The Bears showed commitment to the run early and that took pressure off Caleb Hanie. Chicago's run-heavy play calls also eliminated the chances for Hanie to make mistakes. Instead, it was Marion Barber who made the two disastrous errors. Barber carried four times for 36 yards during a six-play scoring drive in the third quarter and finished with 108 yards.
Give offensive coordinator Mike Martz some credit for exercising some restraint with the pass-run ratio. The Bears ran the ball 13 times in the first half and passed on just nine occasions, and that conservative approach kept the game close while allowing Caleb Hanie to complete some throws. Hanie hit on 67 percent of his passes in the first half and finished connecting on 63.2 percent for the game with Martz cranking up the rushing attempts for the Bears.
Lovie Smith's confidence in his defense's ability to shut down any type of option game was warranted by its dominating performance. Tebow gained yards off scrambles on pass plays, but wasn't a factor in the rushing attack. Tebow's running backs didn't do much, either. Willis McGahee averaged just 2.8 yards per attempt in the first half and the Broncos averaged just 3.6 yards per attempt.
Tim Tebow connected on just 23 percent of his passes in the first half; pressure from the Bears' front four played a role in his inaccuracy. But in crunch time, the Bears were unable to contain Tebow, who at one point in the fourth quarter completed nine consecutive passes. Henry Melton and Julius Peppers each notched first half sacks, while cornerback Charles Tillman intercepted a Tebow throw. On third-down situations, however, Tebow was given too much time.
Robbie Gould boomed a career-best 57-yard field goal, which was also the longest in team history. Devin Hester hadn't made much of an impact in the return game coming into Sunday, but he showed some grittiness in breaking a 26-yard return in the third quarter. The big return eventually led to Marion Barber's. The hands team also receives kudos -- especially Nick Roach -- for recovering Denver's onside-kickoff attempt.
The Bears' coaching staff put together strong plans on offense and defense, but there's nothing the coaches can do to make a seven-year veteran (Barber) stay inbounds late in the fourth quarter or prevent him from fumbling the game away. The Bears shut down Denver most of the game, but allowed the Broncos to make plays down the stretch. It's hard to put that on the coaching staff considering the team played so well through the first three quarters before falling apart in the last five minutes.
EXPERTS' PREDICTIONS FOR WEEK 14
- DeFalco (8-4)
- J.D. (7-5)
- Jon (7-5)
- Isaacson (7-5)
- Jurkovic (8-4)
- Silvy (9-3)
- Spain (9-3)
- Harry (8-4)
- Waddle (8-4)
- Wilbon (8-4)
- Woj (7-5)
- Wright (6-6)