Monday, November 28, 2011

Rough Game For Caleb Hanie In Chicago Bears Loss

First of all, let's celebrate. The Chicago Bears sent two — count'em, two — offensive linemen to the IR this week, but despite that, the o-line may have played one of their best games of the year. They allowed one sack, but most the game, QB Caleb Hanie had a whole heaping of time to choose whether he wanted to run or throw an interception.

I kid. Hanie, of course, did not have a great game. In fact, he cost the Bears the game. The Bears most definitely could have won on Sunday had Jay Cutler played in Hanie's place — Hanie, mind you, threw three interceptions in the first half. Plus, his game-ending intentional grounding penalty seemed very un-Cutler-like.

Nonetheless, the Bears actually played a solid game. Johnny Knox had a few key drops, but also a few amazing catches en route to a 145 receiving yards, 1 touchdown day. Matt Forte, Marion Barber, and Caleb Hanie all sliced up the Raiders rush defense, but sadly, most of that came in the second half when the Bears were playing catch up.

The defense had just one bad drive. Tragically, it came late in the fourth quarter as the Bears were trying to keep the game reasonable. Carson Palmer launched a 3rd and 4 pass to Louis Murphy deep down the sideline, leading to an easy Michael Bush touchdown run. This put the game at 13-25 with 3:47 left, just about sealing the Bears' fate.

For the remainder of the game, the Bears defense — constantly battling from bad field position — slowed and stifled Palmer's dangerous offense. They mustered four sacks (Julius Peppers has already matched his total from 2010) and 10 tackles for loss. Also, Corey Graham got another interception, but the credit ought to go Brandon Meriweather's way for jumping and deflecting the pass in the first place.

All in all, I feel like this team, while starting Hanie for the first time, did well and should improve next week. It has been said that teams improve their most between Week 1 and Week 2, and next Sunday's game against Kansas City is Hanie's Week 2.

Allow me to lament a moment, however, the absence of a minor league in football. Many already know I am a proud fan of the UFL — I genuinely hope it becomes a proper minor league system. But it's not there yet, and because of that, the Bears' prospects — think: Caleb Hanie, Garrett Wolfe, Stephen Paea, Dom DiCicco, and number of others over the last five years — could have been fully trained, vetted, and analyzed before playing in the NFL.

Maybe Wolfe wouldn't have been the third string running back for so long had the Bears been able to fully analyze whether his talents could translate into NFL offenses. Maybe Hanie would already be extra comfortable with the Bears offense had he been starting for the Iowa Bears all this time.

Oh well. Maybe some day.

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