By Doug Halberstadt
I just finished watching my final Bears game of this season. It’s kind of a bittersweet situation for me. As much as they have been a huge disappointment this year, I still took a little solace from their last two games.
After going 5-9 in their first 14 games of the season, the Bears won both of the games they played over the last seven days of the year. They upset the Minnesota Vikings 36-30 in overtime on Monday night, Dec. 28. Then, six days later, they beat the lowly Detroit Lions by two touchdowns, 37-23.
Finally, Jay Cutler proved why he was a former Pro-Bowl quarterback. His eight touchdowns and one interception in the final two contests are a stark contrast to the 19 touchdowns and 26 interceptions he had in his first 14 games as the new Bears signal-caller.
That gives most fans reason to believe he’s got the potential to lead this team back to the playoffs. Prior to the Minnesota game, the only place it seemed he was leading anyone was straight over the cliffs of despair and frustration. Bears fans can only hope that next year we see more of the Minnesota/Detroit Cutler than we do of the “throw-it-to-the-wrong-team Cutler.”
Part of the reason the passing game was so dismal this year is because the Bears’ running game was equally bad. The entire stable of running backs only managed five rushing touchdowns all season. Matt Forte had four, and Garrett Wolfe added the other. Cutler also ran for one touchdown. A total of six touchdowns out of your running game over a 16-game schedule is pitiful.
Even though he didn’t get into the end zone in his last two games, Forte did manage to gain 175 yards. He ran for 74 against the Vikings and had 101 in the season finale. Granted, those aren’t Hall of Fame numbers; however, it may be something positive the team can take into the off-season and build upon for next year.
The defense had its share of issues all season as well. Injuries to starters seemed to dominate the list of excuses why they couldn’t get the job done this year. There’s nothing a team can do about injuries—they are part of the game.
The things they can improve upon are better tackling, pass rush and their third-down conversion percentage. I’m not sure how many times all year the Bears had their opponents in third-and-long situations and then allowed them to convert a first down because of poor tackling and/or pass coverage. No matter what the actual number was, from my perspective, it was far too many.
Much like a lot of other things about the year 2009, the Bears’ 7-9 record will be among the things I’ll try to forget. According to someone, “Time heals all wounds.” The Bears won’t play another regular-season game for approximately nine months. It is hoped that’s enough time to heal the wounds of the 2009 season.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue