Watching your team succumb to a convincing defeat is never an enjoyable experience. Sunday was no exception, and like many of you I felt the hard landing as Chicago readjusted our expectations for the 2012 Colts. The immediate temptation is to try and analyse - who was at fault on a specific play, or which unit was underperforming to the detriment of the whole team.
Colts Authority's Kyle Rodriguez did such a thing on Tuesday, pinpointing the defensive backfield as the weak point on defense - certainly a fair argument considering what we've been watching from this secondary group so far.
I would, however, argue in a different direction. I would argue that we should sweep the entire Bears game - from a defensive perspective - under the rug. Simply put, we were entirely outclassed by a far superior football team. When on D, we were surrendering yards at will to both the run and pass game to such an extent that it seems frivolous to want to examine individual matchups.
Furthermore, what possible reflection can Week 1 truly give as to how the Colts will play this year?
The Bears are a fairly unique team in the modern NFL - built to pressure with 4, with basic zone concepts on the back end. The simplicity of what they do and the effectiveness of it is reminiscent of Peyton Manning's offensive prowess. You know roughly what they're going to do and it's still very difficult to beat. They play on an outdoor grass surface which bears very little comparison to Lucas Oil Stadium, and given the experience Colts fans have in watching the difference that can have on pass rushers, I don't think it's an unfair point to make for the entire defense.
Assessing the secondary strikes me as a bit premature, given the fact that the defense looked pretty good in the initial stages with Dwight Freeney on the field. Every football fan is aware of the effect that good pass rush can have on the secondary, few more so than Colts fans, who have watched Freeney and Mathis attempt to patch over the atrocious play of years past on the back end.
This brings me nicely onto Vontae Davis. I genuinely do not care one iota about him being beaten by a 'rookie' for a long touchdown.
The rookie in question was Alshon Jeffery, the most dominant player in the SEC by my count prior to his final year in college, where his quarterback play approached and sometimes exceeded the Painter and Orlovsky shambles we had to watch last year. On the play in question, the cannon-armed Jay Cutler has by my rough count more than four seconds to drop back, stand in the pocket, read the field, step into the throw and execute it. He could've had as much time as he'd have wanted, frankly - and the secondary can't necessarily be expected to compensate.
The radical change of scheme provides further reason to brush the game aside. Analysing games last year often became rather pointless due to the blowout nature on both sides of the ball. However, we at least had the benefit of seeing the players in a familiar system with familiar teammates last year - this year, the players are less familiar with one another and will take some time to fit together, particularly in the secondary.
An example - Antoine Bethea needs to spend some time with Tom Zbikowski in order to raise levels of communication on the field, along with the fact that he must beaware of Zbikowski's weaknesses and tendencies to provide security on the back end. We don't have that yet.
Last year, we were rudderless - primarily due to terrible coaching. This year, it seems like we have a much more capable coaching staff and as such I expect a much more positive, transformative process compared to the gutless defensive season we had to endure a year ago.
Patience, my friends.
@Ben Savage Ben, your byline on this story makes me fear that you've mothballed Five Plays this year -- please say it ain't so!
With the benefit of seeing the Bears against the Packers last night, I would say it is quite possible that the Bears have a really good defense and a terrible offense.
As mentioned, against the Colts the Bears offense was attrocious at the beginning of the game but eventually came around. Unlike against the Packers where it never rebounded and the Packers D has been much maligned.
Despite being put into bad positions by the Bears Offense, the Bears D did a remarkable job of containing the high powered Packers offense.
What can be gleemed from this... possibly nothing. But perhaps the Bears D is really good which would explain Luck's and the o-line's struggles. And perhaps the Bears O is still very much a work in progress and the Colts D is going to be every bit as bad as it looked.
I'm going to be patient this year, because I have no expectations for 2012, other than a 16 game preseason for 2013.
There is no doubt in my mind that Luck is going to be great.
And I hope Pagano and Grigson are going to be equally as great. But I'm not ready to say they are some vast improvement over what we had last year until I see some concrete proof of that.
I would actually want to argue against both of you in some ways. If you were to talk to Bears fans about their biggest weakness coming into this season (and in years past), it would have been the OL. The Bears have shown no ability to stop the rush, especially the speed rusher. Perhaps the biggest defensive problem was the failure of the DL and OLB's to consistently rattle Cutler. I think Ben is right that the whole defense needs time to blend and meld, but the lack of pressure from a defensive coach frightens me.
Good advice. The Bears are much improved over last year's good team. Any chance you guys take a look at the effectiveness of our new defense in the 3-4 vs the 4-3 stance? Pass rush? Run defense? Pass defense? Third down? Just a thought.
@bradicus18 Well, as I think comparisons are pointless right now, there won't be anything this week. Certainly as the year goes on there will be that sort of material, yeah.
@Ben Savage Thanks, Ben. I hope you don't think that I meant in comparison to years before. I'm more curious on when and how they use the 3-4 and the 4-3 this year. I can understand the desire for more data but I am somewhat curious on a game by game basis as well. Great article by the way. That's why I like it here.
I re-watched the game and it was apparent that the Bears adjusted after the first couple series and won most of the matchups from then on. I'm not sure Freeney would have made much of a difference to be honest. As you said, They're simply a better team. Better teams get beat all the time, but the other team has to play mistake free. We didn't do that on either side of the ball.
I thought Powers had a great game and Beathea was steady as always. Zibby is servicable and who knows where we are with Davis as he as only been here a week. You are right Nate, no pass rush after Freeney went out. The secondary can't be expected to cover guys that long.