Commentary: Chicago reeling; Bears kick away win

10-14-08 Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith announced that quarterback Brian Griese will replace Rex Grossman for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions on Wednesday, September 26, 2007, in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Published On:
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
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Things just aren’t going right for the city of Chicago.

About a week after the Cubs and White Sox were eliminated from baseball’s postseason, the city’s NFL team is finding life in the windy city to be tougher than expected.

At this point, fans are beginning to ask how many ways the Chicago Bears can find a way to lose.

The Bears (3-3) have lost three games by a total of eight points and are lucky to still find themselves in a three-way tie for first in the NFC North.

Take their last game, a 22-20 loss Sunday, for example. After a seesaw battle, the Bears found themselves up by one point on the road against the lowly Atlanta Falcons.

It took everything they had to get there too. Quarterback Kyle Orton led the Bears’ on a 77-yard touchdown drive with 11 seconds left in the game. All coach Lovie Smith and his Bears needed was to recapture their winning ways and take sole control of first place was simply executing a kickoff.

But like an uninformed undergrad playing the Madden football video game, Smith tried to get fancy on special teams. He ran a play best suited for junior high school, authorizing Robbie Gould’s squib kick.

What was Smith worried about? Did he think extraordinary return man Devin Hester had switched to Atlanta black and red?

Atlanta’s kick returner, Jerious Norwood, previously took one of Gould’s three kicks 85 yards for a near touchdown. That must have been playing on repeat in Smith’s mind.

But his decision was still, at best, questionable.

So when Smith made the call for a squib kick, he was literally predicting that his special teams unit would be unable to contain Norwood.

He was literally assuming that the odds for a huge return were great enough to justify giving Atlanta the ball in good field position with just enough time on the clock.

Football is a game of risks and Smith seemed to have forgotten how to prioritize those risks. Bears fans, at least for this game, should hold him responsible.

Smith should have known that any kick return of substantial length would have most likely ended the game – the Arizona Cardinals returned their opening kickoff on Sunday against the Cowboys, shaving 15 seconds off of the game clock.

Instead, Smith offered up two free plays to Atlanta.

To jump ahead in Sunday’s fiasco: The Falcons began their final drive on their 44-yard line with seven seconds left.

After a 26-yard completed from fresh-faced Matt Ryan, Atlanta was in prime position.

The Falcons’ 48-yard field goal left the Bears with no time, their third loss, and their hands stuck in their pockets.

In a league like the NFL, a team can ill afford giving the opposition multiple chances to win.

It was easier when it was just the Bears’ boring, anemic offense that stunk. Now it’s coaching too.

Instead of being heralded as one of the leagues best teams, the Bears are left trying to pick up the pieces and clean up the mess after six long weeks. The downfall is accented not by a questionable quarterback, but rather a questionable coach.

Reach the reporter at joshua.spivack@asu.edu.