Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Quarter Returns

I said before the Chicago Bears' showdown with the Seattle Seahawks that little things would make a big difference in the game. I was wrong. Big things made a big difference. The game wasn't close enough for the little things to matter much.

The Bears' 37-6 win wraps up an impressive first quarter for Chicago. Coincidentally, one of the keys to that fast start has been great first quarters of games, and that was an important factor for the Bears against Seattle, as well. After Seattle took a 3-0 lead, the Bears took possession on their own 31 yard line with 8:51 to go in the 1st quarter. What happened next wasn't always pretty, but it catapulted the Bears to an eventual win. A Rex Grossman to Muhsin Muhammad pass and a Seattle penalty made it 1st and 5 at midfield. But then Grossman got sacked, leaving the Bears facing 2nd and 18. Grossman to Desmond Clark picked up 17 of those yards on a huge 2nd down pass play, but Grossman to fullback Jason McKie went for no gain. 4th and 1 on the Seahawks' 46. Far too many coaches would go the safe route and punt. But Bears' coach Lovie Smith did the right thing. A Grossman sneak gave the Bears 1st and 10. The most important thing in football is possession of the ball. The Bears kept possession when many coaches would have voluntarily turned the ball over. Seven plays later, Grossman hit Muhammad again, this time for a 9 yard touchdown on 3rd and 8. The Bears would score on their next possession, as well, and less than two minutes into the 2nd quarter Chicago had a 10-3 lead that they would never relinquish.

It's nothing new, either. Rex Grossman has been the best 1st quarter QB in football, according to Football Outsiders. Fourth quarter highlights get on ESPN, but 1st quarter production allows a team to dictate the pace and style of the game. The Bears have outscored opponents 20-6 in the 1st quarters of games this year. It's no coincidence that they're 4-0. The only game in which they've been challenged was against the Vikings, which is the only game the Bears haven't led at the end of one quarter. That's no coincidence either.

Overall, Grossman was 17 of 31 for 232 yards, 2 touchdowns and no picks. Only five QBs outperformed him on Sunday, and he's the number 3 rated quarterback in the NFL through 4 weeks. (Maybe that explains why John Madden has developed a man crush on Grossman. Every time Madden suggested that Grossman "has a little Brett Favre in him," I got uncomfortable, both in football and non-football terms.) Meanwhile, the Bears' defense reduced Matt Hasselbeck to an Arizona Cardinal. Hasselbeck's number 24 ranking on the week slots in between Kurt Warner and Matt Leinert, according to FO. Hasselbeck completed less than half his passes for fewer than 200 yards, threw 2 picks, and went without a touchdown. The Bears' coaches attacked Seattle's offense from every angle. The defensive line collected 5 sacks, and Ricky Manning, Jr. collected two picks (and no assault charges, which for him is an accomplishment).

In the end, the 37-6 score reflects the actual dominance the Bears displayed on Sunday night. It just goes to show that 1st quarter returns can pay dividends. That's a little fiscal humor for you there. Thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal picata and don't forget to tip your waitress. Enjoy Toad the Wet Sprocket, ladies and gentlemen.


Post a Comment

<< Home