MORRISSEY: Bears will show how good they really are against Texans
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org November 10, 2012 12:10AM
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt leads the NFL with 101/2 sacks and has deflected 10 passes, four of which have led to interceptions. | Getty Images
Updated: December 12, 2012 6:29AM
Let’s see what they’ve got.
Let’s see what happens Sunday night when push comes to shove comes to J.J. Watt.
The Bears aren’t to blame for the squeezably soft schedule they’ve had to this point. They desperately have wanted to go big-game hunting but ended up settling for squirrel pelts. Again, no apologies necessary.
But the fact is, they lost to the only powerful team they’ve played this season. That would be the Packers. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.
So let’s find out what the Bears have. If we’re completely honest with ourselves — and I’ll exclude the standard foaming-at-the-mouth Chicago fan — we’ll admit we’re not sure about this team.
I think the Bears are good. I also think they’re going to lose their next two games.
On Sunday, they play the 7-1 Texans at home. On Nov. 19, they visit the 49ers. And then we’ll know. Or at least we’ll have a better idea of how good they really are.
I see the 7-1 Bears quickly becoming the 7-3 Bears.
I see that not because of blurred vision but because the evidence of greatness is thin. Most of the teams they’ve faced this season have sub-.500 records. They barely got past the Panthers a couple of weeks ago and embarrassed a sad Titans team last week. Some fans of the Jaguars, whom the Bears beat 41-3 in Week 5, have taken to calling themselves the Baguars and wearing paper bags over their heads out of embarrassment.
The Texans look more real than the Bears, more substantial. They’ve beaten the Ravens at home and the Broncos on the road. The Packers did wallop them 42-24, so they share a common pain with the Bears. They have a nasty defense led by Watt, their pass-rushing monster. They are the Bears’ equal in most defensive categories except turnovers (admittedly, a huge ‘‘except’’). Pick almost any offensive category, and the Texans are ahead of the Bears, though ever so narrowly in most.
The Bears’ are almost a victim of what they do best. Their success sometimes looks fragile, built as it is on opponents’ fumbles and interceptions. The turnovers could dry up at any moment. I don’t think they will, but it might happen. If so, then what?
A Bears victory Sunday has to involve the offense actually carrying its weight. Jay Cutler was right last week when he said the offense wouldn’t catch up with the defense this season. But to beat the Texans, the Bears need an excellent game out of their offense.
Somebody remind me: Have we seen that yet this season?
And, more important, have we seen many indications the offense is on the verge of breaking out?
No and no.
The problem lies where the Bears’ passing attack and Watt intersect: the offensive line. It’s everything the rest of the team’s units aren’t — ineffective, prone to penalties and devoid of stars. It makes Cutler a target. Not only does Watt feast on quarterbacks (a league-leading 101/2 sacks), he regularly knocks down their passes. He’s a continuous loop of ‘‘The Silence of the Lambs’’ in every offensive lineman’s head.
Look for the Bears to maximum-protect and pray the tight ends and running backs do their jobs as blockers. They haven’t yet. Also know the Texans have deflected 25 passes. Watt has 10 of them, four leading to interceptions. They work on it every practice, just like the Bears do with forcing fumbles.
The same argument I made about the Bears’ habit of forcing turnovers can be made about the Texans’ ability to knock down passes: They’re not something you always can count on.
The game is going to come down to a battle of the lines, which doesn’t bode well for the Bears. The Texans’ Matt Schaub has been sacked 10 times in eight games; Cutler has been sacked 28 times. It’s hard to see that and pick the Bears to win, unless offensive coordinator Mike Tice has come up with an invisible fence that will stop Watt in his tracks.
Perhaps this is the game the offensive line finally figures things out. Why it would happen this week, I haven’t the foggiest.
To quote the Bible: I believe; help my unbelief.
In other words, prove it, Bears.