Hello sports fans, Carlos here with your final Windy City Sports Report of 2012. In this edition, what happened at Halas Hall, the Bulls move steady, and can we just forget hockey?
Well, after a 7-1 start, the Bears went 2-5 in their last 7 games and put themselves in a situation where they had a must-win game AND needed help from their enemies, the Green Bay Packers. One of the two scenarios happened, as the Bears beat the Pussycats, err Lions, in Detroit 26-24.
At the start of the game, the Bears’ offense looked like the offense fans envisioned at the beginning of the season. Instead of throwing all the passes to Marshall, the plan involved Alshon Jeffery (4 catches, 76 yards), and Earl Bennett (5 catches, 109 yards, TD). Matt Forte had a couple catches and even the fullback, Evan Rodriguez, caught a pass.
Cutler finished the game 18-31 for 257 yards and a touchdown. After watching too many games where it seemed like the plan was let Forte (24 carries, 103 yards) run a few yards then look to throw to Marshall, it was a welcome change to see a REAL offensive plan.
The win gave the Bears a 10-6 record, good by most standards, but in the competitive NFC they needed a loss by the Minnesota Vikings for them to make the playoffs. That did not happen, as the Vikings beat the Packers 37-34 on a last second field goal.
For the 5th time in 6 seasons, the Bears missed out on the playoffs. The consequences of that were huge. On Monday morning, the Bears announced that Lovie Smith was fired as head coach. The response from that decision reverberated throughout the city.
Player reaction was swift. Smith was a popular coach in Chicago. He was a player’s coach. Devin Hester was visibly emotional at the news and he did not take it well.
“I mean the media, the false fans, you all got what you all wanted. The majority of you all wanted him out. Players as players we wanted him in. I guess the fans- the false fans- out-ruled us.”
Hester also went on to say he might consider retirement. “I don’t even know if I want to play again, man. It’s [been] on my mind now for two years now.”
DJ Moore said “Everybody was kind of shocked a little bit to see it really just happening. This is my first situation going through something like this. I didn’t know how it would be. I’m just depressed.”
Cutler had an interesting reaction. “Now we’re going to have to make do with it. I think we got a lot of good pieces offensively, personnel-wise. Once we get a good coordinator and play-caller, we’ll make it work.”
This statement highlights Smith’s Achilles heel. For most of his 9 seasons in Chicago, the Smith offense ranked in the 20’s. The one time they did not rank in the lower tier was in 2006 when they ranked 15th. That was also the year they went to the Super Bowl.
Offensively, the Bears seemed disorganized too many times. On many occasions, it took too long to get the plays sent to Cutler and they had to call unnecessary timeouts. As Cutler said, there are good pieces on the offense. Of course, the offensive line has to be shored up. Play calling was just bad at times this year. Being a defensive minded coach, I think Smith just did not involve himself in the offense. He left the offense to his coordinators, but the guys he’s gotten have not done well. He has had 4 coordinators in 9 seasons, but 3 in the last 4. This year’s coordinator, Mike Tice, seemed to be in over his head.
Now the search is on for a replacement for Smith. Many people have John Gruden on top of their list. Others want Bill Cowher. The one thing I have to say on this is this: NO COACH HAS EVER WON A SUPER BOWL WITH 2 DIFFERENT TEAMS.
One person I think the Bears would be interested in would be Florida head coach Will Muschamp. His name has not come up, but GM Phil Emery has ties with him and really likes him. Another one is Chip Kelly. He is an offensive guru at Oregon right now and he nearly took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job last year. We will see what happens. It will be another interesting offseason for the Bears.
The Bulls had an interesting week. They had 3 games scheduled for the week, including a Christmas Day matchup against the Houston Rockets, but one of the games was canceled due to a blizzard.
It seemed like the Bulls were too involved with Christmas than actually playing a game. The Rockets came into Chicago and the Bulls gave them a present of a game, as they rolled over in a 120-97 loss that was not as close as the score indicated.
Omer Asik had a happy homecoming, scoring 20 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 27 points and Joakim Noah had 9 rebounds. The Bulls were outrebounded 45-31 in the game.
The next night the Bulls had to travel to Indiana to face the Central rival Pacers. Mother Nature would not cooperate, however, as a blizzard hit and the game was cancelled. It turned out to be very good for the Bulls. The last few games you could see that they were getting tired. With the cancellation, the Bulls did not have to play again until Saturday.
On Saturday, the Bulls hosted the Washington Wizards. Rip Hamilton came back after missing 12 games with a foot injury, so Marco Belinelli went back to the bench. He showed it did not hurt him as he scored 17 points in a Bulls’ 87-77 victory. Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 12 rebounds, another double-double for him.
After being outscored in the first quarter, the Bulls used a 23-13 second quarter to take control of the game and never looked back.
The 1-1 week left the Bulls with a record of 16-12, first in the Central Division by percentage points over the Pacers.
This week the Bullies have 3 games. They host the Charlotte Bobcats in a New Year’s Eve matinee, and then travel to Orlando on Wednesday to face the Magic and to Miami on Saturday to face the World Champion Heat for the first time this season.
Nope, still nothing going on with the hockey lockout. At this point, facing a cancellation of the season is a full reality.
That is it for now, sports fans. Until next week, I hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Year’s. May your wishes and dreams come true in 2013.