Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Mike Martz is not a big fan of running the football, but he proved on Sunday that he's at least willing to commit to the ground game if he's given no other choice. So Matt Forte can tip his helmet to Martz, but it's Todd Collins he needs to buy dinner for.
Halloween is still a few weeks away, but Collins and the Bears' passing attack were in full holiday mode against the Panthers, putting on a downright scary performance that necessitated a run-first (and second, and third) game plan.
Collins led drive after drive (I use the term "drive" loosely) that were about as fun to watch as the horror movie "House of Wax" starring Paris Hilton, a movie that has very little going for it except that it might be slightly more believable than the concept that Todd Collins is in fact an NFL quarterback. He handed out interceptions like candy corn (four) and had a passer rating lower than the #10 jersey he wears. The Bears scored six points in the last 52 minutes of the game.
But they scored 17 in the first 8 minutes on the strength of two Forte touchdowns. He finished with 166 yards rushing and a stellar 7.5 average, and the Bears had over 200 total rushing yards. Forte or Chester Taylor likely could have had another TD, but Martz couldn't resist calling a pass play on 3rd-and-goal from the one, and Collins promptly threw it to a Panthers lineman.
Fortunately, as much as the passing attack made you want to change the channel or poke your eyes out with a fork, the defense was so good that you were a little happy each time the Bears were forced to punt, which they did six times (and would have done more were it not for the interceptions). They completely dominated Jimmy Clausen and the Panthers, turning what looked and felt like a trick into a nice treat--in the end, the Bears are 4-1 and tied for the best record in the NFL.
The D was once again led by Julius Peppers who returned to his home state with a flourish, batting a pass into the air with his big bear paw, diving to intercept it, and adding three tackles and
several QB rushes on the day. And the Bears didn't just chase Clausen and Matt Moore around, they sacked them five times as well. Add in their three interceptions and you've got one heck of a fantasy performance.
And wait, what's this? A whole Snickers bar at the bottom of my bag? The Bears got an extra treat when the Packers blew a 10-point lead in Washington, dropping them to 3-2. On top of that, some SweetTarts and even some Sour Patch Kids: Aaron Rodgers sustained a concussion and may miss next week's game, and tight end Jermichael Finley will miss several weeks. Linebacker Nick Barnett was lost for the season last week, and of course Ryan Grant is gone as well. The Packers will be mighty banged up heading into a stretch against Miami (coming off a bye), Minnesota and the Jets.
While the Bears were able to snag a win against a hapless team missing a safety and their best receiver, they may not be so lucky against the Seahawks or Redskins if Cutler is unable to go. It seems likely that Chad Hanie (2-for-3, 19 yards) would get the start this Sunday if Cutler is out since he at least looked mildly capable, something that cannot be said of Collins.
I was critical of Cutler last year and still believe the praise should be tempered. He has made a few more bad decisions this season and doesn't have the consistency of the top echelon quarterbacks in the league, at least not yet. But I will say this: after watching Collins for three quarters, you quickly realize that Cutler does have a special set of skills. Getting back to our Halloween/horror movie theme, sometimes you have to come to know the bad guy before you can fully realize how good the good guy is. But let's hope that Sunday was the bad guy's only scene in the movie that is the Bears' 2010 season. Hurry back, Jay.