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Playoffs Not Likely For Bears This Year

After being embarrassed by the Arizona Cardinals 41-21 over the weekend, the Bears were looking to put the loss behind them and get back on track with a win over the 49ers, a team who had lost four consecutive games. While only a few days between games has disadvantages, the Bears needed a short week to get back on the playing field. Unfortunately, the short week, nor a team below .500 would be of any benefit to the Chicago Bears as they would lose to San Francisco 10-6 and all but eliminate their hopes of any post-season play. Following the Cardinals game, The much maligned defensive unit was up to task against the 49ers. The only problem was that everyone else forgot to show up. Let’s begin with the rushing game, or lack of one. Matt Forte totaled only 41 yards on 20 carries which will simply not get the job done if you expect teams to respect your ability to run the ball. Jay Cutler threw five, yes count them, five interceptions, two of which came in the red zone, an area the Bears have had problems with all season long. It was the second time this season that Cutler has thrown 4 interceptions in a game and now has a league-leading 17 for the year. Another area the Bears seemed to have problems with in this game were silly penalties. They were penalized 10 times for a total of 75 yards. One of the more notable ones was when they were called for a delay of game right before halftime. Fortunately, Robbie Gould was still able to connect on a fifty yard field goal to pull Chicago within 7-3. Another silly penalty was Chris Williams diving on top of a pile of players long after the play was over. While mistakes are part of the game, these kinds of mistakes are definitely preventable and it made the Bears look like a team out of sorts. With the Loss the Bears have now dropped four out of their last five games after starting the season at 3-1. During the post game interview, head coach Lovie Smith was adamant that the Bears are still in the playoff picture despite already having 5 losses on the season and that there is a lot of football left to played. He pointed out that some teams make the playoffs with a 9-7 record as the Arizona Cardinals did a year ago. The Bears would have to go 5-2 the rest of the way just to make it to 9-7 and let’s not forget that 9 wins were not enough to earn them a playoff spot a season ago. While I agree that there is a lot of football games to be played, the chances of the Bears making the playoffs have taken a huge hit with yesterday’s loss. Despite Lovie Smith’s optimistic outlook, here are a few reasons why the Bears will miss the playoffs again this year. Lack of a balanced offensive attack. In order to be a successful team in the NFL, you have to be able to run the ball effectively in order to be open up the passing game. Matt Forte rushed for almost 1,300 yards last season and it doesn’t appear that the he is going to come close to that number this season. Without the threat of an effective running game, teams are basically daring the Bears to beat them in the passing game alone, which is a good strategy because the Bears don’t have the core of receivers needed to put pressure on the opposing team’s secondary.

Offensive Line Struggles:
It was known that the offensive line would take time to gel with adding several new players to the fold. However, the unit still looks lost at times nine games into the season. This is completely unacceptable at this point. Matt Forte has had very few breakaway runs this year and Cutler has already been sacked more times this year than he was all of last season in Denver. If the play of this unit has not improved from the season-opener, chances are it probably won’t get any better over the next seven weeks.

No True #1 Receiver:
At the beginning of the season, there was a buzz of expectations with the arrival of Jay Cutler. The consensus was that he was going to somehow elevate the offense to a higher level. What everyone forgot was that the Bears did not address their needs at the receiver position. Devin Hester was an asset on both defense and in the return game. However, he is not a true receiver and I think that the Bears made a mistake in converting him to the offensive side of the ball. Earl Bennett, Desmond Clark, and Greg Olson are all decent targets but none of them pose as a downfield threat that opposing defenses have to worry about consistently. I mentioned earlier how the offensive line struggles in protecting Cutler. When they have managed to do a decent job, the pocket still breaks down as the receivers are often not able to get open which results in either a sack or a forced pass, usually resulting in an interception. The Bears will need to acquire a go-to receiver in the future if Cutler is going to be effective.

Remaining Opponents:
The Bears failed to take advantage of an opportunity to go to 5-4 against the 49ers and the rest of the schedule doesn’t look too promising either. With games remaining against the Eagles, Vikings and Ravens, the Bears will more than likely lose at least two of those games. Despite Lovie Smith’s statement of teams making the playoffs with 9-7 record, it is highly improbable that the Bears will only lose two games for the rest of the season. The only reason the Cardinals were able to go to the playoffs with a 9-7 record last year was because they were division winners. Needless to say the Bears will need more than nine victories to win their division and make the playoffs as well. Neither of which will be accomplished this year. For the first time following their run to the Superbowl, there was a feeling that the Bears were going to be a better team this year and a contender in the NFC. As expectations go sometimes, reality does not always live up to what we dream up in our minds. I hate to says these words as it’s becoming all too familiar in Chicago sports. The countdown for “next year” may have already begun for the Bears, as well as their fans.

James Tillman

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