Maybe this team is back to playing good football. Or, maybe they are who we thought they would be. Either way, the Bears played a really good football game yesterday. They beat the Vikings up and down the field, in every aspect of the game.
Maybe the Vikings were just what the Bears needed to wake back up. Maybe Mike Martz finally found some balance in his offense. Maybe the fact that the Bears were finally able to run the ball gave Martz the balance he’s been looking for all along.
Maybe Lovie Smith finally came to his senses and put Devin Hester back on kickoff returns. Maybe he’ll be back there the rest of the season, and he can finally get back to his rookie season ways, returning kicks for touchdowns.
Sensing a theme here? There’s no doubt that the Bears played a good game yesterday. Some may even call it great. I wouldn’t go that far, but the Bears looked like a playoff contender yesterday. What I’m saying though, is I’m not jumping on the Super Bowl Or Bust bandwagon just yet.
There are just too many questions, too many maybes left for this team to answer.
The three biggest story lines to come out of yesterday’s game are:
1. Devin Hester’s Special Teams Play
- Hester returned two punts for 47 yards, and two kickoffs for 100 yards.
- While he didn’t score, his returns helped the field position game, led to points.
2. The Running Game
- Both Matt Forte and Chester Taylor got involved, combining for 104 yards on 32 carries. It was a much better performance than the 66 yards they put up against the Bills last week.
- Credit the Bears’ offensive line, which despite more than their fair share of penalties, opened holes as well as kept Jay Cutler upright.
- It’s not often that a team can hold Adrian Peterson down. Especially when that team is the Bears. Historically, Peterson has always played well against the Bears, but he was held to just 51 yards on 17 carries.
- Credit the defensive line for constantly getting penetration in the backfield. Also, the Bears swarmed the ball whenever they had a chance. Peterson was not allowed to use his strength to break tackles. It’s a welcome change from the Bears’ normal style of strip the ball first, tackle second.
- The secondary may have gotten lucky a couple of times with receivers falling down, but hey, we’ll take three picks any time.
One point that definitely belongs in the top three storylines of the game is the Bears’ third down efficiency. I’m just too lazy to go back and change things around, but it worked out because this deserves a paragraph of its own. It’s no secret that the Bears have struggled on third down this year, and it’s hard not to when you’re constantly in 3rd and 10 or longer because of sacks. The Bears went 11-for-19 on 3rd down, good for 57%. The icing on the cake came on 3rd and short midway through the 4th quarter. The Bears easily could have run it, and probably picked up the first down, but they went with a play action pass for an easy touchdown to Kellen Davis. It was the kind of inventive play call that Bears fans have been waiting for.
It’s nice to have a lead and to be able to afford to risk passing on 3rd and short, right?
I’ve been reluctant to give Lovie Smith any credit this season, because I’m so sick of his act (and I truly believe it’s an act). But him and his staff deserve high marks for their game plan against the Vikings. Like I said, this win could be misleading because of the state of the Vikings, but a win is a win.
Despite themselves, the Bears now sit at 6-3, tied atop the NFC North. The real test for the Bears’ coaching staff comes with a short week. The Dolphins always present a tough matchup, but I believe Thursday’s game is winnable because of the turmoil the Dolphins have at quarterback. The Bears should be able to handle Miami’s wildcat package, but they run it better than anyone.
Could the Bears find themselves in an unfamiliar situation after 10 games? Only time will tell, but the momentum gained from Sunday’s good effort should help.