Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bears down ... and out

NFC Championship: Packers 21, Bears 14

I'm not gonna lie t'ya: This one hurt, and it's gonna hurt for a while. The entire game was like being stabbed in various body parts with a fork. A fork covered in cheese. And what body part was that being stabbed when Sam Shields's interception ended the game? THAT WAS YOUR SOUL. Your soul was being stabbed. And what's that feeling you had the rest of Sunday afternoon and night? That was a feeling they call "being dead inside."

It was awful. Just awful. You got that bad feeling in your stomach right off the bat when the Packers drove for a touchdown in about eight seconds. And while the defense ultimately did all they could to make a game of it and Caleb Hanie fell just short in his search for a miracle, it was mostly just one big kick to the kidney. So close, yet so incredibly, hellishly painful.

Shouldn't he have at least had a headset on rather than headphones?

Oh, Jay. I'm not mad at you for coming out of the game--especially after it was revealed you have a Grade II MCL tear--I'm just mad at you for sucking. You completed six passes. Six. For 80 yards. No touchdowns, one pick. Not good. Not good at all. Bad Cutler!

Do you know how many touchdowns Cutler threw this year? Twenty-three. Do you know how many Rex Grossman threw in the '06-'07 season? Twenty-three. I'll spare you the misery and stop the comparison there, except to say that both Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler suffer from a disease in which an evil alter ego periodically takes over and destroys everything, making all that is good in the world ugly and bad. Cutler's QB rating of 31.8 was lower than the rating he posted in that massacre against the Giants when he played the entire first half from his back. Cutler SUCKED. Hell, it was for the best that he came out. He missed a wide open Devin Hester at least twice and missed several other open receivers, plus he fumbled. Once the Bears got around to remembering that Todd Collins is bad at football, Chad Hanie at least turned it into a photo finish, gave the Bears a chance--Cutler didn't give them any chance at all.

Can Cutler ever take the Bears to the promised land, or will he always have several games each season in which he decides to hibernate? Only time will tell. But it's not a good sign that Rodgers--who's in just his third full year--is lighting up the NFL and headed to Dallas, while Cutler--who's four years into his career--bombed his "Is He an Elite QB?" audition on Sunday. Rodgers was waiting in the wings when Favre left, whereas the Bears had to trade a pile of picks just to get Cutler, the man with the 16th-best QB rating in the NFL this season. The Bears made the trade with the hopes of obtaining an elite QB. Here's why:

Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks since 2004

Drew Brees
Ben Roethlisberger
Eli Manning
Peyton Manning
Tom Brady

Other than perhaps Eli, will Cutler ever come close to being the QB those other guys are? Will he ever be Aaron Rodgers? How about Philip Rivers? Or even Matt Schaub? Matt Ryan?

While it may be too early to say for sure that he won't, I know the answer I'd put my money on. He's got a hell of a lot to prove. Footwork to work on. Traffic to stop throwing into. He's got a great arm and ... that's about it. In yards/game this season, he ranked 20th in the NFL. Behind rookie Sam Bradford. Behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. Behind Shaun Hill. Granted, the Bears tended to play things closer to the vest because of their great defense and because their running game came on strong in the second half of the season, but still ... 20th. And granted, they need an offensive line and a #1 receiver, but so do the Bills and Rams. For all those questioning Cutler's toughness--why bother when there are so many legitimate questions about his talent? It's not a good sign that the Bears seemed to have a better chance with Hanie on the field than Cutler.

From the Others Deserve Blame category, the special teams provided nothing, the timeout the Bears called late in the game was terrible in that it gave a winded Packers defense time to breathe, and the play call out of the timeout--a reverse you could see coming from a mile away--was atrocious.

But on the other side of the ball, the defense played a phenomenal game, breathing life into the team several times when the Packers were on the verge of putting the game away. Despite having their backs against the goal line the entire game, they held the Packers to two touchdowns (obviously the Packers' pick six can't be counted against the D). But no surprise there--this unit was fantastic all season long and deserves all the praise they get.

It pains me to say it, but the Packers earned their trip to the Super Bowl--they overcame season-ending injuries to their starting running back, tight end and a linebacker, along with two other starters. They won three road games in the playoffs against the top three seeds in the conference. I hate the Packers so much that I'm considering never eating cheese again, but you have to admit they're good.

There's no doubt about this: It was still a heck of a season. Unless you're the Patriots or Steelers, it's quite an accomplishment to be on the field two weeks before the Super Bowl. Congrats to Lovie and all the Bears on a very memorable ride through the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011.

In addition to being memorable, losing in the NFC Championship is admirable. Unfortunately, when that loss is at the hands of the Packers, it's also brutal. What I wouldn't have given to see a different outcome. What I wouldn't have sacrificed. Sadly, it didn't work out.

'Til next year.

P.S. I gotta give credit to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who predicted a Packers-Steelers Super Bowl before the season started.

1 comment: