My expectations for the Chicago Bears' 2018 season was quite reserved after the team's decent preseason performances. The starters saw very little play time, so I didn't really know what to expect. My expectations rose a little bit after the Bears swindled Khalil Mack from the Raiders. At least the defense would probably be pretty good. I wasn't expecting the defense to be this good, however!

Khalil Mach has absolutely dominated in these early season games, recording at least one sack and a forced fumble in each of the first four games (as well as some fumble recoveries and an interception returned for a touchdown). This dominance wasn't quite enough to stop Aaron Rodgers from limping his way to a 20-point comeback victory in the second half. Rodgers left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury, but came back later after backup Deshaun Kizer proved to be completely ineffective.

Khalil Mack has been absolutely dominant, and is on pace to earn every penny of his contract!

Rodgers was clearly in pain, as he was forced to stand and hobble in the pocket, unable to put much weight on that injured leg. Yet the Bears didn't manage to get to him at all in the second half.

Put quite frankly, and bluntly, I am dumbfounded that Rodgers' career isn't over. That might sound heartless, but Rodgers did not need to come back into that game. He should not have come back in that condition. His coaches and trainers should not have let him, and the league should not have let him (considering all their BS talk about "player safety"). If he had suffered further injury (possibly season or career-ending), that would be entirely on him and the coaching / training staff!

Now I don't know if coach Nagy and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio dialed back the pressure (which it looked to me like they did), or if Rodgers' offensive line simply laid it all on the line to protect him (in which case, they all deserve awards!), but I would have been sending everything and the kitchen sink after Rodgers during that second half. I'd have been blitzing 6, 7, or even 8 guys every single play. No mercy. If Rodgers wanted to put himself at risk by coming back into the game with that injured leg (again, barely even able to stand on his own leg, let alone run on it), then I would have made him suffer for it.

If the NFL really cares about "player safety", then why did they not intervene
when the Packers put Aaron Rodgers back into the game?

I don't want to see anybody get hurt, but Rodgers was asking for it. Again, considering it's hard-line positions on player safety, I am absolutely amazed that the NFL allowed the Packers to play Rodgers, and that they didn't fine the Packers or Rodgers for that reckless behavior. This just goes to show how the NFL isn't really concerned with player safety, only with the bottom line, and Rodgers leading an epic come-back victory while hobbling around on one leg certainly made for prime viewing, and made that game into an all-time classic. The NFL will penalize and fine defenders for doing their jobs, but you'll let a cripple walk onto the field and put himself at risk? Shame on you, NFL!

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The football gods gave UNLV every opportunity to win on Saturday afternoon against the Air Force Academy Falcons. The whole game was defined by fumbles, and virtually all of them bounced in UNLV's favor. Half a dozen Air Force fumbles were recovered by UNLV. Air Force botched a field goal snap. There was even a gust of wind that pulled a kickoff such that it hit the ground in front of the returner and then bounced backwards right into the hands of the incoming UNLV coverage team -- which was either the craziest fluke play that I've seen in a long time, or it's the most genius onside kick that I've seen in a long time.

UNLV vs Air Force - fumbles
The game was defined by fumbles, and UNLV was the beneficiary of almost all of them!

UNLV's 27-7 halftime lead wasn't really a case of them beating Air Force. The ball was literally being gift-wrapped (sometimes by Air Force, sometimes by blind luck) and handed to UNLV. They were the beneficiaries of constant mistakes by Air Forces and lucky bounces. But this undeserved lead also wasn't enough to guarantee the victory, as I smelled trouble as soon as UNLV stepped onto the field in the second half. The offense failed to move the ball, and the defense couldn't slow down Air Force's triple option attack. Even though the defense got plenty of rest in the first half of the game due to Air Force's constant fumbles, they still looked exhausted throughout the second half of the football game.

Perhaps the game-deciding play was the single instance in which the ball didn't bounce in UNLV's favor. After being completely shut down in the second half, Armani Rogers finally ripped off a big run in Air Force territory and looked like he might turn momentum back in favor of the Rebels. But he fumbled in Air Force territory, the ball bounced towards the Air Force goal line, and the ball slipped through the hands of two Rebel players before finally being downed in the end zone by Air Force. A Rebel even had the ball in his hand at the goaline, but a Falcon defender swiped it out of his grasp at the last instant, forcing the ball into the end zone where a Falcon fell on it. The play was even reviewed to see if the recovering Rebel had broken the plane before the ball was swiped. He was not...

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Every year, I hope that UNLV's football team will show some improvements. That it won't repeat the same mistakes that it's made year after year.

But every year, UNLV finds a way to let an easily winnable game slip away early in the season, setting a tone of disappointment for the entire season. Usually, UNLV at least gets its first game or two against a power conference team and gets to raise an illusion of optimism by playing surprisingly well until they inevitably get overpowered in the fourth quarter.

UNLV vs Howard - Caylin Newton
Cam Newton's little brother, Caylin, thrashed UNLV with his legs in a 43-40 upset.

But this year, the tone-setting upset couldn't even wait past week one. In fact, it couldn't even make it past the first play of the season. UNLV opened its 2017 season by going offsides on the opening kickoff. They went on to play a mistake-filled game that Howard University exploited to a 43-40 victory -- the biggest upset against a point spread in college football history. A $100 bet on Howard to win outright would have won you $55,000.

UNLV lacked discipline, committing multiple procedural penalties that killed drives and put UNLV in a hole early. They lacked energy and couldn't contain freshman quarterback Caylin Newton (Cam Newton's younger brother) who dominated UNLV with his running ability. And UNLV gave up back-breaking fumbles that prevented momentum from swinging back in their favor.

UNLV seemed to have a lot going for them going into this season. UNLV had one of the top running games last season. The defensive line is supposed to be improved. Star receiver Devonte Boyd is back from a severe injury that prematurely ended his 2016 campaign, and he has a hyped up freshman quarterback throwing him the ball.

The offense did show some promise. Rogers and Boyd connected on some big passes, and the running game looked pretty good. They even met their goal of 40 points per game!

UNLV vs Howard - Devonte Boyd
Armani Rogers and Devonte Boyd hooked up for a couple big plays.

The defense, however, looked abysmal. From the start, they showed a frustrating lack of energy. They lost contain, missed open-field tackles, and couldn't get to Caylin Newton in the pocket. From the start of the game, the defense looked like it was tired, as if it had already gone through three quarters of ground-and-pound football. Howard had even recognized that UNLV's greatest weakness is likely to be its secondary and coverage against the deep pass. Howard took a number of shots down the field, but was never able to connect. Kudos to Howard's coaches for identifying that vulnerability and designing a gameplan to exploit it, but they didn't have to exploit UNLV's obvious weakness, because even the supposed strengths of the defense looked rusty and full of holes...

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One of the things that I like about preseason is that I get to watch all the Bears games, since NFL Network shows re-broadcasts of every preseason game. I don't have any of those fancy satellite TV services, which means I'm stuck with only the regular season games that are broadcast on cable. So I didn't get to watch the Bears week 1 loss to the Houston Texans. I didn't miss much.

Offensive ineptitude ruined any chances of Chicago staying in their week 1 match-up against the Texans.

My preseason perception of the Bears as being inept on offense was validated by the final score of 23-14. Granted, the Texans are one of the better defenses in the league, but sloppy play has been the Bears M.O. throughout preseason. The defense actually gave the team some opportunities, but offensive mistakes just undid any gains that the Bears made early. Botched snaps, sacks, an interception, and fumbles ended too many drives, and the defense just couldn't hold back the Texans' offense.

I did get to watch the Bears' game against the Eagles on Monday night. It looked very similar. The defense played very well throughout much of the game, holding the Eagles to only nine points up through almost the end of the third quarter. Jacoby Glenn and Tracy Porter made some key pass break-ups that ended Eagles drives and gave the Bears offense opportunities to buffer the score. But once again, a fumble and an interception from Jay Cutler gave the Eagles a two-score lead. Cutler was under siege right from the start of the game, and the very first play from scrimmage was a sack of Cutler. It also didn't help that Connor Barth missed a field goal early in the game. So much for replacing Robbie Gould in order to save salary cap space. As Jay Gruden pointed out, you get what you pay for. With the offense being as bad as it has been, Gould was likely going to be the team's leading scorer this year. That should have made him a valuable commodity who is worth paying, even though he is "only a kicker". Cutler eventually left the game with a hand injury, only to have other players make costly mistakes. The Bears were driving at the beginning of the fourth quarter with Brian Hoyer under center, until Jeremy Langford gave up the first fumble of his pro career.

Eagles at Bears 2016 - Carson Wentz
The defense stood firm early, but the Carson Wentz phenomenon
was too much for it to handle without help from the offense.

Then the flood gates opened. The defense just couldn't contain the Eagles anymore. The defense managed to make a fourth down stop on the goal-line, only to give the Eagles a second chance (and a walk-in score) due to an offsides penalty. This sequence also saw starting nose tackle Eddie Goldman go down with an apparent leg injury after being bent over backwards. He had to be carted off the field. Hopefully, the injury isn't as serious as it looked...

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I saw on NFL Network earlier today that there is apparently some controversy regarding the following play at the end of the New York Giants / Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on Sunday, September 16th:

After the game, during the handshake, Giants coach Tom Coughlin was apparently irate with Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano regarding this play, shouted at him the whole time, and almost walked away without shaking hands. The folks on NFL Network were even talking about the possibility of the league taking action against the Buccaneers and possibly even changing the rules somehow to prevent this sort of thing.

What a big baby!

The Buccaneers are trying to win the game! That's the whole point of playing. They are trying to force a mistake that will give them an opportunity to get the ball back and score.

I guess the Giants just didn't want another "Miracle at the Meadowlands" to spoil their game.

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