Bears D collapses in the clutch; Blame the age or system?
When the season started I figured based on the age of the core players on this defense, the Bears would need to win a few high scoring affairs. Perhaps the defense would actually get bailed out by the offense for once. However, to my surprise, the defense shocked and awed me with its play. Not only were they getting turnovers but they were scoring with them. I almost forgot how old the defense was. On Sunday I was reminded about it.
When you look at the numbers, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense was rather pedestrian for the first 26 minutes of the first half. Then they started to use the zone read option against the Bears D. Wilson led Seattle down the field at will; carving up Lovie Smith's D all over the field. There were times you wondered if they even had 11 guys on the field. It was so painful to watch.
The Seahawks scored to tie the game at 7-7; a 9 play, 94 yard drive. Then after a Bears punt, Wilson went right back down the field with time running out in the half. He threw what appeared to be a TD to Braylon Edwards in the back of the endzone, but somehow the play was overturned and the Seahawks settled for a FG. Seattle amassed 219 first half yards and led 10-7 at the break.
For the next 27 minutes of the 2nd half, the Bears D stepped up and held Seattle to almost nothing. In fact, at one point in the 4th quarter Fox flashed a graphic that showed the Seahawks had only 40 total yards of offense. After the Bears went ahead 14-10, as a fan you were feeling the D would now finish off the game.
However, Wilson went back to the read option for the last drive. It was almost like the Bears had no idea how to defend it. Wilson either ran or threw for first downs. And when he ran there was nobody near him, and when he threw, his receivers were wide open. It was paralyzing to watch. I kept waiting for someone to step up and make a play--but it never happened.
In 3 minutes and 16 seconds the Seahawks marched 97 yards and scored with 24 seconds left in the 4th quarter. It felt like someone shot me. I couldn't move. What happened to the Bears D? The pass rush was non existent, and the cover 2 was taken apart with ease. There was one play on the drive where I saw two Bears' defenders in the secondary with an open Seattle receiver within 5 yards, but neither defender even moved near the receiver to cover him as he caught the ball. Watching it, you would've thought the two Bears' defenders were defending each other.
Just when I thought the Bears D had changed this year, it appeared the soft cover 2 that Lovie Smith lives and dies by--killed them on this day. The Bears were doing so many things defensively this season to bait quarterbacks into thinking certain throws were there, and then when they got comfortable, the Bears switched it up and picked off the next pass. That's what I kept waiting for but never got on Sunday.
After the Bears unfathomably tied the game on 2 plays to force OT, (how the hell did Cutler complete that pass to Marshall?) when the Seahawks won the coin toss I still believed the D could step up and make a play. To my dismay, it was essentially a carbon copy of the previous drive. It was sad to watch. By the time the Seahawks got to mid field, I had zero confidence this Bears D could get off the field.
They looked slow, tired, old and confused. I felt defeated and let down as a fan. Where's Pepper's, Briggs, Urlacher and Tillman to make a play? There was one particular third down play where Russell Wilson ran, and I saw Urlacher at the top of the screen. As Wilson ran towards the sidelines I figured Urlacher would cut him off and stop him from getting a first down. I was stunned to see Urlacher never got in the picture as Wilson easily picked up the first down.
Then 2 plays later Urlacher left the game. Age is part of the game; players get old and the speed is reduced. It's tough to watch, but the reality is Urlacher is no longer that guy in his prime who would run down Michael Vick in the open field. He's smarter and is still a quality linebacker in this league, it's just tough knowing he will no longer blow plays up with his speed.
Peppers, Urlacher, Briggs and Tillman are all over 30 years of age. Could they be getting tired already? I thought what Kaepernick did to them on Monday Night football a few weeks back may have been an aberration. Now I question if that's the case. Or is it that Lovie Smith's cover 2 just can't handle the read option? Newton, Kaepernick and now Wilson just destroyed the Bears defense this season. Whether the age or the system factors into that, they need to address it now. There's a chance should the Bears make the playoffs, they could play against either Kaepernick or Wilson again.
The worst part is Lovie Smith had no answers as to why it happened. That's scary as a fan. I've been a Lovie supporter, despite the constant criticism of his ideas and lack of emotion on the sidelines. He better figure something out as this team makes a playoff push.
I still can't believe they lost that game. It really stung and I'm just getting over it now.