On Second Thought—Homer J Thoughts and Grades on Steelers @ Bears
Another Immaculate Extension—one of the few happy moments in the game. [Photo via Steelers.com]
As usual I am editing Homer J’s game notes and giving his grades in full. As usual I might feel moved to add an occasional comment, in italics. And in his uniquely Homer fashion he gave some fascinating insight on the protests rocking the league. He suggested, and I concurred, that they be a separate article, and in combination with my thoughts as I read about what was going on league-wide yesterday, it will appear tomorrow…Ed.
Ben opens [the game] with empty backfield, overthrows Martavis by about six inches on a bomb. Three and out. [Something we would see, alas, too often…]
[First defensive series] Defense swarming—excellent pass defense—three and out. [Cue ominous music]
[Eli] Rogers muffs punt—Bears recover at PIT 29. First major turnover of the season. [Ramp up ominous music]
No [T.J.] Watt, no [Stephon] Tuitt, and no penetration—or at least not enough. Looks like we are really missing [them], and the defense needs to adjust and step up.
Howard off the left side, 3-yard TD. Bears are playing power football, and did well on this drive. This is not the start we had been hoping for. 7-0. Uh-oh. [I’m guessing we also all hoped that no Chicago drives would begin from the PIT 29, too…]
[The next Steelers drive started in a more promising way, with a big PI call and this:]
Ben [Roethlisberger] scrambles, hits [Antonio] Brown for first down. It was sweet watching Ben and AB improvise on this play, seemingly knowing what the other would do. [But cue the ominous music again:]
[Le’Veon] Bell up the middle for only two. Bears are winning the battle of the line of scrimmage early in this game.
On 3rd and 8, Ben hit and strip sacked on linebacker blitz, and [Ramon] Foster is down and hurt. Bears recover near midfield. This is getting very ugly very fast.
[On the Bears drive, which unfortunately begins right at midfield:]
The Bears are looking strong in the trenches, wonder when we might have a Deebo sighting.
Barth 47-yard field goal try wide right—bullet dodged. Still 7-0. [This is more of the game weirdness of which I spoke in yesterday’s post. Not that it is weird that a kicker misses a kick from the high 40s—those are scarcely gimmes—but that, out of character, I was yelling “MISS, MISS,” and he did…]
[Next Steelers series:]
On first down Bell gets a nice gain, but it is negated by an illegal shift. This first quarter has been a complete nightmare.
Ben goes deep to AB. Flag, long conversation. They pick up the flag, because it’s still the first quarter, and the nightmare continues…
[During the next CHI series:]
Cohen around right end, illegal block to the back, 10 yard penalty, 1st and 20. The first quarter, mercifully, is over.
On the first play of the second quarter, [Anthony] Chickillo blindsides Glennon on sack to make it 2nd and 29.
[Perhaps the first Steelers break came on the subsequent series:]
Bell piles forward on the right side to the first down marker. Measurement. Got it by less than the nose of the football.
Ben play action, to Juju [Smith-Schuster] down the middle, knocked away on solid defensive play. [An awful lot of this sort of thing was going on, all game. But on 3rd and 1, cue “William Tell Overture”]
[Terrell] Watson sighting. Watson powers forward for the first down!!!
Ben quick pass to AB, who jukes and dives into end zone. Yet another Immaculate Extension. 7-7. 5:42 left in the half.
[Next Bears series:]
[After pointing out that Artie Burns perhaps got away with PI on Markus Wheaton, Homer continues:]
On 3rd and 2, Howard breaks several tackles in the backfield. Four guys had their hands on him. [Another frequent feature of this game, even as Howard kept leaving because of his bum shoulder. He reminded me of the guy in the Monty Python movie: “It’s only a flesh wound.”]
Cohen out-jukes [Ryan] Shazier in backfield, changes direction, and runs to PIT 33. Second play in a row that the Steelers overran the defender.
Shaheen wide open in end zone. Totally all alone for the TD. Bears went 75 yards in five minutes on this drive. The defense looks lost without Watt and Tuitt.
[Final Steelers drive of the half begins:]
Bryant absolutely mugged but no PI call. [Maybe it was a make-up call for the missed PI on Wheaton…]
[And finally, the play I reported on at length yesterday, the blocked field goal and subsequent weirdness:]
McDonald won’t quit, and makes the strip of the return man at the one-yard line as Cooper was hot-dogging it. Huuuge play by Vance McDonald. [Jordan] Berry knocked ball out of the end zone, and question is whether that was illegal…[After reporting on the replay and aftermath:] This is as strange as anything we’ve ever seen. Was it [Xavier] Grimble who missed the block on the left side?
17-7 at the half. Even though they dodged a bullet on the blocked FG attempt, it was still a negative six-point swing. Instead of 14-10, it’s 17-7. Not a good day for Danny Smith and the special teams. Not good at all.
[In the] first half we have been living in our fears and nightmares. Bears have more than held their own at the line of scrimmage. They have been able to possess the football and establish a consistent running game. They are winning 17-7, because they have played far better football. Again, we miss Watt and Tuitt, and while the offense has shown signs of breaking through, they haven’t put the points on the board. We have seen this movie before—playing poorly against a lesser team, and in position to lose a game where the Steelers are heavily favored. Not a good feeling.
Second Half, which began with a kickoff to Chicago:
Three and out! [Sweet…and it is worth pointing out that the D held the Bears without a point in the second half.]
Ben hits AB for first down at 44. No matter what, these two stay in rhythm. [But alas, it was all for naught, and Berry’s punt went into the end zone. But the D steps up:]
Howard hit behind line of scrimmage. [Loses ball, Shazier recovers it.] Call on the field is a fumble. Was his knee down? Every other call has gone against the Steelers so far. Call on the field stands. Steelers get the ball at the CHI 16.
Empty *%!! backfield [on 3rd and goal at the 1]. Holding on AB in the end zone makes it 1st and goal. Bell fights his way for the TD. That was all Bell, who moved the pile. [He did have a bit of help from B.J. Finney…] 17-14
The Bears have answered the Steelers TD with a solid drive, [but cue William Tell Overture again:]
Howard stuffed in backfield on delayed handoff. Loss of four. Glennon sacked by [Javon] Hargrave, loss of 7. 3rd and 21, but holding on Leno against Chickillo makes it 3rd and 31, back at the PIT 42. Sean Davis heading to the locker room. Another injury to the defense. Draw takes it to PIT 40. End of third quarter—Bears 4th and forever at Steelers 40. A false start by the Bears moves it back again. [But the punt is a good one, and the Steelers start at their own 10.]
Bell tries the middle, for two. Bell tries the right side, and gets only two. Does he still have the burst that he had last year?
Ben hits Juju down the left sideline, and he gets 20 yards after the catch. [That’s more like it! And in other good news, Jesse James also gets some yards after the catch, even if it is only five. Homer stated that he “galumphed forward.” Baby steps, baby steps…]
Ben sacked for 3-yard loss on 3rd and 3. [Chris] Hubbard [who was in at right tackle for the injured Marcus Gilbert] was held on the play, no call. [The subsequent punt pinned the Bears at their own 9.]
After two runs were stuff, and Howard went out with an injury, [J.J.] Wilcox makes a great interception. [This drive, which began at the Chicago 21, led to a field goal, making it 17-17.]
Nothing comes easy, does it?
Howard back in, giving it his all. This is the Bears’ Super Bowl, folks. [Bears eventually forced to punt:]
Short punt, with Steeler bounce to the 37 with 5:12 left.
Bell on draw play looks like Bell of old, hurdles tackler for 13 yards. [Unfortunately it was 1st and 20 after a holding call on Hubbard.]
Steelers no huddle, empty backfield. Ben’s pass to AB almost picked off. Steelers have to punt. Ben goes off the field, looks like he is favoring his thumb [which he banged into another player’s helmet earlier in the game.]
[The punt was returned almost to midfield by Cohen, but holding against CHI moved it back deep in CHI territory.]
That punt was shades of the 2014 Tampa Bay game when a Bucs punt return in the final minutes put Glennon in position to engineer the winning drive. We’ve seen this movie before, but last time, the punt return was a killer. This time it is the Bears starting at their own 9 yard line.
[on a 2nd and 1]: Does Glennon gamble here? As the Brits say, who dares wins.
Cohen gets first down but fumbles, recovered by Bears, YUUUGE break.
Glennon pass. [Mike] Mitchell jumps the route but can’t hold on to the ball. Two big chances for a turnover, both come up empty. [Eventually CHI is forced to punt from their 41 with 1:13 left in the game, and after a sack of Roethlisberger at :22 seconds, no time outs left, the game goes to overtime.]
Cohen runs for 75 yards and it’s all over. But the side judge called him out at the 37 yard line. Jeez, this is beyond painful. Defense looks totally gassed. Uh-oh.
Howard off the left side for TD. The Bears deserved to win this game, and the defense simply ran out of everything at the end.
REPORT CARD: FAIL
DEFENSIVE LINE: F. Bears ran for more than 200 yards, and these guys were absolutely sucking wind at the end. The Bears kept running that stretch play and the Steelers had no answer. They missed Tuitt more than words can say.
LINEBACKERS: D. Bears kept running that stretch play and the Steelers’ linebackers had no answer, other than over-running the ball carrier when they did get penetration. [I’m sensing a theme…] They were not only outplayed, they were out of control and left huge gaps in the defense that Chicago exploited all day with cutbacks into empty space. Again, the Bears rushed for more than 200 yards. The Steelers missed Watt more than words can say. Can you say “Where’s Deebo?”
DEFENSIVE BACKS: C-. A ten cent quarterback nickeled and dimed them all day, with Glennon going 16 for 22 for about 100 yards. Not great, but good enough to beat them. Wilcox made an outstanding interception, and Haden made a couple of nice plays, but the back four are only as good as the front seven, and the front seven stunk.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-. Played without Gilbert, and Foster went out with a wrist injury, but they managed decent pass protection and didn’t embarrass themselves too much on run blocking. The Bears controlled the line of scrimmage.
RUNNING BACKS: C-: Bell seems to lack the burst this year, and was held to 61 yards rushing and 37 yards receiving, even though they are trying to make full use of him. Dropped a critical third down pass in the flat. He is not the back that he was last year, not by a long shot, and the plan seems to be to run him until the rust is gone. The plan is not working, yet.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C: AB gets the usual A. Just about everyone else was AWOL. Juju had a couple of nice plays, but that’s about it.
QUARTERBACK: D-: 22 for 39 against the Bears’ secondary is anything but elite, and 4 for 13 on third down is wretched. So many of his passes were just off the mark. He hurt his thumb in the second half, and looked like he was trying to mask his discomfort on the sidelines.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F-. Historically bad, and the worst special teams performance in years. Cost them the game and embarrassed the hell out of themselves. Rogers drops a punt. Cost them the lead right from the get-go. The blocked field goal was the key play of the game, and the only good thing about it was it became a six-point swing instead of 10 points because McDonald kept hustling while Cooper was hot-dogging it. As Chuck Noll once said, good things happen to those who hustle. Special teams were simply awful. [I started to protest that Jordan Berry knocking the ball away from the CHI player who tried to fall on it should also be a point for special teams hustle, but realized that it is at least possible that had it been ruled a safety, the Steelers might have won in regulation by one point. Still, Berry made it all the way to that point when things looked hopeless, and that’s worth something…]
COACHING: F. What we had wasn’t working, yet we didn’t see Deebo, Conner, or Watson, except for one carry by Watson for a first down. The play calling was uninspired and the execution was worse. Sure, they missed Watt and Tuitt, Gilbert and Foster, but, as Tomlin says, football is a game of attrition.
THE TAKEAWAY: The Bears had the Falcons on the ropes the first week of the season, and showed they can be competitive, especially by establishing the run. They’re gonna win half a dozen games, if they stay reasonably healthy. Of course, Glennon has won two starts in 34 years, both against the Steelers. He is Steeler Kryptonite, and Homer never wants to see him again. Overall, the Steelers stunk. They stunk worse than the Chicago stockyards on a hot August afternoon. They didn’t come out for the National Anthem, which was one thing, but they also didn’t show up for the game, had an absolutely dreadful first quarter, and were the walking dead in overtime.
You gotta beat the teams you should beat. The Steelers have been losing games like this for years, and they’ve run out of excuses. It is the one glaring failure on Tomlin’s otherwise solid resume.