Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In Defense of Barber

It was the best of time; it was the worst of times for Marion Barber on December 11, 2011 when the Chicago Bears lost to the Denver Broncos.

Barber was asked to fill in for Matt Forte as the Bears starting back. Against an improving and punishing defense that focused on him, Barber threw himself against the opposition with his usual abandon and gained 108 yards rushing on the day. While Barber generally gets the call to run up the gut, the Bears have him running on the edge sometimes--presumably to mix things up for a defense that wants to plug the middle. On one such play when Barber was bashing outside toward the end of the game, he found himself being pushed out of bounds stopping the clock when the Bears needed to tick off the seconds. It was oh so clear to those of us watching on TV that the last thing the Bears needed was the ball out of bounds, but it's a little different when you are clawing and scratching for yards--thinking first down. It was then that Barber became a goat in a game in which he had done so much to get the anemic offense points.

Adding insult to injury, in overtime, once again Barber was called upon to be the Bears battering ram as they were moving into field goal range for a win. Just as Barber was accelerating and moving out of reach of defenders on a rush that featured a gaping hole in the Denver defensive line, a single hand thrust out in desperation and caught Barber's arm. There was no one beside Barber. There was no one fronting Barber. The arm was that of linebacker Wesley Woodyard whom Barber was leaving in his dust. In an ugly twist of fate for Barber and a moment of redemption for the Broncos defense, Barber was stripped of the ball. Once again, it was easy to sit there on the couch thinking how could he fumble, but Barber view on the field would be a lot different from the couch. Barber would have seen a blur of 300 pound lineman and 250 pound linebackers and an open field in front of him--one more kick and he was in the endzone--game over.

This week Barber is the goat, but fans know that without him, the Bears would not have scored a touchdown. Fans know also that with Barber they get the kind of effort that win championships. Hopefully, Barber will get plenty of time to test fate next Sunday against Seattle.

On a positive note imagine for a minute Barber and Forte and Cutler--all back together and healthy. Imagine a well-rested Barber put into short yardage situations again with a full complement of starters.

The Denver game was frustrating on so many levels, but as George Halas would say, "who do we play next week?"

Image is 2011 Adrenalyn XL #58 Marion Barber - Chicago Bears--Panini Group Card.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Sports and Faith by Patrick McCaskey and other fine sports books.

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