Even the always-optimistic Lovie Smith had to admit Sunday that "the Bears are who we thought they were," which was a considerable step back from his weeks-earlier proclamation that "the Bears are where we want them to be."
As the team's playoff hopes were finally extinguished with a 21-14 loss to the Packers, it seemed time to regroup and re-evaluate for next season. And although Smith never would admit as much, it was clear that the coaches were beginning to scout formerly underused talent within the team.
Just as the seldom-seen Jamar Williams stepped up to fill in for an injured Lance Briggs last weekend against the Rams, a previously-absent Devin Aromashodu had his opportunity, replacing Devin Hester, who was nursing a bum calf, for the day. Aromashoudu did well, scoring one touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Jay Cutler and getting a total of eight receptions for 76 yards, including a spectacular over-the-shoulder grab.
Aromashodu relished the opportunity and felt he'd made the best of things.
"I loved being out there," Aromadhodu said in the Soldier Field locker room after the game. "It was everything I had hoped it would be and more."
When asked what happened to his touchdown ball, Armoashoudo just smiled.
"I suspect perhaps the equipment manager might find one of the balls has gone missing today," he said. "Don't have a clue where it might be."
It's been a difficult season for the third-year player, sidelined with a quad injury during the early part of the season, and then he had to wait his turn as Hester preformed on the field. But to Armoashodu, the apprenticeship has been worth it.
"I'm not by nature a very patient person, but in this case, I just decided to make the best of my situation," said Aromashodu. "That meant learning all that I could, both when I was in and when I was on the sidelines. I think that patience paid off well today. Once I got the call to start, I felt calm, very comfortable. And when the game began, I never felt that I didn't belong out there."
At 6-2, Aromashodu is the tallest receiver on the team, a fact he sees as a definite advantage.
"Everybody came up to me after I'd scored the touchdown and told me I'd beaten Charles Woodson," he said. "They sounded surprised. That was definitely exciting for me, but I have to tell you that height is a tremendous advantage in a situation like that. Woodson is just a little bit shorter than I am, and in this case, that made a difference in my favor. I try to use the height whenever I can."
The other aspect of his play that Aromadoshu thinks might help the Bears is his physical mobility.
"That's something I work on each and every day," he said. "I think it's absolutely essential that a good wide receiver has a strong technique, that he is agile and has the ability to change direction quickly. That is what I try to bring to my game."
Armoashodu had no explanation for the slow start by the Bears offense in Week 14, but he felt that once the Packers got the early lead, it was difficult to play catch-up.
"You never want that to happen, where your opponent comes out and gets seven points almost before the game has started," he said. "That means you feel immediate pressure to come back. Sometimes pressure leads to mistakes. You hurry too much, and you try to force things. That can lead to a bad situation."
Was Aromashodu referring to the 13 penalties by the Bears that cost the team field position and scoring opportunities?
"No, not specifically," he said, "but I will concede that mistakes were made. I'd have to see the film to say exactly where the errors were. But clearly, it's an area where we need to be careful. If you are struggling for yardage, you don't want to give it up for no good reason."
When asked what he felt the team is playing for now that playoff hopes have disappeared, Aromashodu replied immediately.
"Pride," he said. "We are professionals, and this is a job we want to do well. Also, it's the bigger picture. You want to do your best to help the team, no matter what the record might be. Every game counts in our minds."
Although Armoashodu has no guarantees that he'll be seeing significant playing time once Hester has recovered, he still feels he made a statement.
"What I wanted to say was, 'Hey, coaches, remember me? I might be able to help you out from time to time if you put me in.' Hopefully, that message got through."
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Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for eight years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.
Much Better Late than Never for D.A.
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