COMMENTARY | Given the traditional gluttony of Thanksgiving, I'm sure many Chicago Bears fans were looking for ways to burn off some extra calories. Unfortunately, most of that exercise came from stepping up and down off the ledge. And with the way the game ended, Rahm Emmanuel might want to see about getting T.I. to Chicago to talk some folks down.
Fitness experts say that maintaining 60-70% of your maximum heart rate is the optimal range for burning fat. Well, if that's the case, Bears fans weren't doing such a good job of deflating their spare tires, as the events of the game had heart rates at redline levels.
Coming off of a Week 12 tie with the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings welcomed the Bears to the Metrodome, er, Mall of America Field, for the last time. They came in with the NFL's worst scoring defense, but countered with its best running back. Adrian Peterson was licking his chops at the prospect of facing a Bears D that had allowed 145 rushing yards/game and was getting worse.
When the St. Louis Rams curb-stomped Chicago in Week 12, it was only the 2nd game of the Bears' season that had been decided by more than 8 points (40-27 Week 3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers). So after splitting nail-biters in the 2 previous weeks, no one really thought this would be a cakewalk.
More than that extra helping of mashed potatoes and another slice of grandma's pecan pie, an extra period of Bears football caused severe cases of heartburn. So let's take a look at a few of the moments that had fans reaching for the medicine cabinet to find relief from the indigestion of a half-baked football team.
The Bears entered the game with the worst run D in the NFL, and perhaps the worst the city of Chicago has ever seen. Through 12 games, the Bears have allowed 1,843 yards on the ground, or 153.6/game. That's 15 more yards than the next-worst team, the New England Patriots. And if that's not bad enough, consider that they've allowed an average of 205 yards/game over the last 6 games.
The good news: this probably isn't the worst run D in history, even Chicago Bears history. Well, not yet anyway. The 1955 and 1951 Bears gave up 2,100 and 1,958 yards respectively over 12-game seasons. But both of those teams finished above .500, and this squad still needs to win 3 of 4 to get there.
Short-yardage play calling
Listen, I'm the last person on Earth who needs to be spouting off about situational play calling. After all, when I hear "stunt" I think of action movies. But that's not going to stop me from questioning the logic of running Matt Forte right into the teeth of the Vikings' D anyway.
While Forte did recently eclipse Neal Anderson on the Bears' all-time rushing and yards-from-scrimmage lists, he's not a bruising short-yardage back. It was Forte's inability to punch the ball into the end zone that prompted the signing of Michael Bush. But Bush has been more turkey than TD vulture since he came to town, and Forte's efficacy hasn't improved. I don't have the stats to back it up so I hope my readers can help out on this, but the Bears just seem to struggle on 3rd-and-short or goal-to-go situations.
Nowhere was this more evident than on the possession immediately following Khaseem Greene's game-saving interception in the 4th quarter. After running to the left for 9 yards on the first play, Matt Forte rushed up the middle twice for no gain. The ensuing punt led to the Vikings' game-tying field goal.
In the wake of the fallout from the Alabama/Auburn thriller on Saturday night, no one in blue and orange felt good about Robbie Gould attempting a 66-yard FG with Cordarrelle Patterson standing in the end zone. That one didn't end up hurting the Bears, but Gould's next attempt did.
As the in-game graphic indicated more than once, Robbie Gould is the 2nd-most-accurate kicker in NFL history. And unlike Mike Vanderjagt, #1 on the list, Gould isn't an idiot who gets liquored up and runs his mouth. So when he ran onto the field to attempt the game-winner from 47 yards, it was like a big swig of Pepto Bismol for the Bears.
That is, until the ball sailed just wide of the right upright. It was all academic from there, as AP and the Vikings marched down the field against the helpless and deflated Bears. Blair Walsh made up for his own miss earlier in the OT and the Vikings captured their 3rd win.
Josh McCown had yet another great game in relief of the increasingly-expendable Jay Cutler. He threw for 355 yards and 2 TDs, showing the poise and smart decision making that has made him the toast of the town. However, his ill-advised shovel pass on 2nd & 11 from his own 19 left everyone scratching their heads. The Vikings came away with the ball after Kyle Long caught the ricochet and were primed to score.
But Jonathan Bostic stuck the Vikings' Chase Ford for just a 2 yard gain on 3rd & 6. Of course, he then lingered over Ford just long enough to draw a yellow hankie, thus extending the drive. The aforementioned Greene INT wiped out the mistakes from both McCown and Bostic, but either could have cost the game.
Who knows, maybe a late Vikings TD would have been easier to stomach than the ulcer-inducing OT period. It was bad enough to see Alshon Jeffery's historic offensive explosion overshadowed by Peterson's big day, during which he eclipsed the 10,000 yard rushing mark.
So now the Bears hover at 6-6, two games out of the Wild Card. And while they're only one game out of the division lead, it feels like more. So are you standing on the ledge and chewing Tums, or do you think this team still has a chance?
Evan Altman is a freelance sportswriter with a wealth of trivial pop culture knowledge. He grew up in Northwest Indiana, where the Bears reign supreme. While he now lives in the heart of Colts country, you can hear his kids singing "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" every gameday.
Nothing better to do? You can follow Evan on Twitter: @DEvanAltman
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