We’re putting a bow on the Chicago Bears’ win over the Minnesota Vikings, and in order to do that we’re dusting off a column that’s been shelved over the past few weeks of inept performances and blowout losses: our Grizzly Details column.
Special Teams’ Issues Continue to Percolate
The Bears have had a really difficult time on special teams this year, with poor punting, penalties, and awful kick returning all taking turns as the most pressing issue facing Joe Decamillis’ group. On Sunday, all three of those issues were present, and they were all part of the reason why the Vikings were able to stay in the game for as long as they were.
Robbie Gould’s missed field goal in the first quarter didn’t help things, but when you consider he hadn’t attempted a field goal since October 12 in Atlanta, it isn’t much of a surprise that he missed it. A bad holding job done by Pat O’Donnell didn’t help things either, but the whole play was so screwed up that it felt right at home amongst the team’s other struggles.
O’Donnell himself has got to be on the list of biggest disappointments for the Bears so far this season. Drafted in the sixth round by the Bears in May’s NFL Draft, O’Donnell wowed fans with his booming kicks in Bourbonnais, but has struggled in game action. He is averaging 44.3 yards per punt, good for 25th in the NFL, and on Sunday he averaged an anemic 29.5 yards per punt against the Vikings. His shanked fourth quarter punt gave the Vikings solid field position for their final drive, and it nearly cost the Bears as Teddy Bridgewater and company got within shouting distance of the end zone at the end of the game.
In case you’re curious, Tress Way, whom O’Donnell beat out for the starting punter job, is leading the league with an average of 48.9 yards per punt with the Washington Redskins.
Why Did Trestman Stop Gambling in Second Quarter?
The Bears are a team that hasn’t been doing much offensively as of late, but on Sunday they actually were moving the ball effectively, and doing so with both the pass and the run. As a result, their third down conversion rate was a really solid 10-for-17 on the day, and they also converted two fourth downs in the game (and came within one poor angle by Jay Cutler of converting on all three).
That kind of success stands in stark contrast to how the Bears finished the second quarter of the game. After a successful defensive series that saw Jared Allen get a sack, the Bears had all of the momentum and really had a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Vikings. Instead, Marc Trestman opted for a convoluted series that saw Matt Forte run the ball a couple of times and then Cutler threw an interception to end the drive.
While it’s not easy to score with a little over a minute left in a half, one timeout in hand and 74 yards to go, the fact remains that the Bears’ offense was churning out first downs and positive gains in their previous series before that drive. Cutler was picking on Minnesota’s corners with his tall wide receivers, and he could have easily continued to do so had Trestman hit the gas. If the ball got intercepted, so be it, but in a situation like that where you have a team coming off three straight losses and finally starting to show some life, you have to go for the kill, and Trestman showed a surprising lack of guts on the play.
Forte’s Big Day Punctuated by Late Rushing Success
Last week, we wrote on this blog about how the Bears should consider giving Ka’Deem Carey more carries in order to take some of the pressure off Matt Forte, but on Sunday Trestman didn’t listen to our advice and pounded the rock with his workhorse anyway. Forte rewarded him with 117 yards on the ground and six more catches for 58 yards, but it was the way he got some of those final yards that really stood out.
As the third quarter ended, Forte rushed for 32 yards as he found a seam between Jermon Bushrod and Brian de la Puente. He then broke three tackles downfield and bulldozed his way to the Minnesota 36-yard line.
The Bears ended up going for two straight fourth downs on the drive, and Forte picked up both of them. The first was a simple dive play by Forte, but the second one was much harder to achieve. As he hit the line of scrimmage, Forte was blasted by Xavier Rhodes with a high hit, but he was somehow able to absorb it and get across the line.
The Bears ultimately scored a touchdown on Brandon Marshall’s jump ball catch in the end zone, but that shot Forte took hammered home our point about giving him fewer carries. He’s a strong guy and is able to withstand hits like that, but in blowouts in the future, the Bears have to remember games like this as they try to get the most they can out of one of the greatest running backs to ever don their uniform.