Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Looking Forward

"It’s a frustrating thing but frustration is a very normal emotion. We can’t let that frustration prevent us from moving forward and getting ready to attack this week’s challenge.”
-- Mike Tomlin

Okay, then, let's look forward to this week's challenge: The Chicago Bears.

Devin Hester
In their first two games, both wins, the Bears have played two of the most exciting, rocking, fast-paced, rollicking, back-and-forth barn-burning contests of the young NFL season.

Led by new head coach and Canadian Football League expatriate Marc Trestman, the Bears edged the Bengals, 24-21, and the Vikings, 31-30. Both games were decided late in the fourth quarter.

On Sunday, the Bears' kick-returner extraordinaire Devin Hester did his thing. With kick returns of 76 and 80 yards, Hester broke his own Bears single-game record with 249 kickoff return yards. He is the NFL's all-time record-holder for kick returns for touchdowns (17, including 12 punt returns for touchdowns), so the Steelers' special teams had better be ready. Hester is a potential game-changer; an all-time great kick returner.

Marc Trestman
The Bears' resurgence this year comes as a bit of a surprise. Trestman, formerly an offensive coordinator with the 49ers, Browns, Raiders and Cardinals, has always seemed a wonky, geeky sort of guy, too smart for his own good. He seems to have learned a few tricks during his five years in Canada, however, and he's brought a steadying hand to a Bears' team that had seemed to drift away from former longtime coach Lovie Smith.

Defensive Takeaways
One trait the Bears' defense carries over from last year, though, is an ability to take the ball away. The Bears have three takeaways in each of the first two games. The Steelers have none. It's something the Bears do well, and the Steelers don't do at all.

The Bears' corners, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, are extremely aggressive and opportunistic. They have a knack for stripping the ball from ball-carriers, and they make interceptions, as in actually catching the ball, which is something the Steelers' corners have trouble doing.

On Sunday, vs. the Vikings, the Bears had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown and one picked off in their own end zone to prevent a touchdown. Then again, it was against Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder, who may be one of the five worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

Still, the Bears are playing energetic football. Their season-opening win against the Bengals may have been the most exciting game of Week One, and Sunday's game vs. the Vikings also went back forth, as summarized by blogger Eric Golub:

"This pinball machine was a thriller. Cordarelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown for the Vikings. Devon Hester returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards and returned another 80 yards. Defensive end Brian Robison returned a fumble 61 yards for a Minnesota touchdown, while Chicago scored on defense with a 44-yard interception return of a Christian Ponder pass. Leading 27-24 with 1st and goal at the Chicago six yard line with 3:30 to play, the Vikings settled for a field goal. That left Jay Cutler enough time to hit Martellus  Bennett with a 16-yard touchdown pass with only ten seconds left for the epic win. 31-30 Bears"

Return From Exile
Having spent the past five years exiled in Canada as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, Marc Trestman was a surprise choice to take over Chicago's coaching duties this year.  Still, he has 17 years experience coaching in the NFL, and he knows as well as anybody how tough it is to win in the NFL, as reported on the Bears' website:
"In the National Football League, it's very thin," Trestman said this week. "You can see it. We're two or three plays away from sitting here on the opposite side of both games, no doubt about it. You've got to play them all for 60 minutes and if you keep playing you hope good things can happen." 
Despite the 2-0 record, Trestman realizes that the Bears must get better in several critical areas and hopes to see those improvements beginning Sunday night at Heinz Field.  
"The best way to approach it is just take what you've learned, positively and negatively, from the games you've played and try to decipher what you need to get better through both," Trestman said. "I think we've shown to be a resilient football team for two weeks. We've been fortunate to be able to work through adversity.
"Our guys are playing smart, they're playing disciplined, and they're giving themselves a chance to win games in the fourth quarter. That's all you really want to do in the National Football League. You're seldom going to blow anybody out. You're going to have to play four quarters, and every minute counts. If you stay disciplined and stay poised and take care of the ball, you've got a chance."
Something to think about.

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