Sunday's game was further evidence that Mike Martz's offense either can't, or won't, gear down into a high-percentage approach. Even with backup quarterback Caleb Hanie making his first NFL start, the Bears called passing plays on 20 of 33 plays in the first half. (Hanie attempted 15 throws, scrambled three times and was sacked twice.) In most cases, a team can't win if it waters down its offense to throwing only on obvious passing downs. But the Bears' defense and special teams have historically supported that type of approach. If nothing else, I would be interested in knowing what would have happened had that ratio simply been reversed: 20 running plays and 13 passing plays in the first half. Overall, I thought Hanie fit the style we discussed last week: Eager and able to scramble, with a live arm that can get him in trouble.
I don't think I've ever interviewed Bears offensive lineman Lance Louis, who has held down the Bears' right tackle spot for most of the season. All I could tell you about him is what I've read in his media guide biography. But sometimes you see an effort that transcends anything you could learn from speaking to or reading about a player. I noted this on Twitter on Sunday but wanted to put it out there for everyone: You'll never see an offensive lineman make a better hustle play that what Louis did when he chased down Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley after a second-quarter interception. Louis, listed at 320 pounds, sprinted 71 yards downfield, and three-quarters of the way across it, to catch Wimbley at the Bears' 12-yard line to prevent a touchdown. (Tailback Matt Forte deserves some credit for slowing Wimbley down.) The play meant four points for the Bears, who limited the Raiders to a field goal on the ensuing possession, and could be a career-changer for Louis. When you see a player do something like that, you know he really, really wants to win. Coaches don't forget that sort of thing and neither should we.
We should note that quarterback Jay Cutler paid his own way to fly from Colorado, where he had surgery Wednesday to repair a broken thumb, to join his teammates in Oakland, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Cutler was an active and positive participant in sideline discussions with Hanie and quarterbacks coach Shane Day. That turn of events won't get nearly the attention that his sour sideline demeanor generated during the 2010 NFC Championship Game, but there is nothing Cutler can do about that now. All he can do is make it right going forward, and Sunday was an indication that he will do so.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
Obviously the Bears wanted to win Sunday. But I really don't think there should be much hand-wringing over this loss. In many ways, the Raiders were an ideal opponent for a team with a quarterback making his first NFL start. The loss is as meaningless as it can be in the context of playoff positioning. Out-of-conference records have a relatively minor role in tiebreakers. And when you look at the Bears' remaining schedule, there are several more winnable games remaining than this one. If you agree they need 10 wins to get to the playoffs, it's reasonable to think they can get them at home against the Kansas City Chiefs (Week 13), at home against the Seattle Seahawks (Week 15) and at the Minnesota Vikings (Week 17).