Bears need someone, something to get their attention
December 9, 2011 11:46PM
The Bears Roy Williams bobbles a pass that would then intercepted by the Kansas City Chiefs Jon McGraw during their game at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, December 4, 2011. The Chiefs would go on to win the game 10-3. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Time: 3:05 p.m. Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
TV: Fox-32 (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa).
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM. • Line: Broncos by 31/2.
Updated: January 12, 2012 8:13AM
DENVER — This is another Ditka Era story, but bear with me. I promise there’s a point.
One of the worst games the Bears played under Mike Ditka ended with one of the most exhilarating finishes. In 1986, the defending Super Bowl champions were 12-2 and facing the 5-9 Lions at the Silverdome on ‘‘Monday Night Football.’’ They stunk up the place. They had five fumbles, losing three of them, and Doug Flutie threw an interception. Flutie was playing for injured Mike Tomczak, who had started for injured Jim McMahon.
It was a miserable game, with the Bears trailing 13-6 in the fourth quarter. And an irate Ditka, steaming at Flutie on the sideline, took over the game. You could see the transference of Ditka’s ire through the face of a mesmerized Steve Fuller, who was signaling plays from the sideline to Flutie in the huddle. The Bears ran seven consecutive times to score the tying touchdown, got the ball back, then ran eight times in 10 plays to set up Kevin Butler’s winning field goal as time ran out.
There’s a lot of mythology about that golden era in Bears football, but don’t let anybody tell you otherwise: Ditka willed his team to victory that night.
I’m reliving that memorable game not to point out that the Bears need Ditka on the sidelines to snap this team out of its two-game funk, but to illustrate an element these Bears are lacking on offense, especially with injured Jay Cutler on the sidelines. They need somebody to get their attention, somebody to heighten their focus at critical times, something that drives Roy Williams to catch the touchdown pass at the goal line in the fourth quarter after the harmless drop in the second quarter instead of the other way around.
There’s something to that — and it’s more than just the fact that Williams isn’t as good as Greg Jennings. In fact, Jennings had two of the Packers’ four drops in the fourth quarter last Sunday against the Giants, drawing a stern look from Aaron Rodgers that was somewhere between the annoyance of Cutler and the ‘‘we’ll-get-’em-next-time’’ acceptance of Hanie.
And that seemed to do the trick. After the Giants tied the score with 58 seconds left, the Packers suddenly caught everything in sight. Jermichael Finley, who had one of the drops earlier in the quarter, made a reaching grab for a 24-yard gain. Jordy Nelson added a 27-yard catch. And Jennings, who moments earlier couldn’t catch a cold, made a two-handed catch as he turned around for an 18-yard gain that set up the winning field goal.
There can’t be too many receivers in the NFL who haven’t dropped a touchdown pass. And as Hanie said in absolving Williams for his goal-line gaffe against the Chiefs: ‘‘He’s going to make the plays for you 99 percent of the time.’’ But even if that’s true, why does the 1 percent have to be when the game is on the line? That’s yet another difference between the Bears and Packers: The Packers make their share of mistakes, but they rarely do so when they least can afford it.
When Williams and Cutler miscommunicated on a third-down play near the end zone against the Lions, Williams tried to smooth it over, but Cutler gave him the brushoff. Hanie, not unexpectedly, took the opposite approach when Williams bobbled a pass to turn a game-tying touchdown into an interception.
‘‘I told him: ‘Hey, don’t worry about that. That’s just stuff that happens,’ ’’ Hanie said. ‘‘It seems like everything was bouncing away from us last game. That’s kind of how it goes sometimes. You get a little frustrated, and I’m sure he was frustrated. But he’s a veteran, and he felt as bad as anybody about that play.
‘‘But that’s just how it goes sometimes. That’s football. You’ve got to really fight through that adversity and go make the next play. That’s what’s more important — that you don’t lose him here because of one play. I think he’s a savvy enough guy to know that and know that I’m going to go back to him.’’
That’s an admirable attitude. It remains to be seen if it pays off.