As was said after another “Monday Night Football” appearance 14 years ago, the Chicago Bears are who we thought they were.
The league’s most dubious 5-1 team is now its most dubious 5-2 squad, having stumbled badly on ESPN’s national prime-time stage and heading into another marquee match-up Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Let’s take stock of winners and losers away from the scoreboard, based on the ESPN telecast, which was simulcast on free over-the-air TV by Chicago’s ABC-7.
Winner: Brian Griese
ESPN analyst Brian Griese apparently coaxed quite a quote out of quarterback Nick Foles concerning his relationship with play-calling Bears coach Matt Nagy.
Late in the game, Griese said Foles told him: “Sometimes play calls come in and I know that I don’t have time to execute that play call — and I’m the one out here getting hit.”
Great stuff, but one quibble: Why would Griese sit on it until less than five minutes remained in the game? That’s the sort of nugget viewers should expect to hear the first or second time Bears protection breaks down and forces Foles to rush a pass or take a sack.
Loser: Nick Foles
“In that situation with Brian, I think it was just a miscommunication of words because that’s not what I was trying to bring across in that conversation,” Bears quarterback Nick Foles said when asked after the game about what Griese said, exhibiting enough clumsiness to make “a miscommunication of words” plausible but not necessarily selling what he said was “a great relationship” with Matt Nagy.
Just guessing, but one imagines Nick Foles will be more guarded if and when he does a pregame briefing with ESPN announcers Brian Griese, Louis Riddick and Steve Levy ahead of the Bears’ next “MNF” appearance on Nov. 16 vs. the Vikings.
Winner: First Down Pylon Cam
While gimmicky cameras usually underwhelm, occasionally one is in the exact right place at exactly the right time for exactly the right shot.
ESPN’s First Down Pylon Cam came through for viewers, showing the Bears’ Javon Wims short of a first down on an 8-yard reception in the second quarter.
Even better: When there wasn’t a reason to use the camera, ESPN didn’t feel the need to force the angle on us. The network hasn’t always shown that kind of restraint in the past.
Loser: Ted Ginn Jr.
Bears punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. knows he’s allowed to catch punts, right?
Winner: ‘Brian’s Song’
Acknowledging the death earlier this season of Bears great Gale Sayers, ESPN’s Steve Levy spoke of Sayers’ relationship with teammate Brian Piccolo. He also put in a plug for the great 1971 ABC TV movie, “Brian’s Song” starring Billy Dee Williams and James Caan.
(There was no mention of William Blinn, the film’s screenwriter, who died last week at 83.)
The reference was yet another inadvertent reminder the Bears, sadly, have decided not to commemorate the Hall of Famer’s No. 40 with a patch or helmet sticker.
Loser: Dr. Seuss
ESPN’s “MNF” animated bits always seem over-the-top. But the one this week based on Nick Foles’ travels through the NFL — riffing on Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” and requiring Levy to attempt a Seuss-ian rhyme — was even more of a stretch than usual. In this case, Horton hears a why.
(We also didn’t need the faux feature on the Rams and Bears that ran twice during pregame coverage, narrated by Giancarlo Esposito, that was really a long plug for “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus.)
Winner: Steve Levy
ESPN play-by-play announcer Steve Levy is a marked improvement on Joe Tessitore, whose over-amped presence of the last two years on “MNF” is not missed. (Brian Griese and Louis Riddick are upgrades, too.)
Levy said Griese was 3-3 in his 2006-7 stint with Bears and Griese said that won’t get a quarterback into the Pro Bowl.
“Depends on how many people bail out of the Pro Bowl,” Levy said, which was funny because it was true.
Loser: The Forum
While talking up the new home of the Rams (and Chargers) — a $5 billion edifice that seems to have everything but paying customers — ESPN’s Steve Levy said Inglewood, Calif., “used to be home of the fabulous Forum” and mentioned the NHL’s Kings and NBA’s Lakers and Clippers.
First off, Inglewood still is home to the Forum, which Levy acknowledged when an aerial shot showed it across the parking lot from SoFi Stadium.
Secondly, the Clipper never called the Forum home although, ironically, team owner Steve Balmer bought the arena earlier this year from James Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Entertainment, ostensibly so the New York Knicks owner will not stand in the way of building a new arena nearby for the Clippers. Balmer intends to operate the Forum as a music venue.
Winner: Duke Slater
Singled out for recognition as an “NFL Trailblazer” on ESPN’s “MNF” this week was the late Fred W. “Duke” Slater, a Chicago Cardinals lineman from 1926-31 who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year.
The former Iowa star not only was the NFL’s first Black lineman, he went on to become an attorney and then the Cook County Superior Court’s first Black judge.
Loser: NFL Votes initiative
If the NFL Votes initiative is going to go to the trouble of producing a short clip to encourage participation in the election, maybe the promo should run before the last three minutes of the game. You know, when most people around the country are still watching.
Winner: Chuck Swirsky
Bulls radio announcer Chuck Swirsky, who in an ordinary year would be calling basketball games this time of year, shared a sound critique — and welcome perspective — as he watched the Bears and Rams.
“I can’t stand it when broadcasters use the word ‘pressure,’ ” Swirsky said on Twitter. “Seriously. Coaches signed up for this. They’re making millions of dollars. If they get fired, they get paid and hook up with another team. Pressure is being unemployed and looking for a job to provide for your family.”
Loser: Monica Aldama and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
To simulcast ESPN’s telecast, Chicago’s ABC-7 had to bump “Dancing With the Stars” to after midnight. It was “Villains Night” with the dancers dressed up for Halloween because why not?
Monica Aldama of the Netflix docuseries “Cheer,” which frankly is scary enough, was made up to look like Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and the series “Ratched.” But her jazz dance with partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy wasn’t good enough to keep them in the competition.
Winner: Chris Berman
ESPN brings in Chris Berman to do halftime highlights, as apparently only he can do now that Howard Cosell isn’t around. A lot of us expected that by 2020 there would be an A.I. program with Berman’s voice in place of the flesh-and-blood version, so let’s give Berman his props for hanging in there.
Loser: A lot of bettors
Darren Rovell of Action Network tweeted that the vast majority of the money bet with FanDuel on the “Monday Night Football” game was riding on the Bears. That’s why those gambling outfits can afford all those TV commercials.
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