HOUSTON--Just finished watching all the Denver-San Diego game I needed to see. We've got a full offseason to review the happenings in the 2008 season but we'll try to address a few things coming out of this game before turning our attention to a flight that leaves (crossing our fingers here) before the sun rises.
1. Since its the offseason, we might as well look ahead and what better event to focus on than the draft. I don't have this firmed up at this point, but my best guess, yes I said guess, is that the Bears will hold the 16th pick in the first round of the draft. They are tied with Dallas, the New York Jets and Tampa Bay as 9-7 clubs that failed to make the postseason.
The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule and the club with the weakest schedule goes first. Given that the Bears had two games with Detroit and one with St. Louis (that's 2-46 right there), I'd have to think they'll edge ahead of the others. Tampa was in the tough NFC South, Dallas was in the tough NFC East and the Jets were also in a competitive division. Stay tuned on this one.
2. Boy, it sure looked like things were going the Bears' way when they jumped ahead 10-0. The energy was being sucked right out of Reliant Stadium but then the Texans did what good football teams do, they got their playmakers, or in this instance, playmaker Andre Johnson involved. Cornerback Charles Tillman did not fare well vs. him. Tillman finished with a team-high 10 tackles and most of those came after Johnson had made catches downfield. Nine of Johnson's 10 catches went for first downs.
3. This marked the sixth game the Bears lost that they led in. Carolina, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Tennessee, Minnesota (2nd game) and Houston. The only loss they had in which they didn't lead was the 37-3 game at Green Bay.
4. The Bears surrendered 4,076 yards passing on the season, the most since allowing 4,079 in 1999. There really needs to be a focus on the pass rush, or lack of one. There have been statistics used this season that the Bears blitzed more than any team in the league. They have said themselves that they are blitzing more than ever before. Kind of like the money they paid the defense, they didn't get a return on all of those blitzes. No, sacks aren't the true measure of a pass rush, but they finished with just 29 sacks, led by Alex Brown's six. Don't discount the need for an edge rusher next season, be it an end or maybe a strong-side linebacker.
5. Has the window for this defense officially closed to make it back to the Super Bowl? It's a fair question to debate. The cornerstone players are getting older and a case can be made that Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs is the only one of the bunch who performed at a level you would expect. The real issue on the defense seems to be the failure to develop new, emerging talent.
6. When your top wide receiver is third on the team in catches, that's a problem. That means your quarterback isn't throwing the ball downfield enough. That was the case here with Devin Hester finishing with 51 receptions, three behind tight end Greg Olsen and 12 behind running back Matt Forte.
7. Consider the Bears are the first Super Bowl loser since the 2002 Oakland Raiders not to make it back to the playoffs in the first two years removed from losing the Big Game. That's not company anyone wants to keep. Look, the Super Bowl hangover even stung New England this year.
8. How long into a postseason meeting does general manager Jerry Angelo take to delve into how and why third-round pick Earl Bennett went through the season without one reception? Either Bennett was a bad miss in the draft or the coaching staff hasn't found a way to breakthrough with him. Or could it be both?
9. It's not fair to beat up veteran Marty Booker for his lack of production this season. Yes, he had a bad drop last week vs. Green Bay, but his playing time was limited and in comparison to the reps he had, his production was at or above that of the others. Booker was also slowed by a painful knee injury and a broken rib.
10. They've already said it, Kyle Orton is the quarterback for next season. Orton triggered a $350,000 escalator for next season in his contract. He finished 28 yards shy of 3,000. It will be interesting to see how the club approaches his status with one year remaining on the deal. It can't hurt to make him play for it.
11. And finally, this from Tillman in the locker room after the game ...
"Obviously we're not in the playoffs. Our season's over. They wanted it a little bit more than us. We just didn't get it done, plain and simple.''
The Houston Texans, which entered at 7-8, wanted it more? Just checking.