JDM on the 2008 Chicago Bears

Finally, JDM’s take on the 2008 Chicago Bears:

Things did not look high for the Chicago Bears entering the 2008 season.  There was too much uncertainty when preseason ended.  Many questions surfaced the team.  Would the offensive line bounce back from a miserable 2007 season?  The answer appeared to be no after first round pick Chris Williams had back surgery.  Replacing him would be veteran John St. Clair, a fine swing man/backup lineman, but hardly someone you want as your left tackle.  Running back was another question mark as no one knew just how good Matt Forte would be.  The receiving core was patched together with the likes of veteran cast offs, a kick returner playing only his second season as receiver, and an arena football star.  The starting QB, while sporting a 12-6 record as a starter, didn’t exactly impress the masses when he played.  The only position where they were set was at Tight End.  Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen were probably the only players who would start on most other teams.  Yahoo sports ranked the Bears offense 32nd in fantasy football.

Then, there was the defense.  This unit hadn’t been playing at a high level since the first half of the 2006 season.  Injuries were a huge factor in that.  It was believed if the unit could stay healthy, they would return to form.  Doubt would escalate more than ever after a lackluster preseason performance.  This unit was supposed to carry the team.  Only the Baltimore Ravens defense made more money in the league than the Bears.

With so many questions, the outlook for the 2008 Bears did not look good.  Most so called experts had them winning between five and seven games.  The Vikings and Packers were expected to compete for the division while the Bears and Lions would battle for last place.

Then, something happened that was unexpected by most.  The Bears opened their 2008 season with a 29-13 road victory over the Colts.  Matt Forte had a fine debut, Kyle Orton ran a solid offense overall, and the defense dominated the injury depleted Colts offensive line.  The Bears followed up the impressive victory with two losses that would haunt them for the rest of the season.  The Bears blew a 17-3 third quarter lead to Carolina to lose 20-17.   They followed that up with a 27-24 OT loss to Tampa Bay at home.  The Bears led 24-14 midway through the fourth and could not seal the deal.  The Bears were headed for their third straight blown lead in a game, but a goal stand preserved a 24-20 win over the Eagles.  The next week provided a nice change, a very easy 34-7 road win over the Lions.  That was followed up with one of the most mind boggling losses ever against Atlanta.  Trailing all game, the Bears put together a fantastic two minute drive.  With 11 seconds left, Orton found Davis for a TD to put the Bears up 20-19.  Just as we found out, no lead is safe with this team.  Atlanta was able to return the kickoff and run a play to get into field goal range.  A 48-yard FG was good, and the Bears lost.  The Bears returned home and regrouped to win a 48-41 shootout over the Vikings.

The Bears entered their bye week on week eight with a 4-3 record.  The offense was doing a good job with Kyle Orton playing solid and Matt Forte being the real deal.  Orton played like a legit NFL starting QB, something that we aren’t used to here in Chicago.  A columnist even suggested the Bears should open their checkbook and give Orton a $50 million contract.  Meanwhile, the defense, particularly the pass defense, was poor.  They were doing a pretty good job stopping the run, but a lack of pass rush, poor coverage, along with an aging Brian Urlacher put the Bears pass defense towards the bottom  of the league.

The second half of the season started with a home game against the winless Lions.  The Bears jumped out to a 10-0 lead and seemed destined to another easy win against the Lions.  Then, the defense started to struggle and allowed 23 second quarter points.  What made matters worse, Orton injured his ankle late in the first half.  The defense and rushing game stepped it up in the second half, and the Bears held on for a 27-23 win.  Orton was first to be reported to be out for a month.  Grossman would start the next game against the undefeated Titans.  Grossman was less than stellar in a 21-14 loss.  The bigger issue, however, was the pass defense.  The Titans had not had a 200 yard passer all season.  They did have one of the best rushing offenses in the league.  As they would all season, the Bears stopped the run, but allowed 285 yards passing.  Orton would return for a road game against the Packers.  It was obvious he had returned a bit early as the injury was still affecting
him.  However, the Bears were blasted 37-3.  At this point, the Vikings, Packers, and Bears were all tied at 5-5.  However, the Packers took a nose dive, winning just their game of the season against the winless Lions.  The Bears beat a terrible Rams team 27-3.   This set up a crucial matchup with the Vikings.  A win would put the Bears in the driver’s seat for the division.  The Bears started out great, only to fall apart in the second quarter.  A goal line stand by the Vikings followed by a 99-yard TD pass to Bernard Berrian changed the complex of the game.  In the end, it was a 34-14 loss.

At 6-6, the Bears playoff hopes were dim.  They had to win their final four games to even have a chance.    An easy 23-10 win against Jacksonville was a good start.  The Bears needed overtime to beat both the Saints and Packers.  Their final game was at Houston and their high powered pass attack.  The Bears jumped out to a 10-0 lead, only to watch the Texans walk all over the defense.  In the end, it was a 31-24 loss.  Had the Bears won, they would’ve made the playoffs.  In the end, they fell a game short.

The 2008 Chicago Bears was one of the more interesting seasons I ever experienced.  Pretty much everything that could happen did: easy wins, painful losses, shootouts, last second miracles, and many unexpected twists.  It was a roller coaster ride that was at times unpredictable and rather hazardous to your health.  In the end, the Bears fell a bit short.  A nine win season certainly isn’t terrible, especially when expectations are low.  However, the Bears still have questions and work to do to get back to the level they were just two years ago.  Can they do it?  That question is yet to be answered.

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