Bears Have Set The Bar High and Must Keep It There...........
The Bears have set the bar high and must keep it there
BY NEIL HAYES email@example.com November 10, 2011 10:06PMUpdated: November 10, 2011 10:52PM
With each passing day, the Bears 30-24 victory on Monday night feels less like a big road win over a talented, desperate Philadelphia Eagles team and more like a turning point. The Bears would need to win the turnover battle. They would have to prevent game-breaking plays from DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy and make big plays on special teams to have a chance, or so said popular opinion heading into a game few thought the Bears would win.
Turns out, they didnít need anything. The Bears were clearly the better team. They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball against a team many expected to contend for a Super Bowl, which changes everything we know about these 2011 Bears moving forward. After a performance like that, thereís no turning back.
The NFL has become a week-to-week proposition with games decided by the smallest of margins. A team canít always control whether they win or lose but they can control what plays are called, whether they maintain a balance between run and pass, how physical they are and how much effort they summon while playing a style of defense that requires maximum exertion.
The way the Bears played against the Eagles should serve as a blueprint for the rest of the season. Opponents will vary and game plans will change but the standard has been established. Now itís up to coaches and -- more importantly -- players to make sure that standard is met each and every week.
Nobody should accept anything less.
Thatís not to say that Jay Cutler wonít throw interceptions off his back foot. Matt Forte will fumble again, eventually. A defensive coordinator will come up with a scheme that will confuse offensive linemen. Brian Urlacher will have a bad day, Lance Briggs will miss tackles and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte will get beat on occasion. But if they continue to play within the parameters established in the win over the Eagles they will be able to overcome individual failures. If they maintain the effort, physicality and style of play that overwhelmed a team many considered as talented as any in the NFL, they wonít have to worry about underachieving anymore.
Winning will become a byproduct of this latest version of Bears football. Even when they do lose it will be easier to accept because they will have played up to that standard. There should be no more debates about this teamís identity. They are a physical running team that relies on Matt Forte making decisive cuts behind pulling offensive linemen. They need to continue to adapt their running game to attack the weaknesses of that weekís opponent. They need to keep being creative with their protections so Cutler can consistently gouge defenses downfield.
Defensively, they must keep offenses off guard by mixing up coverages. Above all else, they must keep swarming to the ball as if their girdle pads were on fire. Thatís the model. The worse thing that could happen to a team that suddenly seems capable of stringing together a substantial winning streak is it reverts back to what has failed miserably in the past. Thatís not likely to happen. Once Martz reined in his offense during the bye week last year he remained mostly consistent with the new model.
If the offensive line continues to improve at its current rate, itís even possible that Martz can begin attacking defenses more as he has done with other teams in the past. No need to get greedy, though. These Bears have proven they can be a handful despite their limitations.
After Sundayís showdown with the Lions, the schedule turns favorable, which should allow the Bears to start distancing themselves from other potential playoff teams, although strength of schedule shouldnít be as big of a factor. Not now.
The Bears shouldnít measure themselves against opponents any longer. The standard has been set. Now itís about making sure everybody measures up to that standard.