On October 16, 2006, the Chicago Bears came back from what looked like an obvious loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and it caused then coach Dennis Green to utter the now famous words: “they are who we thought they were! …And we let ‘em off the hook!” He also threw in a few expletives in an angry tirade because his team had clearly blown the game and in the fourth quarter collectively forgot who the 2006 Bears were for 15 critical minutes. I only bring this recent humorous history up because this week there are two teams that we thought we knew who they were at the beginning of the season, yet for this years Bears and Eagles, what we are seeing isn’t quite what was expected.
The Chicago Bears are playing good football right now. Their record is something like I would have expected it at this point in the season, and if the playoffs happened today, they would squeak in with a Wild Card birth since they have beaten the teams with the same record as they have in Atlanta and Tampa. But what we thought they were was a Mike Martz offense, usually meaning they would be throwing the ball on almost every down. This is how the year started, of course, but lately the Bears have been playing good football because their offense hasn’t been running in the normal Martz formula. Instead it has been, well, running. When you have a guy like Matt Forte on your team, you want him to have the ball. Don’t get me wrong, they were getting him the ball when they weren’t running as well since he was (and still is) leading the team in receptions and receiving yards, but he isn’t a wide receiver, so why was he playing like one (come to think of it, why is Devin Hester either). Chicago has benefitted greatly by mixing it up forcing defenses to stay honest and defend both the run and the pass. The balance Martz has disciplined himself to show the last couple weeks is exactly what the Bears need, so hopefully he continues the trend and coordinates a consistent offense that will propel them into a second straight playoff birth.
The Bears do have to be careful though because Devin Hester has the hands of a cornerback more than a wide receiver, Johnny Knox is fair, but nothing flashy, and then you have Roy Williams who may have some good games left in him, but just isn’t the same threat he was when he was coached by Martz while the two of them were in the Detroit Lions organization. So they could very easily have teams focus on the run and the wheels fall off as they fail to make adjustments needed and have a receiving corps that can’t keep the pressure off the run. Perhaps when there were reports of Terrell Owens being offered a contract by Chicago (the Arena League team), the Bears should have been the ones thinking he might have a spot on the team. I realize he has a reputation for being a distraction, but I honestly think that a lot of the negative talk about him has been blown out of proportion, misconstrued, taken out of context, and typical media stunts to make stories out of things that really aren’t stories. Owens could make an immediate impact, a vertical threat, a real concern for defenses, and a distraction may be exactly what the Bears need… to distract other teams away from their best weapon in Forte, who currently leads the team in rushing yards, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. I don’t think there’s another team in the NFL that has one player generate a higher percentage of their production than Matt Forte, which makes me wonder why it’s so hard for defenses to stop him.
The Eagles aren’t close to what anyone thought at the beginning of the season either. This ‘dream team’ has had a problem with blowing leads (a constant theme of this season in the NFL), and the offense, while filled with playmakers at the skill positions, doesn’t feel consistent to me. They have one of the better backs in the league with LeSean McCoy, the preseason anointed best fantasy QB in football (not so much any more), and two good receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, as well as tight end Brent Celek. Unfortunately, all this talent, along with their defensive additions haven’t added up to a winning record. The team destined to win the Super Bowl two months ago now is looking up at the Giants and are even with a Cowboys team that has a much easier load coming into the second half of the season. I made it pretty clear that I didn’t think the Eagles would make the playoffs this year in an article earlier, and even though they completely wiped the field with the Cowboys last week, I still think that the Eagles are not what we thought they would be. Andy Reid is a good coach, but this team of egos needs football’s version of Phil Jackson if they want to start to look like the playoffs are even a thought, let alone anything close to reality.
I thought the Eagles would beat the Cowboys in their last game (though I didn’t think the margin would be so great) because they were at home, were looking to prove something, and this was a division rival. These things happen all the time inside the division, and I expect the Boys to have the same drive and winning conclusion when they meet in Dallas later this year. But this coming game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears should be a lot different. The Bears have something the Cowboys don’t, named Matt Forte. When the Cowboys were playing the Eagles, they had to use the pass to set up the run, and it didn’t work. But the Bears look like they are going back to their old ways, their going back to their roots in playing smash mouth football, running the ball downhill, deciding the game in the trenches, as a classic Bears team always has. I just hope that, come Sunday, Mike Martz remembers which team he is the offensive coordinator for, depending on his defense and run game to set up the pass, and ultimately win one of the better games of this coming week on Monday night.