Here we go. Ten reactions and random thoughts (and then a few more) coming out of a downright ugly day of football at Soldier Field ...
Two weeks after a 35-point loss at Cincinnati the Bears have lost by 20 points at home to a team that was on a record-setting pace in terms of futility running the football.
The fine folks at Football Outsiders revealed earlier today that the Cardinals, averaging 64.9 yards rushing per game entering the game at Soldier Field, were a new kind of bad when it came to running the football. Arizona drafted Beanie Wells in the first round from Ohio State to help prop up its running game, yet it entered the game with the worst statistical rushing game since the NFL-AFL merger. That was in 1970.
The Cardinals came to the right place, though, the spot you need to be if you're running game is in disarray. They nearly tripled their average with 182 yards on 31 attempts (5.9 average) as Wells (72 yards, 13 carries) and Tim Hightower (77 yards, 15 carries) busted off big runs. Oh yeah, Kurt Warner became the second quarterback in three weeks to throw five touchdown passes against the Bears, something that had not happened since Brett Favre did the trick in 1995.
But let's get this straight. The Bears have mostly the same players as they did during their 2006 Super Bowl run, they're playing the same scheme and they've claimed to have upgraded the talent on the coaching staff, right? The explanation given at the end of last season, a disappointing 9-7 year, is that the Bears were going to coach their way out of the mess. That's essentially what Smith said he was going to do when he swapped out position coaches at all three levels of the defense. There were not any big personnel additions made. They were going to fix it by coaching 'em up better. Now, for the second time in three weeks, the Bears have been completely outschemed and totally outplayed. Unprepared? It would be hard for them to make a case that they were ready.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has been under fire. His unit was miserable a week ago vs. Cleveland, and it wasn't close to being good enough to stand up and match the Cardinals drive for drive in the first half. But the Cardinals scored on their first six possessions, not too unlike the Bengals who scored on their first seven possessions. The Bears have a defensive head coach, who doubles as the defensive coordinator, and a general manager in Jerry Angelo who has worked long and hard to stock that defense. If they're broken on defense, as it appears, what are they doing?
1. So, I heard some players say after the game that the Bears are even now that they're 4-4. Even how? Sure, they have a .500 record but even is 0-0 when everyone else is 0-0. The Minnesota Vikings are 7-1, so the Bears' idea that they are even is laughably wrong. Unless even means "we're three games back" in their dictionary. By the way, those Vikings host Detroit and Seattle before the Bears go there at the end of the month. Go ahead and pencil them in for 9-1 going into that game.
2. Hightower and Wells combine for 149 yards rushing. What do you have Frank Gore for Thursday night at San Francisco in your pool? 225? For what it's worth, plenty to him I am sure, Gore's career high is 212 vs. Seattle in 2006. He also went over 200 yards vs. the Seahawks in Week 2 of this season.
3. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who is a captain, said he planned to speak with Tommie Harris about his senseless ejection from the game. Sounds like a good idea even if the damage has been done. Ogunleye said the right things, that what Harris did was unacceptable and it's never OK to be booted out of the game. But he stopped at that point from criticizing Harris further.
"I am not frustrated with him,'' Ogunleye said. "I am frustrated with myself.''
Now that sounds even better. Where has Ogunleye been on the defensive line in recent weeks? You don't get to rush vs. Green Bay's Allen Barbre and Detroit's Gosder Cherilus every week. Ogunleye hasn't done a whole lot in the last month and needs to step his own game up in a contract drive season.
4. Yes, before Warner found a home in Arizona, he was at Halas Hall for a visit. But the Bears--Angelo and Smith--were dead set on developing Rex Grossman at the time. I have no idea who he would have thrown the ball to, but the insistence on Grossman shines as one of the bigger draft miscalculations of the last decade for a team that's made it's share.