts the mind to think about what was going through his on Sunday.
You don't go for a touchdown when just a field goal will do, especially when you failed in three consecutive tries.
At that point, you tip your cap to the opponent, kick the ball through the uprights, and swallow whatever pride is left after a sad 19-14 victory.
Lovie Smith jeopardized the Bears' eventual win Sunday with a brash, cocky "we'll score anyways" belief that perplexes the simplicity of the game, where you only need to score one more point than your opponent, not many points.
The play of the wide receivers can (and likely will) improve, but this team's coaching is already sub-par and will likely cost the team a victory or two before it's all said and done.
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The Bears had to have Sunday's victory, because the schedule for the rest of the month is brutal.
They'll go to Dallas Sunday before they host the rival Green Bay Packers the following week.
Dallas may have lost Sunday, but they were one holding call away from stealing a win in the nation's capitol and will be focused on the Bears this week.
Tony Romo and friends know that starting off their season 0-2 will limit their chances at the playoffs, so expect a very tough game in Big D Sunday for Chicago.
After dealing with the frenzied Dallas crowd for their season opener, the Bears will entertain a Packers team that looked very strong in their opener, racing out to a 27-10 lead before taking their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter.
Green Bay has weapons in Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and (if he plays) Ryan Grant, and their defense is still led by all-world cornerback Charles Woodson and a young, improving supporting cast.
The Bears will not be able to commit four turnovers, drop touchdown passes, and make stupid penalties against either team.
If they do, we'll be talking about a 1-2 football team in two weeks.
For now, let's take the win Sunday with a Calvin Johnson-sized grain of salt, and look forward to seeing how the team stacks up against the NFC elite.
The real games begin, Bears fans.