Saturday, August 19, 2006

Improvement



Well, it looks like the 2006 Bears season might look a lot like the 2005 Bears season. Last night the offense racked up only 198 total yards (and no points from the first team offense in the opening half), but were able to ride a dominating defensive performance and a touchdown apiece from the defense and special teams to cruise to a 24-3 win. Familiar formula, eh? Whatever works, right?

Um, yeah. I suppose. I don't know, however, how Bears fans will react to another season of watching the offense embarrass itself.

To be fair, the offense was without Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson amd Mushin Muhammad, who each will be expected to provide much of the production, but, obviously, Rex Grossman and Co. will have to do better. If not, the cries for Brian Griese to slide into a starting role will continue to grow. Hell, they already have.

But hey, after last week's stomach-turning effort against the 49ers, last night's win was a welcome sight. A few observations:

- Grossman again looked less than great, though, at least, his performance was a step up from the absolutely awful effort put forth last week in San Fran. If there was a positive, it was that he finally began to click on his last drive, completing four consecutive passes and driving the offense right down the field. A sign that things were finally beginning to click for him? Perhaps. Of course, he finished the drive with an ugly interception directly into double coverage, but for the moment let's just chalk that up to a bit of overexcitement on his part after finally moving the offense to within smelling distance of the endzone. With the first half nearly over, Grossman knew his night was coming to an end and he wanted that touchdown in the worst way before being relegated to the sideline. Thus he forced the issue. It happens. Hopefully, it doesn't happen again.

- Grossman took a lot of hits. This cannot continue. I'm sure that by now the heart of every Bears fan skips a beat each time Grossman is touched in the slightest of ways, fearful that, yet again, he won't get up.

- Remarkably, Rashied Davis, who returned a punt 100 yards for a touchdown, also seemed to be the wide receiver Grossman looked to most. Granted, Muhammad wasn't playing, but Davis has quickly gone from a guy just trying to make the switch from defensive back and making the roster to a guy looking for playing time to, possibly, a go-to guy. Hey, with all the unproductive wide receivers the Bears love to unearth year after year, decade after decade, if Davis wants to step up, it's fine with me. Whatever.

- We need Jones and Benson back and healthy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, great, insightful observation on my part, right? Call me Mr. Obvious. But we do. We just do. Adrian Peterson isn't going to scare anybody lining up in the backfield.

- The defense looked predictably sharp and borderline dominant, which was a relief after Alex Smith and a San Fran offense that ranked dead last in the NFL last year made them look foolish last week. These guys are just rounding into form. Provided Mike Brown returns healthy and/or Danieal Manning plays well in Brown's absence, I fully expect the defensive crew to be even better than last year, which is downright scary.

- Urlacher and Lance Briggs are the big name, Pro Bowl linebackers, but it says here that Hunter Hillenmeyer will have a Pro Bowl-worthy season himself. He'll be overshadowed and underappreciated, but Hillenmeyer is about to make the jump, which is all the more remarkable considering he's from - gulp! - Vanderbilt.

- Chris Harris was everywhere, making plays all over from his strong safety position. This second-year stud has Pro Bowls in his future. One suggestion, though: Don't talk trash after giving up a first down. One one play, Harris crushed Antonio Gates with an admittedly vicious hit. The thing was, though, Gates held onto the ball and picked up the first down in the process. He also got up from the turf without any apparent difficulty. Yet Harris was jawing away. That garbage drives me crazy. Listen, if you break up the play and prevent the first down, well then, hey, yap away. If not, head back to the huddle and get it done next time.

- Phillip Rivers is going to be just fine. Despite throwing an interception that Urlacher returned for a touchdown on the Chargers' first possession, I was impressed with Rivers' composure and presence overall. Sure, he'll have some growing pains, but in the long run he'll be a step up from Drew Brees.

- What's up with the new rule that says beer will stopped being served five minutes into the third quarter during all Bears night games at home? Granted, the Bears play only two more night games at home this season (and only one in the regular season), but this is another sorry sign of the PC police doing their best to sniff out anyone trying to enjoy themselves. The city of Chicago has already banned smoking in bars, and now Bears fans are being hassled. Sure, some people can't handle their liquor and make asses of themselves, but you're always going to find the toublemakers and dolts regardless of the presence of liquor. They're eveywhere. They can't be avoided, sober or not. I don't understand why the much larger majority of fans who behave themselves are punished because the uptight stiffs of the world are offended by a few bad apples and go out of thier way to dampen the simple enjoymant of many. I don't like it.

I mean, you can't go to a Bears game on a Friday night, unwind, and enjoy a cold one or two in the second half? Come on now.

I guess I'll just have to revert to the old standby: sneaking in a bottle of whiskey and buying a large Coke. It's worked in the past and it'll work again in the future. Hey, it'll even save me a few bucks.

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