MORRISSEY: Bears blitz at wrong time, opening door for game-winner
BY RICK MORRISSEY Staff Columnist December 29, 2013 10:11PM
Updated: December 29, 2013 11:35PM
It ended the way it probably should have, with a puzzling defensive decision by the Bears in the final minute of the game, the resultant defensive breakdown and the obligatory Green Bay Packers touchdown.
It ended with a blitz that fizzled and a 48-yard scoring pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb, who was so open he looked like he was running unopposed for office. If I told you it ended on the third of three fourth-down conversions on the Packers’ drive, I don’t suppose you’d be surprised. No, I didn’t think so.
If you want a summary of the season, there it is. A bad defense couldn’t stop Rodgers on Sunday, and it certainly didn’t help that the Bears decided to bring the house on fourth-and-eight.
The final score was 33-28 at Soldier Field, ending the Bears’ ideas about a postseason berth. The Packers have that now.
Nothing says mediocrity like an 8-8 record. That’s what the Bears were — awful on defense, good on offense and capable of breathtaking highs and lows.
One of the themes has been head-scratching decisions and boneheaded developments. Sunday didn’t disappoint. The decision to blitz on fourth down didn’t make a whole lot of sense at the snap, and it looked downright brainless when Packers fullback John Kuhn was able to block Julius Peppers. It allowed Rodgers to step to his left, buying him time, space and a spot in the playoffs.
“I wasn’t expecting empty pressure, but they went for it,’’ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
“What you’re counting on happening is that the blitz is going to get there so [Rodgers] has got to get rid of the ball now,’’ Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “It’s not going to be a six-second play. Once Aaron Rodgers got outside the pocket, anything can happen.’’
Yes. Exactly. If Rodgers gets out of the pocket, havoc can ensue. And it did. I think they called that the chaos theory in “Jurassic Park.’’ You’re leading 28-27 with 46 seconds left, with the ball at midfield. Why blitz? Tighten up the defense and keep him contained.
But, no. Cobb found himself all by himself in the secondary because this is the Bears’ defense and that’s what happens.
It ended right there. Oh, the Bears had a few more gasps, but nothing that put much heat on the Packers. Jay Cutler threw an interception as time expired, and a game and season went away obediently.
This season will be remembered for Trestman’s decision to send Robbie Gould out for a field-goal attempt on second down against the Minnesota Vikings (Gould missed) and his decision to keep an injured Cutler in the game too long in a loss to the Detroit Lions.
Go ahead and add another strange occurrence to the list. Late in the second quarter, Peppers knocked the ball loose as Rodgers was commencing to pass. The ball bounced on the ground and — here’s the part to remember — none of the officials blew his whistle. The Bears stood around, thinking it was an incompletion, not a fumble. So did the Packers, until Jarrett Boykin picked up the ball and ran it 15 yards into the end zone. Touchdown.
“They didn’t blow the whistle,’’ defensive lineman Corey Wootton said of the play. “Normally in practice, we scoop [the ball] and score, just in case. We didn’t get on it when we needed to.’’
“For me to try to explain why that happened, I really can’t at this time,’’ Trestman said. “We’ve never allowed the ball to sit on the ground like that at any time in practice.’’
Another odd moment in a year full of them.
Then there’s the meat and rotten potatoes of the season: The Bears gave up 473 yards of total offense to the Packers and a supposedly rusty Rodgers. This goes down as one of the worst defenses in Bears’ history. It set team records for most total yards allowed (6,313) and most rushing yards allowed (2,583).
“It was an up-and-down season for us as a defense,’’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We didn’t play as well as we expected, but we was never out. Just like it came down to in this game. We kept fighting.’’
Less fighting, more stopping the other team, please. Injuries didn’t help on defense, but that can’t explain away everything.
“This is the NFL: You don’t do your job, they make changes,’’ defensive tackle Stephen Paea said. “It’s all business.’’
It had better be.