Well, though I am used to disappointment, I would have to say that I have not felt this much disappointment since the Cubs blew game 6 and 7 versus the Marlins (that was a little worse I think). In fact, I’m wondering if I would rather have had the Bears suck this year, then to have them do this (especially considering the depth of this draft, and how interesting this offseason will be). After thinking about it, I think I am glad that they did so well this year, but it’s just so massively disappointing to make it that far and not show up for the single most important game of the season. But let me quick talk about the two upcoming games, and then I’ll talk more about the Bears (for those of you that care to stick around). My record in the playoffs so far is 4-4. Wow was I off last round.
Well, this is the third straight week I’m picking against Pittsburgh, so Jonathan, the fact that I’m picking Denver might be a wonderful sign for Pittsburgh. However, even though I do think Denver will win, I also think it will be a very close game. Every bad break that happened in the New England game went Denver’s way, so I don’t know how confident they can be after that. But they are still a very good team, but Pittsburgh’s on a roll. We’ll see what happens. This year easily has the most interesting NFC and AFC championship games we’ve seen in a while.
DeShaun Foster is out, Peppers got hurt during part of the Bears game, Morgan got hurt (not me), and even though Steve Smith is absolutely amazing, can you name another Panther receiver withing three seconds? His names’ Proehl, not Beebe. You get my meaning. I have no idea why the Bears were not quadruple covering Smith after DeShaun Foster went down. He is literally their only weapon, and he was still wide open. Ridiculous. I don’t think Seattle will make that mistake. Though this should be a close game too (did Seattle look really weak last weekend or was it just me?), Seattle is still the best team in the NFC. Can you imagine if it ended up being a Carolina Pittsburgh Super Bowl? No team would ever want the bye again. I know I don’t.
Okay, so since this is my last week to bitch about the Bears, I better get it all out. So like I said, I am amazingly disappointed. Had they beaten Carolina and lost to Seattle, I don’t think I would have been that disappointed, because even though we were that close to going to a super bowl, at least we did win a playoff game, and we can build on that (the football equivalent of the Cubs losing the series to the Marlins would be if the Bears made it to Seattle and were up 28-10 going into the fourth and lost the game. That hurts.)
And who would have thought that the defense would blow it? Although our D-line only got like one sack, it didn’t seem like the pressure was all that bad. Urlacher played a good game as well, our secondary was just horrible. I don’t know if that had to do with the play calling or not, but they were just invisible, and Steve Smith was wide freakin open over and over again. Tillman especially sucked. He got burned 5 times or so in that game, and he’s been a weak link all season. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is when your team scores and makes it a two point game, only to have the defense immediately give up another touchdown. So all the talks of comparing this defense to the 85 Bears are officially over.
It’s hard for me to say much about our offense, because we didn’t really have one until a couple weeks ago, and though I don’t have a whole lot to base it on, I really do think Grossman is a good QB, and if he can ever stay healthy, he could be a really solid leader. But we absolutely cannot rely on that happening.
The main thing that this game (and the Indy Pittsburgh game) hit home for me, is that the whole myth about resting your starters on the last game of the season is crap. Obviously hindsight is twenty twenty, but I can’t help but wonder how much better of a start Grossman would have had if he had played in the Minnesota game. The Bears just plain and simple were not sharp, and Carolina has been on a roll, not benching their starters any of those games. I just gotta wonder how much sharper the Bears would have been if they would have played all their starters, steam-rolled the Vikings, and headed into the playoffs with that momentum (we had a bye week anyway, for crying out loud!). This is obviously just my opinion, but it seemed to make itself blatantly obvious this past weekend. Anyone else?
Now the Bears are a very young team, and I think with a couple key pickups this offseason, we could be a really strong team next year. Now I know everyone is going to say “The last time the Bears made the playoffs, they sucked the next year.” That’s true, but the 13-3 Bears from 2001 won a lot of their games because of pure dumb luck, and I didn’t see that with this year’s Bears. A lot of the wins we had this year were dominating wins, even when we didn’t have an offense. I see no reason that can’t continue, or get better next year. Here are the main pickups I’d like to see in the offseason:
1) A veteran QB (how many years will I need to say this?). I like Grossman, I really do, but there is absolutely no excuse for relying on him to be the starter again next year. He will have to earn the job from now on, and if Angelo keeps saying he’s going to be the starter all offseason, then he’s even a bigger moron than I thought he was.
2) A Real Tight-End – Desmond Clark? Come on. I’ve had enough.
3) A solid #2 receiver – I like Mark Bradley and Bernard Berrian a lot, but we need one more solid guy in there with a little more experience, and I’ll believe in our passing game a little more.
4) Another Corner – if only to scare Tillman into performing like he can
I like the idea of using Benson as trade bait, but I just have this terrible feeling that the second we get rid of him, he’ll become an amazing running back. We’ll see.
So off we go to the off-season with the all too familiar smell of disappointment, possibly even stronger this year than usual, but I really do think we have a promising future, and could be a powerhouse team next year (remember, we were ranked dead last by ESPN before the season this year. My last chance to say that). But those are the moves I’d like to see made (I also really don’t want to see Ron Rivera go, and I’m kind of hoping that that miserable playoff performance will scare other teams off), and maybe I’ll check them off as I see them happen (if I see them happen).