4:18 PM CDT, October 23, 2011
There are few victories that have seemed more exasperating than the one the Bears came away with on Sunday in London.
The win should’ve been bigger. The win should’ve been sealed earlier. The win should’ve been more complete.
Frustration, aggravation, exasperation -- you name it.
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was off for most of the game. I mean, he was flinching early even when the Bears weren’t blitzing early. He lost his tailback, he lost his fullback, he lost his center, he lost his running game.
The Bucs were one-dimensional, and Freeman was the one dimension and he was trailing 21-5.
The Bucs were beaten up and ready to get beaten. The Bears refused to oblige.
They gave the Bucs two short fields and the Bucs stuck both in the end zone to make it 21-18. Jay Cutler threw a second interception to set up one, then Marion Barber got smothered on third-and-1 to set up the other, aided by Kahlil Bell’s penalty on punt coverage.
Understand, earlier, the Bears seemed to be having one of their best blocking games of the season.
Yeah, Cutler threw a pick and Matt Forte was thrown for a safety, but Forte still ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown in the first half and Cutler hit Roy Williams for a score against a blitz and press coverage.
The blocking, by the way, was solid top to bottom -- linemen, tight ends, and receivers. Right guard Chris Spencer and tight end Matt Spaeth were sealing the edge, doing it so completely one time that they also could’ve slapped fives with Barber as he raced into the end zone.
And there was Williams, throwing a big block that sent Forte cutting across the field for the game’s first score.
I was about to rave about the Bears’ blocking and execution, and then came the second half. Then came pfft. Then came exasperation.
Cutler passed more than Forte ran in the third quarter. Who knows why? The exasperating Mike Martz, I guess, is why.
And that was before that mind-boggling experience in the red zone near the end of the game.
Forte had just taken a Cutler pass 36 yards down to the Bucs’ 4. This would do it, right?
Not so fast.
Martz called three passes when the clock was supposed to be his friend. The last pass was never thrown. Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber timed a blitz so perfectly that he sacked Cutler after a two-step drop.
Bucs defensive back Aqib Talib stuck his facemask in Williams’ mask. It occurred away from the play. Way away from the play. No matter. Talib drew a stupid personal foul that gave the Bears a first down at the 6 instead of forcing them to settle for an unsettling field goal.
But even after getting lucky, the Bears refused to put the game away. Or they were too inept to do it. Bad choice either way.
This time, Martz called three running plays, two of which lost yards, and the Bears indeed settled for that field goal. They were up just six, the Bucs were eating up yards in the final two minutes, and this was looking like the loss that ended the season, not to mention a lot of employment terms at Halas Hall.
Mercifully, the Bears finally sealed it when D.J. Moore picked off Freeman in Bears territory.
They made enough plays to win. They blew enough plays to lose. A win that felt like a loss except for the scoreboard.
They were good enough and lucky enough to prevent the bye week from becoming the buh-bye week.
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