The Bears kept their playoff hopes alive with a 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens and a little help from the losses handed to the rest of the teams in the NFC North. And with time running out in regulation and the Bears up three, Bears fans felt like we were seeing an ending we’ve seen before. We left the game in the hands of the defense to hold off the Ravens in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, hands which have proven to be way too slippery so far this season. The Ravens drove 80 yards in just under five minutes, and got the ball is close as the Chicago 2. Luckily for the Bears, the Ravens’ offense couldn’t get the job done and sent the game to overtime where the Bears ultimately earned victory and improved their record to 6-4. But teams continue to be able to drive down the field on the Bears’ beat up defense, and that will prove to be an issue against better teams. But for now, they are doing just enough to win. The biggest concern is the run game. It appears that the best medicine for running backs struggling or past their prime is the Bears swiss cheese defense. Take a look at this list of running backs the Bears have played, with their season averages and then how they did against Chicago.
Adrian Peterson – Avg: 85 yards/game – vs Bears – 100 yards
Reggie Bush – Avg: 72 yards/game – vs Bears – 139 yards &105 yards
Brandon Jacobs – Avg: 27 yards/game – vs Bears – 106 yards
Eddie Lacy – Avg: 77 yards/game – vs Bears – 150 yards
Ray Rice – Avg: 46 yards/game – vs Bears – 131 yards
In most of these cases, these running backs are more than DOUBLING their season averages against Chicago, and it isn’t getting any easier. The Bears will see Peterson and Lacy again, along with Zac Stacey, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy – all of which averaging 70+ yards/game. The defensive line has been doing a better job of putting pressure on quarterbacks lately, but they are leaving gaping holes for running backs and the linebackers are getting completely turned around on a number of these big plays. Adjustments need to be made or the offense needs to score more, and much to the chagrin of Bears fans who have been watching the last few weeks, that is not going to happen until Jay Cutler is back and 100% healthy.
Josh McCown has been great. He’s been fantastic. I could not ask for a better back up. But look – last season the Bulls made a great season out of nothing behind Nate Robinson. He did a great job helping the team win some games with Derrick Rose out. But he is not a starter, and he was not going to be able to lead them very far into the playoffs. He was a really good backup. And we have short memories when it comes to sports – all of a sudden we’re wondering if the Bulls are better with Nate. McCown is keeping the Bears’ playoff hopes alive – but lets face it, so did Kyle Orton. Now, I think you do stick with McCown until Jay is 100% healthy. Do not make the same mistake they did against the Lions where they brought him back too early, kept him in too long, and cost him a couple more lost games due to injury. 100% Josh McCown is better than 85% or 90% Jay Cutler. I trust Josh. But if the Bears want to have any chance of making and possibly advancing in the playoffs, a healthy, mobile Cutler needs to be under center. He might not be the best option long term, but he is most definitely the best option this year.
So from here on out we’ll look at the playoff picture in the NFC. Here is what it looks like after week 11:
The Bears are tied atop the NFC North with Detroit at 6-4, but the Lions swept the season series and own the tie-breaker.
San Francisco owns the 6th Wild Card spot with a record of 6-4 but owns the tie-breaker over Chicago with the better in-conference record. Arizona is also 6-4 and also holds the tie-breaker over Chicago for the same reason.
So, basically we can’t count on getting in with any ties. The Bears will have to end up with a better record than Detroit in the division or all other teams in the running for the Wild Card. It has been an uphill battle all year long and the final stretch doesn’t appear to be any easier