Game Of The Week: Titans at Bears
• However good
• The Bears are 5-3 and a game up on Green Bay in the NFC North. Raise your hand if you expected that. (Put your hand down, Lovie.) Losing one game to the undefeated Titans would hardly mean the end of the world, and risking Orton's long-term health for a short-term reward could be disastrous. The Bears' focus should be -- and probably is -- on getting Orton back for Weeks 11 and 13 against Minnesota and Green Bay, respectively.
• Why show your hand when you don't have to, especially if that hand is
OK, maybe Orton does play. I've heard the argument that he wouldn't be hampered terribly by a bad ankle; that he's a pocket passer who doesn't bring much to the table in terms of scrambling anyway. From that point of view, maybe it's not a bad idea to put Orton in the shotgun and let him pick the Titans apart without moving much.
But that argument inaccurately presumes Orton to be a flat-footed stiff. While he's no
Want an example? Look no further than the run during which he hurt his ankle last Sunday. On that play Orton evaded two sure tackles deep in the pocket to get back to the line of scrimmage. Earlier in the game he recognized some strong pressure coming up the middle and decisively tiptoed to his left, where he found enough open field for an untouched, five-yard rushing touchdown. He had enough time to wave the football in the pursuing defender's face on that score, which makes him at least a mediocre runner in my books.
Now, imagine taking away Orton's legs and placing him in the line of fire of guys like Tennessee's
Later in the game Rodgers got creamed by stunting defensive end
"In my eyes, this is a different quarterback, a backup quarterback who is playing with a chip on his shoulder. ...Expect Rex, who already has played meaningful games in this offense, to take the playbook and run with it."
Clearly Bowen and I saw different games. I re-watched every one of Grossman's plays at least twice, and here's how I saw it: Rex is taking the same uncalled for risks and making the same stupid mistakes he always has. Last week he happened to run into a defense against whom it's excusable to make stupid mistakes. It'll be a different story against Tennessee.
In 18 attempts Grossman was intercepted just once, but he also threw three other balls that touched the hands of defenders, including one dropped interception on the Bears' 10. I saw four more throws that shouldn't have been made given the coverage, including the five-yard touchdown pass to
I also saw one poorly executed fade to
It's not just the stupid throws and the near-interceptions that differentiate Grossman from Orton. Above all on Sunday, I noticed his inability to spread the ball around. Entering Sunday, Orton had completed at least 20 passes to five targets, and that list didn't include
I imagine Lovie Smith saw through Grossman's misleading two-touchdown day and knows better than to put much faith in him against the Titans, who've picked off 13 passes this year. Just to give you an idea of their ball-hawking skills, that projects to 26 on the season, which would tie for 11th-most of any team this decade.
If Orton can't go, I expect a steady diet of
Still, it'll be tough running against a monstrous Titans front so I expect that when Grossman does throw he'll be aiming deep. In Hester, Grossman has a burner who can run under his deep heaves, much like
Looking at the bigger picture, Tennessee has gone undefeated against eight teams with a combined record of 25-40. The only opponent among those with a winning record is 5-3 Baltimore, and the Ravens were in a position to win in Week 5 when
My comparison goes beyond the Steelers' and Titans' similar thunder-and-lightning assaults. On that afternoon Pittsburgh's Heinz Field was snow-swept, leaving very little footing for the Bears' mushers. Early reports call for cold rain or snow Sunday in Chicago. That should be compounded by Soldier Field's turf, which is looking about as beat-up as ever.
Last week the grass was coming up in chunks and contributed to a missed extra point, a
Here's where I'd like to see
"They're stout up front, with Haynesworth, and [
"That helps their rush defense, but it helps their pass defense as much as anything. When you're getting pressure with a four-man rush, opponents start doing things to add people in protection to help with Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch, which is taking one extra guy out of your passing routes. You add more people to block, then you're putting fewer guys out on the routes to have success. Against us the ends were an issue, so we had to put some extra help on both sides."
Three separate picks.