Bears’ ‘Winning Formula’ Growing Old
One full day removed from the Bears’ narrow victory over the lowly Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Toronto, and I still am left with a feeling best described as apathy. Don’t get me wrong – I was happy to see my team get a win. After losing two in a row, a loss to the winless Bills would most certainly have been the beginning of the end to this 2010 season. Instead, we have a 5-3 team that is a half game out of 1st place and looking towards the playoffs. And I get to keep paying attention to my team, which is nice for me.
But let’s not get too bubbly about our Bears just yet. This is a Lovie Smith 5-3 team. It is not a Jeff Fisher 5-3 team nor is it an Andy Reid 5-3 team. This is a team that relies (heavily) on timely turnovers and fluke-y special teams plays, not ball control or winning at the line of scrimmage. A Lovie Smith-coached team hopes for a blocked extra point, or a 4th quarter turnover, or maybe even that Devin Hester guy running the length of the field for a TD. Remember the ’83 White Sox? They had a slogan that seems quite apropos here.
Ya know now that I think about it, that probably explains why I repeatedly see Bears defensive backs merrily running along side opposing players, trying to strip the ball rather than tackling them, resulting in another 3-6 yards gained on the play. Stopping the opponent from gaining yardage by tackling him takes a back seat to the much more difficult and less likely possibility of stealing the ball from him.
All the complicated offensive and defensive schemes notwithstanding, football is a simple game with, at its core, a simple goal. Move the other team backward when you have the ball, and don’t let them move you backward when they have the ball. That’s it. That being said, Lovie’s stubborn adherence to his clearly flawed coaching philosophy is what will always prevent his teams from playing at a high level year in year out. You can’t rely on turnovers and odd special teams plays in the NFL if you plan on having a perennial playoff team (Patriots, Colts, Eagles, etc.).
Oh I realize it works sometimes. And when it does work, it’s usually tremendously exciting and entertaining to watch. It is inevitably exciting due to the inherent nature of its concept. Turnovers are exciting. Punt return TD’s are exciting. Blocked kicks are exciting. But they’re not likely, and therefore not dependable.
If you have a skilled and athletic offensive line you will be able to push the other team backward. If you have a team focused on fundamental tackling you will be able to prevent the other team from going forward. Once we have a head coach that realizes this and implements a scheme to enact it, that’s when I will get excited about my team.
But for now I’ll continue to hope for the best, keeping my fingers crossed that Julius Peppers can catch his own pass deflection, or that Israel Idonije can block an extra point, or that Devin Hester will make that one cut upfield that takes him all the way to the house.
I mean, how else would one expect to win?
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