Sunday night football was supposedly touted as the battle which could be a preview for the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Bears and the Texans, making a Super Bowl now seems slightly harder than being 7-1 at the halfway stage.
Admittedly rain hampered a wet and windy Chicago, not that this comes as any surprise, and the Texans were able to come away with an ugly 13-6 win on the road.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was rather good with his play calling for the Texans, they came away with four turnovers and kept all Bears’ receivers bar Brandon Marshall to less than ten yards for the game each.
However, the game left a lot to be desired, and there are a few points which need to be considered.
First of all, neither team is elite, nor are they led by an elite quarterback. Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub are more than serviceable, and have done superbly to lead their teams to the records that they hold, but one can’t help to think that if the running game wasn’t there, both arial attacks would be hampered considerably.
One only has to look at tonight. Cutler threw two picks and didn’t look at all comfortable in the conditions that mugged the ground and slowed the run game. After he left the game with concussion, back-up Jason Campbell came into the game, but unfortunately for the Bears, you can’t de-Redskin Campbell- especially at 30 years of age.
The only option in the air was Brandon Marshall, but my Australian, 79 year-old grandmother could identify that he was their prime target all night. The remaining 6 receivers that the Bears’ QBs threw to could only muster a measly 27 yards… combined. Yes, it was wet, but that is pretty pathetic.
The run game was stopped dead with conditions that slowed the ground and made getting a foothold hard. Matt Forte managed 39 yards from his 16 attempts, and Cutler ran three times for 37. One can look back and say that the risk to gain those 37 yards was not worth his concussion. Michael Bush also gained about that from his three carries.
NBC put up a statistic during their coverage which showed that 20% of the Bears’ TDs have come from special teams or defense. It’s an amazing stat, and one that is probably a good indication of where the offense stands. It is not complete, in fact it could only muster 8 first downs all game, and unfortunately, you cannot rely on your defense to continue to make big plays- especially deep into January.
Tim Jennings will not continue to average just shy of one interception per game, Urlacher will tire as the season wears on, and with a remaining schedule that sees the Niners, Seahawks, the Vikes twice, as well finishing with two on the road to the Cards and Lions, the Bears’ fantastic look season may once again slip into mediocrity.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the NFC is looking strong this year, with the Giants, Niners, Packers, Falcons and others looking to be in the mix.
As for the Texans, they may be slightly better placed. The AFC is comparatively weak this year, and having only lost to the Packers, their toughest test to come looks like the Patriots (on the road), whereas all other games look more than winnable. This leaves them in the hunt to be the number one ranked AFC seed.
However, what is worrying from tonight is that Matt Schaub is not a championship winning QB. He threw just over 50% for less than 100 yards, one TD and an interception. In the wet, it’s still an average result, but when you notice that they were gifted the ball from their defense four times, and could score only one touchdown for the game, it’s a little worrying.
Arian Foster kept on being Arian, running for 100 yards and scoring that one thrown touchdown, but once again it seems as though it’s the case of the defense carrying the offense. Look at Texas counterparts Dallas, it’s the same deal- they’ve just had a slightly harder first half of the year.
Then again, you can’t win a championship without a stellar defense. It’s just a matter of the offense stepping up to match the efforts on D.
For a game that had so much hype around it, the rain certainly did it’s part to tear down the “Champions in November” tag.
In reality, this year is still very open- The Giants lost to the Bengals, the Falcons came undone against a fresh looking New Orleans outfit; the Niners tied with the Rams who really should have won, the Bears lost tonight, and teams like Indy, Dallas, Minnesota, Denver and Seattle all had wins that place them in good stead for their runs home.
Perhaps I’ve been harsh as it was a wet game, but the NFL looks like it’s really going to heat up come the cold later this month and into December.