Monday, March 26, 2012

Barber Retires: He Made 2011 Season Interesting

Last year we wrote about criticism that was directed towards Marion Barber after the Denver game. Barber was asked to fill in for Matt Forte as the Bears starting back against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos featured an improving and punishing defense that focused on Barber. 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 had 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.

We don't really know why Barber retired, but some are suggested he suffers from a nagging leg injury and the Bears have beefed up their roster at running back adding Michael Bush from the Raiders this off season. The Bears 2011 season fell apart when Jay Cutler (Nov. 20) was injured along with Matt Forte (Dec. 4). Having their two most important offensive players out did not bode well for the Bears.

Marion Barber gave the Bears a spark in a season that generally will be remembered as one that started promising and then fizzled out. Frankly, the Bears were going nowhere even if they would have beat Denver. We hope Barber is remembered for his energy and enthusiasm, rather than a couple bad plays.

Bears Getting Better

Moves by the front office in the off-season have focused on adding new players who might be able to keep things going for the offense should key players go down again. One would think that Bush will make an excellent substitute for Forte. The Bears acquisition of Jason Campbell and the emergence of Josh McCown as backups to Cutler give them more experienced depth there as well.
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Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine sports books. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is a personal chronicle of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey that looks back at decades of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who strived to make the cut on and off the field—plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the under-served in extraordinary ways.

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