The Bears came away with arguably their biggest win of the season by clinching the NFC North, and taking down the rival Vikings in cold, windy, snowy, and icy conditions. Bear weather if you will. If was an important win after the embarrassing loss to the Patriots a week prior at snowy and slippery Soldier Field
After a request by tfrabotta in Tuesdays Den, I thought I'd take on the arduous task of grading all five Chicago offensive lineman. It's a tough job, but a challenge I'm up for. My initial take on their play when watching the game was they played so-so. Some good stuff, but to many negative yardage plays made by the Vikes, however as they say, the film never lies. As a bonus I'll grade out Brandon Manamaleuna as well. He's been ripped quite a bit by Bears fans, but I think it's more due to his being judged by his fat contract than by his actual play. A bit of Luol Deng syndrome going on with Manu.
Dominique Blanton already did an outstanding job in giving letter grades to the offensive line in his WCG Match-Up Post earlier this week. This will just be my perspective on their play. There really is no right or wrong, it's very subjective. For example, a player may get driven back 3 yards, but if he swings his hips and seals his man off does he grade out favorably? Or if a guard doubles on the DT with the center then peels off to pick up a LB, but the DT makes the tackle, is that a positive for the guard? The only one that can give a grade with 100% certainty is Bears O-Line coach Mike Tice.
Same basic grading system I know, a + if you do your job, and a - if you don't. As always I'll spotlight a few plays.
Play 1) The only Bears lineman to receive a minus on the play was Chris Williams. J'Marcus Webb was a fraction of a second late off the ball, something I saw him do in the Patriots game, but he made his block. Williams was driven backward by Kevin Williams. Luckily for Chicago it was a run to the right, and Kevin Williams wasn't able to make the play.
Play 2) On 2nd and 3 the only Bear to get a plus was Williams. Every Bear engaged as they should have, but none sustained their block. Williams helped down on Pat Williams, then went to the second level and sealed off the LB.
Play 6) This was a 3rd and 4 incomplete pass, and all five guys did their job. It was a great example of the line working together. The Vikings showed a double A gap blitz, but backed out. The Bears adjustment to the blitz look was Olin Kreutz blocking the LB to his left, and the right side of the Bears line (Roberto Garza and Webb) also blocking to their left, Garza to the other LB and Webb to the DT. This would leave the Viking DE (Brian Robison) unblocked. It's the correct adjustment by the Bears line because you have to account for the defenders closest to the QB first. Jay Cutler knew he had to get the pass out quick.
When the Vikings backed out of the blitz Kruetz stayed on his path and helped Williams with the DT, Webb stayed on his path and took the other DT, but Garza with no one to block, and knowing the DE was free, peeled out and picked up Robison. It was just a incomplete pass, but the way the line worked together showed me these guys are starting to get it.
Play 8) This play is a good example of a play that was doomed from the start, Kruetz, Williams, and Frank Omiyale all received a minus on the play. But what was asked of Omiyale and Williams was very difficult. On 2nd and 8 from the 12 yard line the Bears ran of right tackle, and pulled Garza and Kreutz to the right. On the pull Kreutz allowed the first defender (Pat Williams who scraped down the line) to slip his block. Pat Williams lined up in the A gap between Kreutz and Chris Williams, and it was Chris that was asked to reach block Pat. A very hard block to make with the flow of the play going right. Chris should have cut Pat down. Omiyale was asked to cut off the flow of the LB and he nearly held on the play. It's just a tough block to make, again with flow going right. What would have helped the line out in this instance is if the Bears would have ran a counter action with Cutler reverse opening and Matt Forte jab stepping left before going right. Kreutz blocking down on Pat with Chris making the pull would have been good also.
Play 15) With about 13 minutes left in the 2nd quarter on a 3rd and 2 incomplete pass I gave the Bears a couple negatives. The Vikings got late pressure on a stunt and a delayed blitz. It was good execution by the Vikings as they stunted the DT away from Bears RG Roberto Garza and brought the LB back through. Garza could have reacted better to the play, he passed the stunting DT down and didn't see the LB coming. TE Manumaleuna didn't move his feet very good and was beat outside, but Forte was there for the help. Maybe he expected help on the play... but he gets a minus from me because his technique was sloppy.
Play 17) Perfect execution from all the big fellas on a 2nd and 10 fourteen yard run around left end by Matt Forte. Manu motioned right to left and set the edge. Greg Olsen lined up as the left TE and successfully sealed his guy off. Omiyale pulled around those two and picked up two blocks. C. Williams buried Pat Williams. Kreutz pulled left and cut down a flowing LB. And Garza and Webb both cut off backside pursuit.
Play 21) A 1st down no gainer by Chester Taylor with 7:38 left in the half. I mention this play because even though the line did their job, the play failed. It appeared as though someone missed a block, but Taylor should have cut up off the pull from Kreutz instead of the pull by Williams.
Play 30) The nullified TD to Devin Aromashodou featured a hold on Webb that was sketchy at best and Omiyale getting beat inside by Jarred Allen, not to mention a little too much celebrating by the Bears for a TD that wasn't; Link from Yahoo Sports will pop.
Play 35) On a 1st and 10 with 9:36 left in the 3rd quarter we have on of those iffy grades. On an 8 yard completion to Devin Hester, Bears RT J'Marcus Webb rode Viking DE Ray Edwards past Cutler, who stepped up in the pocket to make the throw. Edwards did apply pressure, but Webb stayed engaged the entire play and pushed him past his QB. In my book that garners a plus.
Play 50) A 4th quarter 2nd and 8 play that Jared Allen blew up in the backfield was hard to grade. Manu lined up at left TE and blocked down, Greg Olsen lined up at FB and ran past Allen. One of the two should have stayed with Allen. I'll give the benefit of the doubt to Manu (and the plus) because Olsen should have had time to react and get a hat on Allen.
Play 53) On a 1st down incomplete pass to Rashied Davis everyone seemed to do their job. When Webb blocked down and left Ray Edwards alone, it could have been part of the playaction look the Bears were setting up. The action did leave Davis wide open, and Edwards was never a threat to get to Cutler, so I went positives all around.
Play 59) On the huge 7 yard run by Garrett Wolfe, it was man on man blocking, with an iso lead block by Manu. Hat on hat the Bears won the battle.
This post got a much longer than I anticipated (and I even cut some breakdown), but when watching all the plays develop, seeing the entire line work together, and grading the players out... well... it just brings out the coach in me. Any questions be sure to leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to explain better.
Before I get to the grades, some general observations. First off, Greg Olsen was doing a fine job blocking, both as a TE and as a FB. I didn't grade him out, it's just something I noticed. On a lot of the no gains or negative plays the Vikings made, it was more due to a good defensive call as opposed to poor line play. The Bears line played much better than I thought. Also on some plays where one player graded out poor, there was a trickle own effect that caused problems among the group. So I had to grade accordingly. If a player was doing their job when a teammates mistake caused them to err, I went with a plus. Remember it's all subjective. On to the grades.
I graded the Bears offensive line on 61 total plays. Omiyale was a +56, Williams was a +51 (and had 1 penalty), Kreutz was a +54 (with a penalty), Garza was a +56, and Webb was a +49 (with a penalty). I graded Manu on 37 total plays and he was a +30.
Overall there were some borderline grades that I went positive on, but I suspect Mike Tice would go the other way. The block was made, but the effort or technique could have been better.