Whom do you blame the Bears' latest loss on? Does it go on the offense, who did nothing with the football for the entire first half? How about the special teams who gave up a huge return to Jerious Norwood for 85 yards and then arguably botched a squib kick after taking the lead? Did Lovie and the coaches blow this one with bad defensive schemes and predictable offensive plays (especially near the goal line)?? Or the defense, who made rookie Matt Ryan look like an All-Pro?
If it were only that simple...
First off, no, I do not blame the offense for this loss.
While they only managed a field goal in the first half, they also only had four possessions, the last one being the last 36 seconds of the half. Their total time of possession in the first half was roughly 10 minutes.
Kyle Orton’s first half numbers: 8/13, 88 yards.
Orton’s final numbers: 26/43, 286 yards, 1 TD. Not too shabby. And he spread the ball around, too. Hester had six receptions for 87 yards, and Clark and Olsen combined for eight catches and 90 yards. Rashied Davis, shaking off a couple drops early in the year, snagged four balls for 41 yards, plus what should have been the game-winning TD catch. And Marty had three catches for 33 yards.
Matt Forte had another solid day, rushing with 76 yards and a TD and caught five passes for 34 yards. He was stuffed on a 4th-and-goal, however, from the one-yard line.
The offensive line, while not getting much of a push during run plays, allowed only one sack and provided excellent pass protection for Orton.
So, how can they get better?
Hester needs to keep developing. Orton needs to change up his routine when he audibles at the line because there is talk that he is flashing a tell when it is going to be a run play. And Kevin Jones needs more touches. That’s right, I said it, give Jones more touches because Matt Forte is a workhorse, and I would kind of like him to be at full strength come the end of the year.
But if it is not the offense's fault, was it the special teams'?
Robbie Gould nailed both field goals and his kickoffs weren’t bad, landing inside the five-yard line if not the end zone. His squib kick has come under fire from all of the Monday morning quarterbacks out there, and maybe he should tried kicking it farther or maybe he should have tried popping it up in the air. I personally agreed with the call after watching Norwood burn us for an 85-yard return on the previous kickoff (that did not end up hurting us as, Elam shanked the field-goal attempt).
Overall, the Bears' kickoff coverage and return units did not play as well as they have in the past.
Brad Maynard had only three punts: 36 yards, 37 yards, 57 yards. Punt coverage was there, although Davis was called once for interference, which gave the Falcons another 15 yards.
How do they get better?
Well, first and foremost, if Hester returns one soon, that would be better. The coverage units have to stay in their lanes and get back to playing the level of football they have shown in the past, and Robbie needs to just keep hitting field goals.
So I guess you can make a case that the squib was a bad play, but if you do that, you have to blame the ones who called for a squib, which brings me to the coaching staff.
First off is Ron Turner. He called an all right game; he allowed Orton to throw passes he was comfortable with, and once the offense got into a rhythm they did pretty well. However, there were a few things that bothered me.
1) DON’T USE THE FULLBACK PLUNGE ANYMORE! It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked since the first time you used it against the Colts. It did not work when you tried it on the Panthers and it failed this week, too. Just give it up.
2) I like Orton, but he cannot throw a fade pass, so quit calling for it.
3) After Forte runs the ball for seven yards to set up a 3rd-and-1 from the goal line, do you know what play might work there? Play-action pass to a tight end. (Note: not a fade, a regular pass.) Just a thought for next time.
But overall, Turner did a better job than these next two, and I put them together: Lovie Smith and Bob Babich.
I have no idea what defensive schemes you were calling in there on third down, but it did not work. I will give this stat again when I get to the defense, but the Falcons were six for six on third down and long. Let me say that again, when the Falcons were facing a third down and nine yards or more, they converted six out of six times. That does not include a 2nd-and-25 that they converted, or the 26-yard completion to set up the game-winning field goal.
If the Bears' defensive line isn’t pressuring Ryan, then you call blitzes. When you come out for the second half and make zero adjustments to try and slow down the passing attack, you deserve to be slapped upside the head. When you are winning with 11 seconds left and your coverage call doesn’t seem to include covering the sidelines, you deserve to be fired.
So how do the coaches do better you might ask?
Simple, Lovie and Bob, you need to do something for me. Sit down wherever you are right now, (I don’t care where you are or what you are doing, just sit down) relax your body, close your eyes, focus on your being, then try and find your inner child...And when you locate that inner child, ask him where the hell your imagination went.
I blame this loss partially on the coaches, which brings me to the defense itself.
Well, I guess I should start on a plus: We did shut down the leading rusher in the NFL. Ok, now since that is out of the way, where did our pass defense go? It was like a replay of the Bucs game, except Matt Ryan is better than Brian Griese.
The Bears forced only two three-and-outs, and that was in the fourth quarter, when the Falcons were trying to kill the clock. The first time Turner ran twice for no gain and then Ryan threw a three-yard pass. The second time was after Norwood’s kick return, and for that series, Turner ran three times for a total of four yards, and then Elam missed the field goal. Lucky, but still unacceptable.
(And I will not even get into the bonehead play by Tommie Harris. I have no idea what his thinking was, but do you suppose it was the hand of god that knocked the ball out when Tommie tried to stand up because there wasn’t a Falcon within five yards of him.)
And as I stated earlier, the Falcons were six for six on third down and nine yards plus. Unreal. The Bears' defense was manhandled in the passing game. Now, I realize that we were without Vasher the whole game, Peanut left with an injured shoulder, and that both Danieal Manning and Trumaine McBride were out with injuries, but seriously, let's look at the Falcons' lone touchdown drive:
1st-and-10: Turner runs for one yard
2nd-and-9: Turner runs for no gain
3rd-and-9: Ryan completes 47-yard pass to Douglas
1st-and-10: Chop block penalty
1st-and-25: Incomplete pass
2nd-and-25: Ryan completes 26-yard pass to White
1st-and-10: Turner runs for -1 yard
2nd-and-11: Incomplete Pass
3rd-and-11: Ryan completes 13-yard pass to Finneran
1st-and-goal from the five-yard line: Turner runs for two yards
2nd-and-goal from the three-yard line: Ryan completes pass to White for touchdown
If you are not embarrassed by this display, then congratulations, because you have no shame. This was just one example of how pitiful a display the defense put up. I realize that they locked it down a little bit better once the Falcons got in the red zone, but I think that’s only because with a smaller field, the Bears' D could not spread themselves out as much as they seemed to like to.
And then the icing on the cake was with those last six seconds left and the Falcons needing 20 yards to get into field-goal range, and for some unknown reason, our cornerbacks decided that they were more concerned with the 10-yard pass to the flats as opposed to the 25-yard out route to the sidelines.
Mike Brown has caught some heat for his “blown coverage,” but this play was not on him. This was on Marcus Hamilton, the new DB the Bears signed off waivers from Tampa Bay. He was playing too close to the line of scrimmage when he should have been 15 yards off the ball; then would still need to backpedal a little. Brown was playing over the top, his job was to make sure no one got behind him deep.
So, how do you fix this?
Heck, it is easy enough to say get pressure on the quarterback. If you can’t do it with the front four, then you blitz the linebackers (such as Urlacher, who was a ghost all game) or a DB, like Manning did successfully against the Eagles once or twice. And then getting Vasher back and Peanut healthy will also be a big plus. But whatever they need to do, they need to do it fast because if we made Matt Ryan look that good, we could make Gus Frerotte look like a Hall-of-Famer.