Bearing It All: Opportunity is slip-sliding away
Bad coaching decisions, an inability to capitalize on advantages and one bad call pushed the Chicago Bears further away from any hope of securing the wild card spot this season with a loss Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, bringing our record to 4 - 6.
We started the game with an unrecognizable Cedric Benson, who ran a career long 43 yards for a touchdown within the first minute of the game. This was exactly the kind of momentum we needed to start the game moving in a winning direction. But with Benson looking hotter than ever, a stubborn Coach Smith decided he'd trust his pre-planned strategy of switching between running backs, rather than ride out the revitalized Benson's run. Why on earth would you sit Benson when he shows up as the guy you wanted him to be all season?!
Our inability to deal with momentum shifts has plagued us in game after game. Matt Hasselbeck was visibly in pain with injuries to his oblique and his shoulder. So why wouldn't we take advantage of that? Why wouldn't we beat him up a little more, and sack him more than twice? The Seahawks knew that Tommy Harris's knee was hurting and you can bet that knee was their target for every tackle.
The Bears scored their second great touchdown before the half, gained by Devin Hester's great punt return and two first downs by Greg Olsen. But immediately following that, the Bears' defense allowed the Seahawks to counter with a field goal that tied the game 17-17 at the half. Midway through the third, Alex Brown recovered a Hasselbeck fumble, but the Bears wasted the entire drive without making anything from the big break.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, when the Bears were confidently marching the ball downfield with back-to-back catches from Mussin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian, they lost all that steam when Kerney sacked Rex Grossman, stripping the ball and forcing a fumble. The Seahawks, who clearly know how to capitalize on fortuity, got themselves into field-goal range and sealed the deal with a 46- yard kick. The Bears only managed…to waste every opportunity that presented itself.
Finally, this is one of those times - when you lose a game by seven points - that bad officiating really pisses you off. The Seahawks’ first touchdown, which came during an impressive 10-play drive led by Hasselbeck, should have been negated by a missed holding call on Seahawk tackle Walter Jones. Right as Hasselbeck threw out that pass to D.J. Hackett, Jones was practically strangling Alex Brown. Perhaps the referees felt that this "least-penalized team in the NFL" deserved a pass for good behavior, but, in essence, the oversight cost us the game, or at least a chance to tie it up and take our chances in overtime.
Chicago sports fans have a morbid familiarity with the motto "we'll get 'em next time!" For the Bears, there are very few next times left in this season. Miracle plays like a four-second kickoff return touchdown from Hester or a Griese-authored 11-play touchdown in the last two minutes of a game have kept us believing that there is always hope. But as the season wears on, the Bears seem set on showing us that these cinematic plays are just the dumb luck of individual players and not the work of a collectively talented team.