That is what Brian Urlacher was talking about, right?
When he thinks identity and he thinks Bears' football, 38 carries and 18 passes is what he has in mind, isn't it?
Never mind, temporarily, that they were not particularly good when it came to executing in today's 17-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams. The Bears (5-7) entered on a four-game losing streak and they had lost six of seven. They needed a victory any way they could get it, and a win over the hapless Rams (1-11) will qualify.
Coach Lovie Smith talked about Bear weather, the cliche that is this time of the year, and referenced needed to run the ball. For the first week of December, I'd venture to say it was about as nice as you can expect it to be on a newly re-sodded field. But the Bears wanted to get their running game going against St. Louis' lousy run defense. Matt Forte finished with 91 yards on 24 carries, lost a fumble and danced around near the goalline. Kahlil Bell had 35 yards on 11 carries, so the rookie was less effective in his first extended look. The Bears totaled 120 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry against a defense that was allowing opponents to gain 4.75 yards per carry.
Cutler pushed the ball downfield early in the game. He hit Devin Hester for a 48-yard gain on the first play of the second possession. Then a shot to Johnny Knox in the end zone drew a 35-yard pass interference penalty to set up Forte's one-yard touchdown run.
Move to the Bears' third drive and on the third play Cutler hit Earl Bennett coming across the deep middle and he raced for 71 yards. Cutler was at his best throwing the ball downfield. That's what has been amiss in this offense of late. That is what the Bears seemingly could have worked more on in a game against an inferior opponent.
"Part of it was the way our defense was playing,'' Cutler said. "We didn't feel like we had to make big plays or throw the ball down the field.''
The defense did a pretty decent job. It held the Rams to three Josh Brown field goals, and the Rams converted only 2-of-14 third downs. But they still had the ball on the Bears' side of the field with a chance to score a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute and force overtime. So as much as the Bears believed they were in control, St. Louis was two plays away from overtime at the end.
The Bears won the game playing like they did when they had their old identity. Don't they need to be playing to their new identity, though, the one they haven't quite found yet? Urlacher might needed to be reminded that the Bears aren't going to be winning a lot of games with defense this season. The defense isn't very good, and there were some faces missing today.
Now for 10 quick (and some random) reactions coming out of the game:
1. Adewale Ogunleye continues to play well against bad opponents. He notched his team-high sixth sack going against Adam Goldberg, a journeyman backup type who was filing in for Jason Smith, the second pick in the draft who was out with a concussion. Ogunleye got two sacks vs. Green Bay's Allen Barbre, 2 1/2 against Detroit's Gosder Cherilus and this was his first full sack in eight games.
2. I don't blame Cutler for stalking the sideline after an official for a little bit, upset over a non-call when it appeared there was pass interference. The Bears have had a handful of those in recent games, and the calls are just not going their way. Sure, they got a big penalty on the Knox play in the first quarter, but it was blatant as could be. There were some other pass interference calls that probably should have been made. If they're not calling them, Cutler and the team has to lobby for them.
3. Nice to see Jamar Williams have a big game with 18 tackles, 13 of them solos, according to press box statistics. After coaches' tally up the action in film review, could he reach the low 20's? Anything is possible. Williams has been the heir apparent to Lance Briggs on a few occasions and he delivered in what was just his second career start. Williams has been super productive before. He made 12 tackles in the second half of a game vs. Dallas in 2007 when Lance Briggs was forced to the sideline with a pulled hamstring. Remember, Williams was in position to compete for the strong-side job coming out of the offseason program in June.
4. Imagine for a minute Rams running back Steven Jackson playing on a good team. Jackson battled a back issue all week and didn't practice and he came out and ran hard. He got 112 yards the tough way, on 28 carries, and he was carrying defenders with him for many of those yards. St. Louis has a little bit of a makeshift line going, but it's playing OK and Jackson is doing so much of the work by himself for that offense. Quarterback Kyle Boller is athletic and possesses a cannon, but the wide receivers are all inexperienced so the pressure falls on Jackson. The fear is--and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo admitted as much--that when the Rams turn the corner to respectability, Jackson will be running on empty. Right now, he's a great workhorse back.
5. While Williams deserves the praise he received, I thought Kevin Payne had a decent outing at strong safety, the first time he has played there since last season. Granted, all praise needs to be tempered by the fact that they were playing the Rams, but Payne did a solid job. He was second behind Williams with eight tackles (seven solos) and he broke up two passes, including a diving effort to keep Donnie Avery from scoring a touchdown. That's the concern with Payne. He's a physical and rugged defender in the box. Questions remain on his coverage ability and instinct. He showed well.
6. In a Florida T-shirt and Florida cap, defensive end Alex Brown was catching some grief afterward about his Gators and their loss in the SEC Championship Game. I asked him about quarterback Tim Tebow crying and he said that shows how much it means to him. OK. Whatever. Then, I inquired about the near sack he had before Rams' left tackle Alex Barron rode him to the ground for a 10-yard holding penalty.
"I get a holding penalty, but that's a sack. I've got to get that sack,'' said Brown, who didn't but has four on the season. "That's an easy sack. I told [Barron] that. I don't get credit for a holding penalty. I get credit for sacks. I said, 'You've got to just let me get that one.' He was like, 'Nah, you can't get one.'"
7. Anyone else wondering aloud about defensive end Gaines Adams being inactive? Instead, the Bears had two backup interior offensive linemen dress--Josh Beekman and rookie Lance Louis. Why dress Louis ahead of Adams when Louis wasn't going to play? Could it have been the coaching staff sending a message to the front office about the trade? Probably not, but it's at least worth mulling over. Adams has barely played. The coaches remain high on him but it's pretty evident there just isn't going to be a spot for him out there this season unless some type of injury occurs.
8. I've been quick to point out that Smith's bunch has been undisciplined at times this season, so it's important and only fair to note that the Bears had only four penalties for 35 yards marked off against them. That, combined with a lot of running plays, made for a quick game.
9. I'm not going to go through the potential tiebreakers involved, but let's look at the race for the No. 1 overall pick. The Rams, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all stuck on one victory with four games to play. Let's handicap the race:
Cleveland (1-11). Remaining opponents: Pittsburgh, at Kansas City, Oakland, Jacksonville.
Comment: Back-to-back games with the AFC West has to give the Browns a real shot at a win. They played San Diego tough at home today.
St. Louis (1-11). Remaining opponents: at Tennessee, Houston, at Arizona, San Francisco.
Comment: The best chance for the Rams might have been today. They don't have the firepower to hang with the Texans most days, and the Niners will beat up on them.
Tampa Bay (1-11). Remaining opponents: N.Y. Jets, at Seattle, at New Orleans, Atlanta.
Cumulative record of remaining opponents: 26-29.
Comment: The best chance for a victory might have come and went today with a game at Carolina.
I'm not going out on a limb when I say it looks like the Rams and Bucs could battle it out in a tiebreaker at 1-15.
10. Fake field goal in the red zone with a 10-0 lead? Come on. That right there shows you how desperate the Bears are to improve their status in the red zone. The look was good--tight end Greg Olsen had room in front of him--but David Roach made a strong play by following Olsen in motion. He showed great instincts. The Bears should have taken the points for a 13-0 lead instead of resorting to trickery. Save a fake for a team with more talent, like Green Bay. Don't go to the bag of tricks against the Rams.