Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bears Still a Mystery After Titans Game

The Bears played their third 2011 preseason game Saturday night and lost 14-13 to the Tennessee Titans. After beating the Bills (10-3) in their first game, the Bears lost to the Giants (41-13) and now the Titans.

The Giants game was scarey because of the score. The Titans games was somewhat reassuring. In the preseason, a game that is lost by a point means about the same as a game that is won by a point. The differences in how the teams play their starters, the risks the veteran players take or don't take, the game plan focus on evaluating talent, and other factors make it next to impossible to tell anything from a close game.

The Tennessee Titans are led by Matt Hasselbeck this year and both he and Cutler had similar success.

Hasselbeck was 12 of 22 (545) for 135 yards.
Cutler was 13 of 21 (.619)for 170 yards.

The one pass completion difference between Cutler and Hasselbeck makes a pretty big difference in percentage because of the relatively low number of passes.

Bears second string QB Caleb Hanie was 9 of 18 for 107 yards. Hanie was fun to watch; he was letting it fly, but he had an interception that led to a Tommie Campbell 80 yard touchdown run. I always like a backup quarterback who looks like he can beat the big teams--someone who can throw passes of various distances--someone who has big-play ability. Hanie seems to be one of those guys.

I was never a fan of backup who is all ball control--throwing short dinks that are just like runs. I was never a fan of an offense that is out there just trying to not make mistakes.

Reminders of Hanie in the NFC Championship Game

In last year's NFC Championship game, Cutler was hurt and was replaced by Todd Collins--both QBs had no success and the offense had been completely ineffective.

Third stringer, Caleb Hanie came in and since the Bears were behind by two scores, it was clearly a game where a ball control QB wasn't going to do much for them. The Hanie-led Bears pressed all the way down the field and scored on a 1-yard run by Chester Taylor. Green Bay 14-Bears 7.

A few minutes later, Hanie showed his inexperience and threw an interception to defensive tackle B.J. Raji who thundered 15 yards into the end zone. Green Bay 21- Bears 7.

Hanie's Bears bounced right back and the third string quarterback connected with Earl Bennett for a 35-yard strike with less that 5 minutes to play. Green Bay 21-Bears 14. Rodgers was beginning to sweat.

As ineffective as the Bears had been in the first half, Hanie gave them life and it was the Packers who were getting stuffed in the second. With less than 3 minutes left, Hanie was leading the Bears back. The Bears ran a third down end-around play that failed and put them in a desperate fourth down situation on the Green Bay 29. Hanie threw a pass in the center of the field that was picked off by corner back Sam Shields as Bears receiver Johnny Knox was trampled on the play.

There was no Joe Montana moment for the Bears and no Brett Fahre moment for the Packers. But Hanie showed some steel.

Back to the Titans Game

Once again, it looked like the Bears defense missed Lance Briggs. They just don't look the same without him although the score was relatively low. But it's always hard to tell how the Bears defense will shape up. The Bears D often seems to have another gear that they let out of the bag just as you start to write off the season.

Offensive Line or QB Worries

There has been a lot of talk about the offensive line of the Bears and it has looked better the past two games. But trying to figure out just how the Bears will play this year is pretty much impossible for me. The offense was relatively poor last year and certainly that should improve.

Yet, at the end of the day, my biggest worry is with Jay Cutler; not that I think he will do poorly, it just looks to me the quarterback is so vulnerable to getting whacked--especially after he throws the ball. Cutler took an absolutely bone-crushing hit on Saturday that was squeaky clean, but it was one of those where the tackler has the QB's body in a vice grip and lifts him up and then falls on top of him burying him into the turf. And it's only preseason!

Hold onto your hats...or should I say, Bear Down.

Copyright Sporting Chance Press.

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