I’ve got to pack up and prepare for my 4:45 car to London-Heathrow.
But I wanted to share some thoughts from this side of the pond.
1) The 4-3 Bears are three games behind the undefeated Green Bay Packers. But, they are just a game behind Detroit in the NFC North, because the Lions have lost consecutive games to fall to 5-2. But there are a couple of important things to note. As it stands, the Bears would be the last wildcard. They have the same record as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, but they have the head-to-head edge over both teams. In addition, the Falcons just beat the Lions today, so that may factor in, at some point. The Lions, of course, would be the fifth seed.
2) The arrival date of the Bears and Bucs was much ado about nothing. The Bucs, who arrived Monday, were sluggish. The Bears, meanwhile, arrived Thursday and started strong but faded late. Quarterback Jay Cutler, who didn’t play well, said he had “jet lag.” Most other players, though, downplayed that a an issue. The Bears had plenty of time to get acclimated. Frankly, I’m sort of sick that I even mentioned this.
3) The Bears offensive line continues to show signs of progress — without one of its best players, rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi. The improved play of Lance Louis makes things interesting. In fairness, shouldn’t he be given a chance to compete with Chris Spencer at right guard? But, Spencer has really played well, despite his right hand injury. He made several key blocks in London. Yes, there were issues in the fourth quarter but those are more learning opportunities for the linemen and other blockers.
4) The Bears defense is coming back to life. Let’s dismiss the four interceptions, just for the sake of it. And yes the Bucs top two running backs weren’t around for most of the game. But, the Bears still allowed the Bucs to gain just 2.7 yards per carry, a figure that would be much lower if they hadn’t given up a 13-yarder to Kregg Lumpkin. The Bears only registered one sack, but they did a nice job pressuring and rushing Josh Freeman, a very dangerous young quarterback. The performance, though, was somewhat spoiled by the two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
5) There’s a new one-two punch in Chicago. Matt Forte didn’t surprise anyone. He finished with 25 carries for 145 yards, and he also had a key 36-yard catch to set up the team’s final field goal. But Marion Barber averaged 6.5 yards per carry, and he scored a 12-yard touchdown. Barber, though, has got to do a better job of catching the ball.
6) Perhaps most important, the Bears are getting healthier. Although Earl Bennett practiced quite a bit last week, the team deactivated him for Sunday’s game. Why not give him the extra week to get even stronger? Same goes for Carimi, who may even practice later this week. It would also be important to get some of those defensive linemen back to health, especially Julius Peppers, who has played through the bum knee.