Friday, November 13, 2009

Bears Woes Extend Beyond The Red Zone

Internet Betting - Only seven months ago Bears fans were announcing their return to the Super Bowl with their newly-acquired quarterback Jay Cutler. Despite the apparent step-up from Kyle Orton, the celebration seemed premature to everyone outside of Chicago due to the Bears lack of a number one wide receiver.

Now nine games into the season, the wide receiver position is only the beginning of the team's problems. With every play, Cutler's career appears to be on the brink of extinction with the offensive line providing almost no protection. Cutler seems to get touched on nearly every play having been sacked, hurried and knocked down more times than I can count.
Ron Turner doesn't use Cutler effectively. There's no creativity in the play calling, some calls are just plain dumb, and Cutler's stuck in the pocket, which collapses repeatedly.

The Bears rank 28th in rushing as Matt Forte fails to live up to expectations following a stellar rookie season in 2008. Thursday night's game proved to be one of his better this season. However, he excelled in the air with 8 receptions for 120 years while the running game was once again dismal with only 41 yards on 20 carries.

The Bears defense has been so plagued by injuries and stupid mistakes (yeah, that means you Tommie Harris), that they can't be relied upon to carry the team as in years past. Although they miraculously found a way to keep Chicago in the game, giving the offense a chance to win on the final drive.

But the blame can't fall solely on the supporting cast. Confidence in a quarterback is essential, but he tries to make plays that aren't there. Granted three of tonight's five interceptions against the 49er's were not his fault. Devin Hester slipped and fell, the referee got in the way on another, and a possible interference went uncalled against San Francisco safety Mark Roman. - Sportsbook

The other two interceptions occurred where they count the most as the red zone proves to be a dangerous area for Cutler who has thrown five interceptions inside the 20 this season.

The only real bright spot on the team is third-year tight end Greg Olsen who raked in three touchdowns in a lopsided loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week. Olsen leads the team in touchdowns with six, and is fourth in receiving yards.

And for reasons unknown to any sane person, Turner sat Olsen on a pivotal play in the first half. On third and 1 offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer was made eligible in an effort to trick the 49er's. But the only person tricked by this play was Cutler who was led to believe that San Francisco's Aubrayo Franklin had switched teams as he threw the ball straight into the defensive tackle's hands.

Cutler has the ability to lead this team, but he needs help. The Bears should already be thinking about how they can build around him in the off-season. Of course, they could have tried to get Cutler some help in the 2010 draft, but they gave that first round pick to Denver back in April.

49ers Beat Bears 10-6, End 4-gme Skid

Betting Line - Francisco’s defenders figure the short week worked to their advantage: Jay Cutler(notes) couldn’t change much in four days, and the 49ers knew what to expect from Chicago’s quarterback.

San Francisco coach Mike Singletary didn’t exactly hand it to his old team. Instead, Cutler handed the desperate 49ers a much-needed win.

Frank Gore(notes) ran for 104 yards and a touchdown, Cutler threw a career-high five interceptions with his last coming in the end zone on the game’s final play and San Francisco snapped a four-game losing streak with a 10-6 victory Thursday night.

“I wouldn’t say he was trying to force the issue,” 49ers safety Mark Roman(notes) said of Cutler. “He was trying to make plays at a time when they needed a play to be made. We knew the ball was going to be in the air and we knew if we would be sound in our coverages we’d have opportunities.”

Niners quarterback Alex Smith won for the first time in eight starts since Week 2 in 2007, 17-16 against St. Louis—but it was interesting until the end.

After Singletary elected to punt against his former team on fourth-and-6 from the Chicago 34 with 2:53 left, Cutler drove the Bears to the San Francisco 12 with 13 seconds remaining. After an incompletion on first down, Michael Lewis picked off Cutler’s next attempt in the end zone as time expired. That sealed San Francisco’s first win since a 35-0 rout of the Rams back on Oct. 4.

Cutler showed up for his postgame news conference still dressed in his uniform, minus his pads and jersey.

“It was tough. I have to apologize to the defense,” he said. “I think the offense as a whole has to apologize. They played a great game and kept us in there even through all the turnovers.”

The game was far from a pretty display by two struggling teams still hoping to make the playoffs.

Four days after the 49ers (4-5) committed four turnovers that led to 24 points in a 34-27 loss to Tennessee, they were penalized nine times and Smith threw an interception and was sacked twice.

Cutler took chances away all game from Chicago (4-5), which had 10 penalties and lost its second straight and fourth in five. Patrick Willis(notes) wreaked havoc on the Bears with 11 tackles.

“It’s nice to be on the other sideline of that, that’s for sure,” Smith said.

Betting Lines - The five interceptions by Cutler are tied for the most by a Bear since Zeke Bratkowski threw seven in a 42-7 loss to Baltimore on Oct. 2, 1960.

Cutler threw four or more interceptions for the second time this season and has an NFL-worst 17 in all. He became the first Bear since Billy Wade in 1962 to have two four-interception games in a season.

“I’ve played Thursday games before and been successful,” Cutler said. “It didn’t affect us. We saw everything coming. They didn’t have any surprises for us. We just didn’t execute.”

The Bears got field goals of 50 and 38 yards from Robbie Gould(notes) in a game that quickly became about who could keep possession of the ball and make the fewest mistakes.
“We did just enough on the offense to win the game,” Singletary said.

It marked the first time Singletary faced his former team as a head coach. The Hall of Fame linebacker spent all 12 of his NFL seasons with the Bears, capturing two Defensive Player of the Year awards, being selected to 10 Pro Bowls and winning the Super Bowl following 1985 season.

Singletary wanted little to do with the hype of him facing the Bears, insisting he couldn’t think about anything but coaching the 49ers to victory to save the season.

“They’re just another team on the schedule,” Singletary said afterward.

San Francisco won its seventh straight home game against the Bears, including one in the playoffs. Chicago’s last victory at Candlestick Park came during the Bears’ ’85 Super Bowl season with Singletary leading the defense. The Bears had won the last three in the series.

Gore ran for a 14-yard touchdown run one play after Cutler’s second interception late in the second quarter as the Niners took a 7-3 halftime lead.

“Everybody has a bad day at work, that’s just it,” Bears defensive end Alex Brown(notes) said of Cutler. “We have to be there to have his back and we do.”

Joe Nedney(notes) added a 21-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter after missing a 39-yarder wide right on San Francisco’s opening drive—his first miss of the season from inside 40 yards.

Neither quarterback had impressive numbers. Smith was 16 of 23 for 118 yards and Cutler 29 of 52 for 307. Chicago outgained San Francisco 350-216.

Niners tight end Vernon Davis(notes) fired up the Bears with his trash talk Tuesday, saying: “I think we can destroy their front.” Davis and Bears defensive lineman Adewale Ogunleye(notes) got into a pregame jawing session and some of the Chicago captains intentionally avoided shaking Davis’ hand before the coin toss.

Davis dealt out his own punishment when he bowled over Bears linebacker Nick Roach(notes), sending him to the sideline briefly on his only catch of the half. Davis committed two false start penalties.

“It was a big relief,” Davis said. “It’s truly a blessing to be able to get this. We just have to keep winning.”

San Francisco punted with 2:53 left to give the Bears a final chance.

Ireland v France: Match Preview

Republic of Ireland
Fifa ranking: 34
Manager: Giovanni Trapattoni (Italy, 70)
World Cup finals: 1990 (quarter-final), 1994 (2nd round), 2002 (2nd round)
Star player: Robbie Keane.
Chances: Trapatonni has performed wonders to get Ireland this far but the draw has been cruel. Ireland were unbeaten in the qualifiers but scored only 12 goals – Italy, Bulgaria and even Cyprus scored more.
Losing Liam Miller and Shane Long will not help their cause, but a two goal lead in Dublin may be necessary.
Fifa ranking: 9
Manager: Raymond Domenech (France, 57)
World Cup finals: 1930 (1st round), 1934 (1st round), 1938 (quarter-final), 1954 (1st round), 1958 (3rd), 1966 (1st round), 1978 (1st round), 1982 (4th), 1998 (winners), 2002 (1st round), 2006 (beaten finalists)
Star player: Nicolas Anelka.
Chances: Domenech is not popular in France and failure against the Irish will end his reign. Missing the injured Arsenal defender Gaël Clichy and Bayern Bunich midfielder Franck Ribery will not help his cause.
The feeling in France is that Domenech has failed to take advantage of world class players.

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