There’s never a dull year in the world of sports, and 2014 was certainly no exception. While it definitely had its low points (Donald Sterling, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson), 2014 still produced more than its fair share of memorable games, performances and moments, so let’s take a look back at some of the best things that the world of sports had to offer in 2014.
It’s finally over, Bears fans.
No more watching a passionless, unmotivated football team every week. Your energy can now be used watching the Bulls and Blackhawks – teams that are among the best in their respective leagues.
The 2014 Chicago Bears season was the franchise’s worst since 2002 under Dick Jauron when the team went 4-12. Despite this year’s marginally better record of 5-11, this season will easily be seen as one of the worst in the team’s history.
Chicago’s defense allowed an opponent to score 30-plus points in six games this season while ranking as the third worst unit in the league. The team’s 53-23 loss to the Patriots and its 55-14 loss to the Packers in back-to-back contests was the worst performance in consecutive weeks by an NFL team since 1923.
The offense didn’t fare much better this season, ranking 21st in the league and quarterback Jay Cutler led the NFL in total turnovers.
All of this rightfully contributed to the Bears cleaning house on Monday, firing the coaching staff and general manager Phil Emery.
I could go on and on about the negatives of this season, but, if it’s possible to believe me, there were some positives that can be drawn from 2014.
1. Chicago has the best running back in the league
Matt Forte only ranked 12th in the league with total rushing yards (1,038), but rushing only tells part of the story. Forte, along with being one of the NFL’s best blocking backs, is also the league’s best receiving threat out of the backfield.
Forte finished the year with 808 receiving yards. It was the best receiving performance by a running back this season and was about 200 yards shy of breaking the NFL receiving record for a running back.
Forte was underused at times due to the Bears falling behind quickly in a lot of games, so his numbers could have been even better, but his season was more than good enough to abate at least some of the woes the offense put fans through.
2. The Bears Found Charles Tillman’s Replacement
The saddest story of 2014 for the Chicago Bears was Charles Tillman’s season and probably career-ending triceps injury in the second week of the season. Thankfully, rookie cornerback, Kyle Fuller, has lived up his first round draft pick hype and is poised to be a solid replacement.
Fuller finished the year with 64 tackles, three forced fumbles, four interceptions and was the only positive aspect of the team’s awful pass defense.
Injuries to his hand and knee limited Fuller’s effectiveness to some degree, but, healthy, Fuller will develop into the shut down and turnover-causing corner Tillman was for over a decade in Chicago.
3. The Defensive Line is Solid
The Bears defensive line has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL if it remains healthy – something that is not easy to do. An unhealthy defensive line ranked 17th in the league in total rushing yards allowed. It’s not impressive, but given the situation, it’s not terrible.
Lead by Jeremiah Ratliff, the defense accumulated a respectable 39 sacks on the year. Jared Allen had 55 tackles and 5.5 sacks after a slow start to the season, and rookie Will Sutton proved to be a steal for a third-round pick.
The talent is there at the defensive line for at least two more years, which gives the Bears the ability to focus on improving the pass defense.
The 2014 Big Ten Championship game is set for this weekend in Indianapolis. The Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers will face off with the winner claiming the conference title and … actually, we don’t know what else.
For the first time ever, we really can’t be sure if the Big Ten’s champion even has a shot at playing in the Rose Bowl. That’s probably okay. Nothing against The Grandaddy of Them All, but there are bigger prizes to be had now. Of course, with the Rose Bowl hosting one of this season’s semifinal playoff games, it’s still a mighty big prize.
But only one of these two teams has a shot — a long shot — of making it to Pasadena if it wins. [Read more…] about Big Ten Championship Game Preview: Will Legends Be Made? (Or Playoff Spirits Broken?)
Week 13 of Big Ten football brings several critical matchups, some important “yardstick” games, and also Northwestern versus Purdue. We’re heading into the silly season for coaches as, if history is any guide, this will be the penultimate game for at least one Big Ten coaching staff. So this week I’m giving extra attention to coaching, particularly in those situations where one or both coaches look like they’re about to get their gooses cooked.
Big Ten football last Saturday was all about who was going to win the East. We’re pretty confident who that will be now. But what about the West? Two huge games will sort that out for us — and one is a total surprise. Click onward and let’s get to it.