Monday, October 19, 2009

Zoned out

Week 6: Falcons 21, Bears 14

It's fitting that Matt Ryan made his living Sunday night by throwing repeatedly into the flat, because the Bears looked awfully flat themselves.

Despite having a bye week to prepare for the Falcons, the Bears couldn't run, couldn't tackle, couldn't cover anyone, and couldn't hold on to the ball in a game that had Wild Card implications written all over it.

But more important than all of that, they couldn't produce in the red zone. The Bears were 1-for-4 in the red zone while the Falcons were 2-for-2. Just as many baseball games come down to hitting with runners in scoring position, this entire game came down to red zone performance. Though the Bears played the Falcons close and lost by just a touchdown, the fact that they had a fumble, an interception, and several killer penalties in the red zone makes the seven-point loss harder to stomach than the swine flu.

The Bears played ugly, plain and simple. There was no positive aura, no real glimmer of hope that the Bears would find redemption in the Georgia Dome. From the middle of the second quarter, it had the look and feel of a disappointing loss, and that's exactly what it turned out to be.

I'm ready to ask the question: Is Matt Forte hurt? That's about the most optimistic way to look at his body of work this year. Remember, he did hurt his left hamstring in the preseason. And here's where the Bears' five opponents have ranked in rush defense: 2, 17, 20, 21, 24. Three of the five teams don't crack the top 20. And this despite the fact that playing the Bears allows pretty much any team to pad this particular statistic given that they rank 27th in the NFL in rush yards per game.

Every time Forte gets the ball, he looks like a fish entering shark's territory--he just gets swallowed up. No doubt the offensive line is partly to blame, but both Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson are averaging significantly more yards per carry than he is. And on top of it all, Forte fumbled on back-to-back plays at the goal line Sunday night. He had 23 yards on 15 carries overall. You know who had more rushing yards than that? Jay Cutler.

This was the Bears' second loss of the season, and the second on Sunday night. Prior to this season, Lovie Smith was 7-2 on SNF. But the Bears have run from the bright lights like cockroaches this year. Hey, at least they're running in that metaphor!

The Bears have dug themselves a deep divisional hole thanks to a 33-31 Vikings victory over the Ravens. They're 2.5 games out and find themselves even with the Packers. But the Vikes head to Pittsburgh next week and then clash with the Packers in Week 8. The Bears will head to Cincinnati next Sunday, and I leave you with good news: it's not a night game.

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