And Now For Something Completely Different
Rex Grossman looked pretty good. Clearly, he looked much better than he did against New England or Minnesota. On the other hand, his performance has to be discounted somewhat for the weak Rams' defense. Also, officiating and Bernard Berrian each avoided a turnover for Grossman, and two turnovers would make this performance look a lot less rosy. Still, Grossman used some accurate throws, his rediscovered legs, and a more reasonable game plan to consistently move the team and put points on the board.
The running game also looked good. Again, the Rams' poor tackling and positioning had something to do with this. I also thought Cedric Benson looked better on the whole than Thomas Jones. Jones broke a big run, but Benson was more consistently productive. He's simply a more decisive, authoritative runner at this point. And since, as the God-like Ron Jaworski recently pointed out, Jones, contrary to reputation, is terrible at picking up blitzes, it seems to me that its time for Benson to take over as the every down back. Quite frankly, the team looked better with Benson and Adrian Peterson sharing the load than with Jones playing every down.
Devin Hester is awesome. Not much more need be said. There is a general belief that teams that rely too much on special teams for regular season success struggle in the playoffs. This is because special teams play tends to regress more heavily towards the mean than offense or defense. The Bears are proving to be an exception. They have dominated consistently on special teams from the beginning of the year. I leave it to people like Football Outsiders to do this kind of analysis, but I suspect the Bears are the most dominant special teams unit in recorded history. I don't mean that as hyperbole. Also, now that Hester has taken over Rashied Davis's job as a kick returner, I wouldn't be shocked to see Hester take Davis's job as the fourth receiver too.
Defensively, the Bears will be able to overcome the loss of Tommie Harris. Harris is great, but the defense looked fine against a good offensive football team until garbage time. Yes, I know they gave up a 99 yard drive, but that was just the football gods punishing Lovie Smith for punting from his opponent's 37 yard line. There is no excuse for punting inside your opponent's 40 yard line, and rarely an excuse for punting anywhere in your opponent's territory. Anyway, the return of Ian Scott to more duty seemed to actually help a run defense that was starting to look a little too vulnerable in recent weeks. And given Mark Anderson's continued excellence, the idea of moving Alex Brown inside and giving Anderson more time on passing downs has definate promise.
Nathan Vasher's absence was more noticeable. The pass defense looked pretty mediocre. But with Vasher in the line-up, Hester will never be asked to cover Torry Holt one-on-one again. As Holt expressed clearly to a national viewing audience, having Hester, a rookie who is a defensive back in name only, cover him one-on-0ne is a terrible idea. Vasher should be back in a couple of weeks, in time to be at full speed for the playoffs. I'm not worried.
The Rams are a mediocre team headed in the wrong direction. And as a Bears fan, 42-27 makes me a little sick to my stomach. Way too much scoring. By both teams, really. And yet, the Bears won, and they won comfortably, as they should against weak competition. Objectively, I was happy with everything I saw. So, I guess I'm really happy about Monday night's play and outcome. I think.