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Bill Connelly again looks at which college football teams the F/+ ratings are sure about, and which teams remain a mystery (led by Appalachian State).

09 Oct 2007

Any Given Sunday: Bears over Packers

by Ned Macey

The balance of power changes quickly in the NFL. One season after the Bears went to the Super Bowl, they were underdogs against a Packers team that has missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Through two quarters, the deterioration of the Bears seemed accelerated. In one brilliant defensive half, the Bears recaptured their 2006 magic and saved their season. The Packers, meanwhile, showed that they may have trouble dealing with success, as they lack an offense that can effectively run out the clock.

The first half was about as one-sided as a 17-7 first half can be. The Packers marched up and down the field at will against the supposedly stout Chicago defense. Even the much-maligned Packers' ground attack appeared ready for Sunday Night Football. Rookie DeShawn Wynn and journeyman Vernand Morency totaled 102 yards on 13 first half carries. The Packers only punted one time on six first half possessions, undone by two lost fumbles by rookie wide receiver James Jones. Those two fumbles, both forced by Charles Tillman, kept the Bears in the game and saved them from a fourth loss in five contests.

The Packers were clearly the better team in the first half, but they played too conservative in the second half and were dominated by the Bears defense. The Packers ran on five of their first six and on nine of the first 11 second half plays. Even when they returned to the pass, they kept everything short. Brett Favre did not attempt a second half pass of 15 yards until the penultimate play of the game. Before the desperation last drive, Favre did not throw a second half pass to his best receiver, Donald Driver. Seven of his ten attempts during this time went to running backs or tight ends.

In no small part, the Bears defense deserves credit for this play. The defensive line began to dominate. Lance Briggs was everywhere, and Brian Urlacher made a crucial interception. At the same time, the Packers were clearly burdened by a lack of sustainable running attack. The early running success was largely a result of surprise, as the Bears had linebackers dropping into coverage and defensive ends rushing upfield. Once it became clear that the Packers were trying to run the ball, the Bears adjusted and eliminated the big runs. Nine second half runs netted a total of 19 yards.

This game was the first the Packers played where they held a lead they needed to sustain. Previous wins were all in doubt into the fourth quarter. Even their one blowout, over the Giants, did not get out of hand until late in the fourth quarter.

The Packers offense is pass-heavy, but they have a quarterback who will make the occasional mistake. Favre's ill-timed interception in this game was extremely costly. Nursing a big lead, the temptation is to pull in Favre and attack on the ground. Neither of those options proved successful on Sunday. The Packers should stick with their game plan, which involves high percentage passes down the middle of the field that should keep the clock moving anyway.

Favre's interceptions are the price you pay for the rest of his high-quality play. The Packers should continue to stress ball security with Favre, but they cannot be afraid of their own quarterback. He is still the best player on their offense.

The Bears offense, meanwhile, continued to struggle, but Brian Griese limited his mistakes, made a few big plays, and avoided the pass rush. The Bears, in particular Cedric Benson, continued to struggle on the ground, leaving the game to be decided by Griese's right arm. Griese's role as savior is an odd position for such a journeyman. The second half showed the reason for such a pronouncement. Mere competent quarterback play can be enough when the Bears dominate on defense and special teams.

In Griese's first game, a disastrous loss to Detroit, he forced passes and held the ball too long in the pocket. On Sunday, he still threw a costly interception when the game was tied, but committing only one turnover is an improvement. More importantly, he made a couple of big throws that were supposedly beyond his ability. On three separate plays, he hit a tight end down the field for big gains. The most important was a 19-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Greg Olsen that brought the Bears within three points late in the third quarter.

Finally, Griese was facing a decent pass rush from the Packers and was only sacked two times. One of Griese's primary weaknesses has been his tendency to hold the ball too long in the pocket. He was sacked six times against Detroit in his first start. For his career, Griese has taken well over two sacks per game when he has started. One of Rex Grossman's few strengths is his willingness to throw the ball away and avoid the sack. Grossman was probably too eager to get rid of the ball, but his willingness protected an aging offensive line who can struggle against speed rushers.

Fortunately for Chicago, the Packers have deemphasized Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in order to shore up their run defense. The run defense is much improved, but the Packers are not as successful rushing the passer as they were in years past.

Griese's success, however limited, highlighted a major weakness for the Packers defense. Standout defensive backs Al Harris and Charles Woodson cover the outside of the field, but the safeties and linebackers struggle at times in coverage. The Bears exploited this with tight ends Olsen and Desmond Clark. Other teams have had similar success by bringing primary targets across the middle. For Chicago, their starting receivers generally line up outside, but they proved effective clearing Harris from the sideline to open up space for the tight ends.

For Green Bay, the pass defense is becoming a certifiable weakness. They have great faith in their corners and play a great deal of man-to-man coverage. The problem is that while the starting corners are good, the rest of the defense is not up to the task. The Packers will see more and more receivers on the field against them, and they do not have the personnel to contain them. They will then be forced to drop safeties back into coverage, leaving them susceptible to the run.

These nitpickings aside, the 2007 Packers are a much more complete team than the 2007 Bears, and nothing in Green Bay on Sunday goes to disprove the notion. The Packers had 154 more yards of total offense, but the turnovers killed them. The Bears were fortunate to recover all three fumbles they forced, including an acrobatic recovery by punter Brad Maynard. The Packers also committed 12 penalties, including one that kept alive the Bears' first touchdown drive.

Finally, the Packers dodged Devin Hester but did so at an extreme cost. Kicker Mason Crosby had four meaningful kickoffs, and he always kept his kickoffs short. As a result, the Bears started on at least the 30-yard line each kick and three times started outside the 35-yard line. Only once did Chicago score with the advantageous field position, but the other three times they were able to flip field position and pin the Packers inside their own 25-yard line. Meanwhile, the Packers only reached the 30-yard line on one of their six kickoff returns. Due to penalties, they twice started inside their own 20-yard line.

The end result of conservative play-calling, bad fumble recovery luck, penalties, and poor special teams play was a seven-point win by Chicago. Even the most ardent Bears fan would admit that this game was somehow "stolen." Of course, a week ago, the Bears made many of the same mishaps and somehow let the Lions escape with a win. Certainly, it is better to be on the victorious side in a stolen game.

The better news than the all-important win is that the Bears appeared to recapture their formula of dominant defense and stout special teams in the second half. The Bears dominated the line of scrimmage and disrupted any rhythm that the Packers hoped to maintain. Favre's lack of time in the pocket and open receivers downfield certainly contributed to his conservative decisions. The ill-timed interception was the result of a pass rush that forced Favre out of the pocket, where he is less comfortable.

These two teams are scheduled to meet again in Week 16. Whether or not that game has playoff implications likely depends on whether or not the Bears really have recaptured their 2006 form on defense. If the league-average unit that has appeared all season until the second half on Sunday is the real Bears defense, then the Bears will continue to disappoint. Brian Griese is serviceable as a quarterback, and he should continue to improve as he becomes more comfortable. Still, the Bears offense is broken and will not be able to pull its weight this season.

For Green Bay, this game was oddly reassuring. Despite the loss, they maintain a two game lead over the Bears in the division, and they showed their first signs of life in the running game. No offense to the 3-2 Lions, but at this point, the Bears appear to be the only other legitimate threat to win the division.

The Packers' one weakness, pass defense against multiple-receiver sets, is likely one that will not be exploited in the coming weeks. They face a series of teams in the coming weeks that normally excel on the ground. Washington, Denver, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Carolina would all prefer to run the ball, and the Packers should win at least three of those games. At that point, they should be 7-3 and able to coast into the NFC playoffs. Chicago showed that the NFC North would not be a runaway. Their comeback the rest of the season, however, will be even more difficult then the rally they staged on Sunday.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 09 Oct 2007

54 comments, Last at 11 Oct 2007, 12:26am by Andrew

Comments

1
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 11:47am

More of a problem than the Packers' lack of a dominant running back was their play calling strategy in the second half. They appeared to go into "Denny Green mode", using tight power formations and running into the line on first and second downs. This was after much of their first half success came from letting Favre throw out of spread formations. Deja vu from the meltdown in the desert.

Also, does it seem to anybody else that whenever a team has a bunch of breaks go their way in the first half, but don't capitalize by building a decent lead, they inevitably collapse in the second half? We saw the same thing on Monday night...

2
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 11:48am

I'm not sure why anyone thinks the Bears are even close to being a playoff calibre team any more. They have averaged 4.0 yards per play on offence and are giving up 5.5 on defence. Things can change fairly quickly in the NFL, but I think the Bears resemble a bottom 5 team much more than they do a playoff contender.

3
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 11:51am

"No offense to the 3-2 Lions"

Well, if you won't, I will! The 3-2 Lions are terrible!

4
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:00pm

Maybe, just maybe, the 'Skins will use one or two chapters of this 700-pages playbook with formations including ARE, Lloyd and McCardell...
And don't forget this guy playing TE with a FB number...
Oh, no, of course, they'll ride Sellers again !!!

5
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:01pm

You don't have to be a "playoff caliber team" to make the playoffs in this year's NFC.

6
by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:13pm

You don't have to be a playoff caliber team to make the playoffs any year in the NFC.

7
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:14pm

I don't care what the defensive ends, linebackers, and safeties are doing; when interior defensive linemen get driven more than five yards downfield, as happened to the Bears on several occasions in the first half, that is a football team which is not ready to play. The Packers threw away a gift-wrapped present Sunday night.

8
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:23pm

You don’t have to be a playoff caliber team to make the playoffs any year in the NFC.

How quickly memories fade. Anyone recall 1991, when two 10-6 NFC teams failed to reach the playoffs the same year an 8-8 Jets team got in as a wild card?

9
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:28pm

RE 8

Because what happened 15 years ago is relevant to the balance between the leagues right now?

10
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:28pm

Re 8:

How quickly? Dude, that was 16 years ago.

I was nine years old, to put it into perspective.

11
by dbot (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:35pm

oh good a relevant discussion on relative conference strength

12
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:39pm

DVOA rankings were pretty evenly split between the NFC and the AFC last week, although the way Seattle and Dallas performed, those two are going to drop down a bit.

13
by A for Anonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:42pm

RE) 5
You don’t have to be a “playoff caliber team� to make the playoffs in this year’s NFC.i>

By my count, the NFC and AFC have split evenly.
Ok... so maybe you were going by DVOA or something, but, uhhh, 9 out of the top 16 are NFC. Too close to really make a distinction, or maybe there are bif drop offs after AFC teams.
Ok... so maybe DAVE, since it's still early. Nope, same case as for DVOA.
Ok... so perhaps simply records. If the playoffs started right now, Oakland would get in at 2-2, while one winning team each from the NFC and AFC would miss out.
So far I don't see where you are getting this from. Podge might be right for this decade, but I view this as a misconception for this year.

14
by A for Anonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:43pm

sorry, I didn't mean to get so off topic or forget my "

15
by sam (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:46pm

#9 (Rich) and #10 (LnGrrrR):

Podge declared you don't have to be playoff-caliber in "any year" to make the playoffs in the NFC. It wasn't true 1991, therefore it is not true in "any year." It may very well be true this year, though.

16
by John Madden (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 12:57pm

Brett Favre is still GOD! :).

17
by TGT (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 1:19pm

You don’t have to be a playoff caliber team to make the playoffs any RECENT year in the NFC.

18
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 1:28pm

Because what happened 15 years ago is relevant to the balance between the leagues right now?

#5 was talking about this. #6 purported to correct #5 by extending the comment to "any year."

How quickly? Dude, that was 16 years ago.

I'm an archaeologist. 2000 years ago is the equivalent of last spring, to me, so 16 years is nothing.

19
by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 1:29pm

Green Bay ran throughout the third quarter because they were looking at 7-man fronts. I don't blame the coaches. It's a matter of execution, not play-calling.

That aside, they're run capability is so weak that they should have passed more.

Don't look now, but they have 8 fumbles and 2 interceptions in the last 2 games.

20
by chip (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 1:37pm

Shouldn't any analysis of the Bears be divided into the "Rex is our Quarterback" and "Brian is our Quarterback" eras? Can we add this to the Premium Database?

The Bears defensive struggles are intertwined with the offensive struggles. It's an obvious statement, but the point seems missed. Having watched all of the games, it's not a surprise that the Bears defense wears down throughout the game when the offense is incompetent. Being on the field for 40 minutes is never good for an elite defense. Here are the Defensive splits (Rank by Qtr):

1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q Overall
2 5 22 27 15

This reflects three games of "Rex is our Quarterback" and one game of "Brian is our Quarterback (albeit rusty)". Presumably, if the offense under Greise is at least competent (~15-20th in the league), there is no reason to believe that the defense can't find their mojo as they've demonstrated in the first half of the first four games.

21
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 1:43pm

I think a case could be made for the point that being in contention for the playoffs would, by definition, make you "playoff-caliber."

The Lions should take no offense. They don't have enough bad teams left on their schedule to make the playoffs.

I've been trying to explain to one of my friends (a big Favre fan, thus a Packers fan, long story) that Green Bay will post double-digit wins this season and make the playoffs easily. The loss to the Bears doesn't help my case, but I think it's still hard to look at their schedule and figure out how they will lose enough games to miss the playoffs. (I'm not saying they're a good team, just that they'll win a lot of games.)

I notice Favre pretty much gave up on Jones after the second fumble ... the Urlacher INT and a couple of late completions seem to be the only other times Jones was the intended receiver?

22
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 1:46pm

Re 18:

I'm a network technician... 16 year ago, kids were playing on their awesome 8-bit Nintendo Systems, and people were chatting using 28k modem connections. :) A bit different perspective, to be sure.

23
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 2:16pm

I think we can all agree that Chicago and Dallas got really lucky. BOth Green Bay and Buffalo failed to pull away despite dominating the first half Still, I can't believe the Cowboys won with a -5 turnover differential. But as a Cowboy fan, I'll take it.

24
by Cabbage (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 2:19pm

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Benson isn't that great or anything, but I thought the Bears run blocking really stunk. The linebackers got to the line of scrimmage at the same time as Benson, and he can't move laterally enough to get around them.

Benson's big strength is that when he hits the hole, he hits it HARD. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be able to make much in the way of cutbacks or jukes. I've never seem him high-step, which might be why he get tripped up at the line so much.

Is it a matter of blocking schemes not matching running styles?

25
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 2:29pm

The Bears are going to have to depend on Griese's arm, the defense, and special teams again this week. They couldn't really run on the Vikes last year. I see no reason why this year's inferior edition of the Bears running game would have any success.

26
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 2:32pm

I think a case could be made for the point that being in contention for the playoffs would, by definition, make you “playoff-caliber.�

Yes, but this year really looks different. The Giants, Eagles, Bears, Lions, Panthers, 49ers and Seahawks have all at some pont this season looked like embarrassingly bad teams, yet some of those teams are going to make the playoffs this year. #2 started this discussion with incredulity that the Bears could possibly contend for the playoffs because...why? They couldn't possibly overtake the Lions? Or the Giants? Or the Cardinals? Please.

27
by Slinky (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 2:39pm

bears are just more consistent run blocking away from being exceptional. their defensive dvoa is mediocre, but thats because they are getting blasted late in games by losing the time of possession battle (due to afore-mentioned sub par run blocking). never a good thing for a speed defense. but improvement to said blocking will enhance all aspects of their play on offense and defense

28
by Xian (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 2:54pm

#21:

My understanding is that Favre didn't actually give up on Jones after the 2nd fumble, he was benched for the rest of the game, except in the 4th, when Greg Jennings needed to come off for a breather.

That, of course, doesn't mean that he won't lose confidence in Jones, but even Brett Favre will have trouble avoiding throwing to someone if they're not on the field. Heh.

Did that come out right? Oh well, FWIW, I'm a Packers fan, and I'm pretty high on Jones, he seems to be doing okay for a rookie. (Fumbles aside.)

29
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 2:55pm

I think the big problem with the Packers 2nd half play calling was that they kept James Jones on the bench. By not using their 3 and 4 WR sets which had really opened up the offense in the previous 2 games (Greg Jennings was out for the first 2 games), they were unable to attack the weakness of a Bears defense lacking Nathan Vasher.

Keeping Jones on the bench for the remainder of the first half was the right move. Not bringing him back in for the second half (with the exception of a few plays that Jennings came out for, and maybe the last drive) cost the Packers offense.

30
by Mike W (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 2:57pm

#24 - I corrected your spelling:

Benson’s big strength is that when he runs up the backs of his linemen, he runs up the backs of his linemen HARD.

31
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 3:01pm

re 25:

Actually I think the Vikings are a perfect match for the Bears. Bad receivers that can't get open against our depleted secondary; bad QBing who won't be able to handle our pass rush; and a bad secondary that Griese will be able to pick apart.

I think our gameplan will resemble the Cardinal's gameplan against Minnesota last year. 50 passes and 5 rushes.

32
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 3:04pm

#7,

Will, that really, really irks you doesn't it? I don't think I was that angry, and I'm a Bears fan. Lovie would agree with you. He said it was the worst half they've played since he's coached the Bears. Several players said they've never seen him as upset as he was at halftime. Whatever the cause, 19 net rushing yds is some kind of improvement.

33
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 3:16pm

Re Bears D and ToP:
The Bears flipping the ToP doesn't magically fix the defense. The Bears had the ball more in the Detroit contest. I'm more likely to think injuries are the problem, though it shouldn't be an excuse.

Here's hoping Tommie Harris is still not 100% and will only get better in the coming weeks.

34
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 3:49pm

Yeah, Charles, I despise soft defensive line play, especially from the tackles. I'm not surprised that Lovie saw it the same way. The shame of it is I don't think the Vikings are likely to see the Bears similarly unprepared; Adrian Peterson would run for 200 yards in a half against such an effort. Of course, the Bears will be filling the box against the Vikings, so the comparison is lacking.

The way people talk about the Vikings pass defense you'd think they were giving up 3td passes per game, instead of the 5 total tds they have yielded in four games, often after the offense put them on a short field. They can beat the Bears, if they get anything from the qb position, but I have no idea of whether that will happen. When they aren't throwing balls that are easy to intercept, the Vikings qbs are leaving about 10 points a game on the table by overthrowing wide open receivers. Don't even get me started on the receiver drops, although that aspect is showing signs of improvement.

If this team could ever force a defense to play honest, you'd really see something spectacular from Adrian Peterson.

35
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 3:50pm

31: I simply cannot believe that this coaching staff, which insists that they are a running team, that they have to establish the run, etc will just start winging it all over the field this week. I'd love to see them give it a try, but I'm sure we're going to see them running into the Dread Monsters Williams far too many times in the 1st quarter. Again.

36
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 3:53pm

24:

I have been very curious about Benson even though I don't have anything emotionally invested in the Bears or the NFC North. The conclusion I have come to after watching him carefully in a few games this year is that he's supremely strong and fast, and hits the hole hard, as you say, but he doesn't always hit the right hole as he lacks good vision.

It seems like he just runs wherever the play calls for him to run and if he tries to bounce it outside, it's a poor decision, and if he tries to cut back, he goes through the wrong gap. I can't figure out any other explanation for what looks like a very gifted atheletes poor showing. Maybe someone else can explain it more technically, but I don't think he'll ever be very good because if what I'm criticizing him for doesn't seem to have shown up by now I doubt it ever will.

37
by AmbiantDonkey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 3:59pm

36:
Strong yes, fast hell no.

38
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 4:01pm

The last time Brian Griese faced the Vikings, he was playing on a team with a better number 1 receiver and a better running back,and the Vikings defense was not nearly as good as this unit. Griese went 18 for 29 for 213 yards, two tds and two ints, one returned for a touchdown. If the Vikings offense does nothing, the Vikings defense may wear down and yield some points, especially if the Vikings offense turns the ball over. Short of that, I wouldn't be planning on Griese picking apart anybody on Sunday.

39
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 4:03pm

The Packers situation is one of those things that annoys me that there's essentially no in-season trading in the NFL. Not that I have anyone in particular in mind, but if they could get a good RB, they's be a very serious contender to make the Super Bowl, and then you just have to get Brady/Manning to come down with food poisioning.

40
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 4:10pm

36,

Benson may be strong, but I don't think he's very fast. It seems like he needs openings to be successful because he can't create anything on his own.

41
by Nic Franklin (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 4:18pm

For the most part the GB offense has played well when they have their three good receivers available and poorly when they don't or the TE does not play well.

Benching a guy for two fumbles makes very little sense. You spend months figuring out who your best players are before the season and during the season, and you spend the entire week coming up with a game plan that utilizes your best players. Benching by far their second or third best receiver for fumbling twice (three times maybe that is a different story) meant even if they wanted to run their effective 3 WR set it would be with out their best players who had wracked up 345 yards in the first half.

If you want to punish a guy for making mistakes, do it the following game when you have the entire week to game plan for the correct personnel who will implement that game plan.

That is just stupidity on the part of McCarthy in my opinion.

42
by Mike W (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 4:21pm

Benson is strong in theory. In practice, he's only going to break a tackle if he can get up a head of steam, and even then he's not what you might hope for. He has no moves. Zero. None. He's not fast. He's not terrible as a receiver but not adept. He's a slightly stronger version of Anthony Thomas, and I don't mean that in a good way. He is a clear step down from Thomas Jones. Media idiots here in Chicago think that since Jones wasn't an All-pro level guy, that Benson must be as good (also their stats were similar last year). No. If Jones is a B, then Benson is a C-level back.

43
by RickKilling (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 4:37pm

#31: I agree, but from a Viking perspective:

Minimal running game, receivers who don't scare anyone, a journeyman QB prone to sacks or turnovers off the blitz, and a depleted secondary that may actually allow our WRs to make some catches.

Funny how you can flip a coin and see both sides winking in the light...

44
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 5:41pm

Will Allen

I can't remember the plays you are talking about regarding the Bears defensive tackles getting blown back. I have read since the game that Darwin Walker got hurt on the first drive, came out of the game and went back in before it became obvious that he couldn't continue and he had to come out again. If it was number 99 that might explain it. Not that Walker has played all that well all year, on the Bears website he isn't credited with making a single tackle. Methinks that is one option that won't get picked up.

45
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 6:04pm

34,

If the Vikes test the Bears deep by throwing to whoever D. Manning is covering, we'll be in trouble. Eventually they'll have to pull someone out of the box and (the other) Adrian Peterson will go off.

Bears win if the D-Line gets good penetration, pressuring the QB and hitting Peterson in the backfield. On O, Griese has to dink-and-dunk effectively, because I doubt we'll be able to run against the Vikes.

46
by Daniel (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 6:19pm

Great work as always on "Any Given Sunday."

I know the Bills were supposed to lose yesterday, but I was kind of looking forward to reading an analysis of the Monday Night game. I'm still in a tizzy after those final minutes, from Lee Evans nearly playing Don Beebe to Terence Newman's Leon Lett, to Terrence McGee's inexplicable drop of a sure sixth interception by Romo (would've been the easiest one of the night!)..... it was too much for a Bills fan to take.

47
by jmarv (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 6:37pm

re: 24 and 42

Benson is not the problem. The problem is the rest of the offense and the offensive line. He had a 15.1% DVOA and 17.9 DPAR in limited action last year- did he suddenly turn into a bad back overnight? I thought with a Bears article by the FO guys we would finally see some recognition that the biggest problem facing this offense isn't the quarterback but whether the line can keep guys off the QB and open holes for Benson. I don't know how many times I saw him with absolutely nowhere to run on Sunday night, but it was a majority of his carries.

48
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 7:41pm

I read yesterday that Miller and Tait have both been playing with injuries (it didn't say what they were). It would explain some of the problems with the blocking, although I haven't seen any indication of if or when they are going to get healthy. Of course it could be said (and often was) that going into a season with Tait and Miller as your starters with St Clair as your only viable backup is asking for this kind of situation to rear its head.

49
by stan stendera (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2007 - 11:35pm

Benson is a BUST!!!! The problem is the Bears management won't admit it!!!

50
by TomC (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2007 - 10:05am

I'm curious how Vikings fans feel about Jackson's return. I know Holcomb isn't a long-term solution, but at least he has positive DPAR and is accurate and savvy enough to potentially give the Bears trouble -- especially if they play lots of zone. I don't see Jackson posing much of a threat.

That's not to say I think the Bears will necessarily win. Home field helps, but they could easily turn the ball over enough to lose.

51
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2007 - 11:15am

I dunno, Tom. Holcombe could easily have had two or three ints against the Packers, if the Packers had merely caught the ball, and Holcombe has been overthrowing wide open receivers thirty or forty yards downfield since he got on the field with the Vikings. Given Jackson has a better fastball, which is useful when your receivers usually don't get a lot of seperation, and Jackson can move around better, which allows Childress to use more of the playbook, you may as well go with Jackson, not that I have any confidence in him.

I think it likely that Childress is a decent fellow, so it really is unpleasant to see him in this situation. A new, first time, head coach in the NFL who mismanages the roster with regard to the qb position does not have bright career prospects.

52
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2007 - 1:28pm

#51

Is Childress really the one to blame over the Vikings QB problem? I heard that it was Fran Foley who made the decision to move up into the second to take him, this could be incorrect information and I would happily be corrected. I suspect that having spent a 2nd rounder on him Childress was under pressure (probably from the ownership, who don't have much experience) to use him. It isn't as though the offseason was full of proven starting QBs hoping to be signed, most of the available veterans have either played as poorly in their new locatons as they did to get themselves shipped on in the first place (McCown, Carr, Harrington, Leftwich); had a very sour history with Childress (Culpepper); or were only available for a high asking price (Schaub). You could argue that maybe the Vikes should have traded for Schaub, but if you had I doubt you would have Adrian Peterson as your franchise running back. Personally I would go with AP as he seems to be a unique talent and they don't come along all that often. It might be annoying for Vikes fans but Superbowl teams aren't built overnight.

53
by Kenneth (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2007 - 3:27pm

34:

Adrian Peterson is the new Barry Sanders.

Discuss.

54
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2007 - 12:26am

Why was this game chosen for "Any Given Sunday"? The Packers are a terribly overrated team and the Bears could be one of the best in the NFC if the defense gets healthy and Griese plays half decent.