Chimed in late to yesterday’s Bears-Cowboys game, but I guess the pivotal parts of the game, when Lance Briggs picked off Tony Romo in the 3rd quarter.
If there’s anything to describe the Lovie Smith era of the Bears, it’s always been about super-solid defense and special teams bolstering a mediocre-bad offense.
In Lovie’s regular seasons, I’ve felt reasonably confident in Lovie’s teams to do well based on the existence of the attacking “Tampa 2” defense to make plays and put the offense in position to score if not do it them damn selves.
During the playoffs, however, I’ve always had a somewhat uneasy feeling that the Bears D would have to overperform, usually to cover up the holes on offense. That’s how it’s been in the 8-9 years of the Lovie era.
I like that on defense, year after year, we just keep on finding these playmaking corners and safeties, and interior linemen to fill in the spots not occupied by Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, or marquee pass rusher here. It is amazing that what the defense is always able to do (though it did seem to allow too much yardage).
However, the process of finding replacements doesn’t seem as fluid though when locating pieces on offense. It seems to be an arduous, long-drawn out process, a macrocosm of the problems we see on the field.
Before Jay Cutler, I don’t think the Bears have ever had a good quarterback. Before Brandon Marshall, I don’t think they’ve ever had marquee wide receivers, least since I’ve been following them. I don’t know that they’ve had anyone good at the positions, let alone having them at the same time. In the absence of solid offensive design and strategy, I think we’ve needed talent.
I was really excited when Jay Cutler first came to Chicago in ’09. The Bears had never had a real pro bowl quality QB at least not since I’d been following them. I only knew E.Kramer, S.Walsh from Madden ’95, Rick Mirer, Cade McNown, Shane Matthews, Jim Miller, Rex Grossman…a long list of QBs who were anywhere from terri-bad to mediocre. I honestly thought that Jay was a foolproof and fullproof answer to the Bears long-line of mediocre QB-play.
3 years later, Jay is still a pretty good answer, but it’s been anything but full or fool-proof. He’s had his moments, but I think Bears fans are still waiting for him to re-capture his Pro Bowl form. Seems like he was on pace just last year before he got injured. Caleb Hanie at QB was a stark reminder that we are just a Jay Cutler injury away from being irrelevant.
The Bears have also recycled lots of wide receivers over the years. I remember being a fan of such luminaries like Curtis Conway, Bobby Engram, Marcus Robinson, and Marty Booker. I vaguely remember Mushin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian. It seems like their strategy during the Cutler era has been to bring in unknown to formerly-heralded talent to serve as targets for Jay. They got Earl Bennett and Roy Williams who are/were pretty alright, but not the headline-type receivers we’d hear about over and over. This year, the Bears made a splash by trading for an actual current Pro Bowl wide receiver named Brandon Marshall. I got hyped again.
Today, 3 wins and 1 loss later into the 2012 NFL season, it seems like this is the first time that we actually have a good quarterback and a marquee receiver…at the same damn time! Cutler, an above-average – good quarterback, to Marshall, a marquee wide receiver. He made key catches whether inside and outside, burning, and cutting.
Seeing Marshall make crucial catches yesterday seemed to bolster the rest of Cutler’s throws, whether it was to Marshall, or Devin Hester, or Kellen Davis. I don’t think I’d seen anything like this in the 15 years I’ve followed and watched the Bears.
How weird that both the UCLA Bruins and Bears all of a sudden have these exciting passing attacks to watch…at the same damn time.
In the absence of good offensive design and strategy, I just hope that Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler stay healthy, un-blemished, and we should at least make the Divisional Game.