Who Had The Worse Weekend, the Chicago Bears or the Illinois Fighting Illini?


By Paul Schmidt

For most Chicago area football fans, the weekend wasn’t a complete loss. For anyone who is a University of Illinois graduate and a Chicago Bears fan…let’s say you’ve had better weekends, and leave it at that.

During the awfulness that was the Bears’ game on Sunday, it spawned somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 tweets on Twitter about just how bad the Bears were, and the most proposed question was, “Who would win in a game of football, the Bears or the University of Illinois?”

I opined in response to one of these questions that it’s just a silly question, that of course the Bears would win.

It took a tweet from @bears_insider that made me really think about what had just happened: “Ah, but what if Juice Williams wasn’t playing for the Illini?”

It really says something about how bad the Bears looked that that actually made me think for just a moment.

This is why, despite the insanity that was the Illinois game (over 200 yards rushing given up to Purdue by Illinois’ now-101st ranked run defense, rotating three quarterbacks and simultaneously killing both Jacob Charest’s and Eddie McGee’s confidences), the Bears had the far worse weekend.

Jay Cutler cemented himself as an enigma this season, sort of a higher profile Rex Grossman — Each game’s outcome will be determined in the first few minutes of offensive game play, whether Good Jay or Evil Jay shows up.

But Cutler wasn’t the only problem, nor the biggest problem.

That would be Lovie Smith and the defense.

Lovie took control of the playcalling this season, in response to Bob Babich struggling with that aspect of being defensive coordinator. This was supposed to be a return to the glory days of  Lovie’s Cover 2 (or Tampa 2, if you prefer) defense, back when the Bears, in 2006, had a ball-hawking opportunistic defense that created points on their own.

If you remember the 2006 defense, you’ll remember just how dominant and dangerous they were. Of course, with three more years of age and games played under their belt, and largely the same unit on the field, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that, on Sunday, the unit looked lost, slow and basically underprepared.

Slow, I completely understand.  I felt this whole season came down to how well the defense was going to play, and the health of Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris and Peanut Tillman. While Peanut has been healthy for the most part, Urlacher obviously is done for the season and Harris has been completely M. I. A. when he has played.

I cannot defend the defense looking lost and underprepared, however, and that blame falls right at Lovie Smith’s feet.  Since he took control of the defense back, they have been suspect at best.  The only especially good thing that has been said this season was early on the strength of the play of the front four — which was basically all attributed to Rod Marinelli, not Lovie. Motivation, it would seem, is not Lovie’s strong suit, as the defense was completely embarassed on Sunday for no apparent reason.

Lovie’s also been far too slow to get plays on the field, which is a problem given that that means the team is slow to line up in formation, which in turn means that not everyone is always set and in position for the start of the play.

This smacks of unpreparedness of the worst kind — This isn’t the team not listening to the coaches, or going through the motions. This is the head coach, Lovie Smith, in charge of calling the defensive plays because he wanted to be (not because he had to), not being prepared enough to get plays and formations on to the field quick enough for his team.

This is Lovie Smith not recognizing the offensive personnel on the field quick enough and being able to respond.

zook2This is Lovie Smith in over his head.

In Champaign, the heat is on Ron Zook and his coaching staff. It’s definitely reaching the boiling point, and he needs to produce wins now or face some dire consequences in the near future.

Still, after Sunday’s Bears’ game, I can’t help but think that Zook probably felt a little less pressure. Even if only for a day.

Week 7 NFL Live Blog


11:30 AM — Hey everyone, welcome to our NFL live blog for Week 7 of the NFL!  This is the first of three straight weeks with 6 teams on a bye, so hopefully, even if YOUR favorite team isn’t playing this week, you’ll still come in to chat us up.  Learn more about those other teams! Analyze those matchups for later in the season!

But until the games start, check out some of these great stories from the week gone by…

Looking for some NFL pick advice?  Tom Lea talks Halloween in his picks, and there’s a picture at the top of Where The Wild Things Are…if that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

Paul Schmidt takes on Vegas and the spread again this week, looking for redemption after last week’s 0-4 debacle. His bank account would also appreciate the reprieve…

How about notes from on of the more pure football experiences you could have?  That’s right, Melissa Wollering is back with “Sidetracked” again, and she talks Wisconsin High School football.  Friday night lights, baby!

It’s like an early Christmas present here at The Bank, with our Fantasy Football Advice!

Finally, Wanda Sykes gets abused by a racist dolphin.  Presumably not Greg Camarillo.

Week 6 NFL Live Blog

11:30 AM — Welcome to Week 6 of The Sports Bank’s NFL Live BLog.  This is a great week for games, with some amazing matchups, including the Game of The Week, the Giants at the Saints.

Games don’t start for another hour, so here’s some stuff to read:

How about some picks for your gambling pleasure?  We’ve got Paul Schmidt going against the spread, and Tom Lea going straight up. One of these guys is sure to be able to help you.

We’ve also got the staff’s picks for the best teams that they rooted for to not win it all.

We’ve also got our resident voice of common sense, Melissa Wollering, and her new feature Sidetracked. This week she tackles baseball celebrations — including the greatest one ever, Prince Fielder blowing up his team…

See you for the games!