Super Bowl Shufflin'
The defense responded in a big way. They heard all the talk of getting gashed up the middle, and answered. In fact, they were stout enough that the Saints gave up on the run entirely. I'm not saying the Saints were right to do that, but nevertheless, the D accomplished its mission. The one thing that surprised me was Reggie Bush's speed. I didn't expect him to hurt the Bears catching the ball out of the backfield because the Bears' linebackers and safeties have done a great job in coverage on running backs all season. But he killed us, even beyond that really well designed pick play that went for 85 yards.
Marques Colston also hurt us, but overall the Saints' offense didn't have too many chances to punish the Bears, in large part because the Bears' offense, especially the rushing attack, came through when they had to. The only time the Saints slowed the Bears' rushing attack is when the Bears got cute, and used draws or delayed handoffs. The Saints penetrated and disrupted those plays. But when the Bears ran straight at the Saints, the Bears' front five manhandled New Orleans.
Also, Ron Turner has learned to minimize the damage when Rex Grossman is off. The Bears ran the ball two-thirds of the time Sunday. Grossman didn't kill the Bears early when he was cold, and got hot just long enough to help the Bears to one score. The Bears will probably need a little more than that against Indy, but that was a 25 point beating administered in the NFC Championship Game with BAD Rex on the field.
I took nominations on what to talk about today around my family room yesterday. The Official Wife of the Ron Karkovice Fan Club, aka The Redhead, suggested I analyze why every touchdown seemed to be scored by someone doing a somersault, be it Bernard Berrian, Thomas Jones, or most conspicuously, Reggie Bush. Bush's somersault didn't bother me, but his pointing routine before that certainly did. I was glad to hear he apologized after the game. Young men get carried away sometimes in the heat of the moment. It says more about his character that he recognized his mistake than if he had never taunted at all. Now, don't do it again.
Hideki Matt Suey's wife suggested I discuss the bizarre referee track pants. Now, for regular football fans, the odd new officials' uniforms are old news. But for some of the people watching Sunday, this was a first exposure. Some in the family room suggested they were borrowed from the closet of an old lady in Boca Raton. She'll need them back to go to dinner at the club tonight. Others suggested the refs moonlight as exotic dancers, and that their pants are actually of the tear away variety, much like those basketball players wear to warm-ups. Regardless, the new unis look terrible, but we knew this. More importantly, the refs got all the tough calls right yesterday. They deserve credit.
One other note on The Redhead. She had to be temporarily banned from the room yesterday. With the Bears leading 16-0 she declared that she felt sorry for the Saints, and that the Bears should just let them score once. Following Drew Brees's touchdown strike to Marques Colston, we booted her from the room until the Saints' second touchdown, during which she was absent, proved conclusively that the first had not, in fact, been her fault.
The announcers were, of course, annoying yesterday. Troy Aikman spent the entire game being shocked that Cedric Benson was getting as many carries as Thomas Jones. Benson averaged more carries per game than Jones from week 10 on. Way to do your homework, Troy. At least the experts, all of whom picked the Saints, should be amusing today as they try to explain why they bought, without reservation, into the warm, fuzzy story of the Saints even though the Bears had been a superior team all season.
Finally, I'm enjoying watching the various Packers' fans with whom I'm in direct or indirect contact enter a flurry of resentful, irrational activity. So far, I've heard them explain that the Bears are mortal locks to lose by double digits, explain away the team's Super Bowl berth as the result of "an historically bad NFC," and refer to Grossman as Mex Grossman because QB'ing the Bears is a job that no American would want. Their angst merely adds to my pleasure.
For now, let's enjoy the moment. Two weeks of obsessive analysis begins tomorrow. Just remember this in the meantime: Bears' yards per carry on runs between the guards -- first in the NFL; Colts' yards allowed per carry on runs between the guards -- 32nd in the NFL.