The 2013 season is quickly slipping away from the Chicago Bears. They've dropped two straight games that were "must win" and Sunday's sloppy showing against a division opponent on the road was just about par for the course.
The Bears let a bad Minnesota squad hang around and despite holding a ten point lead in the final quarter, they let the Vikings right back into it with another poor defensive showing; eventually the Vikings put the Bears away after an overtime featuring two missed field goals and one made field goal that was negated.
Trestman's coach grade will no doubt be a long paragraph as his decision to kick the field goal on second down will be questioned for a long time to come and, while that is deserving, there were certainly plenty of other missed opportunities for the navy and orange.
The run defense played about as poorly as you'd expect, with the Vikings rushing for 246 yards and their offense as a whole outgained the Bears 496 to 480 yards. Adrian Peterson finished with 211 yards and no touchdowns. Each team had only one turnover and each squad committed six penalties that were accepted and levied against them. Two of Chicago's penalties gave the Vikings first downs; the Vikings had 28 first downs in total.
The third down efficiency was poor by both teams (Chicago was 2 of 11 while Minnesota was 4 of 17). Minnesota was 0/5 until the beginning of the third quarter and with 12:41 left in the game they were 1/9, meaning they went 3/7 the rest of the game and in OT. When it mattered, the Bears couldn't get off the field. The Vikings were also perfect on fourth down (3 for 3) and ran 21 more total plays than the Bears did. Both teams struggled in the redzone with the Bears going 0 for one and continuing their struggles in the redzone, while the Vikings were 1 for 5 inside the 20.
With the team stats out of the way, let's grade the positions:
Josh McCown had another solid performance filling in for Jay Cutler but I thought he left a few too many plays on the field to earn a higher grade. For example, I felt he held the ball too long on third down and 11 on the first possession of overtime, allowing himself to get sacked, and he also took a sack by holding onto the ball too long at the end of regulation with 14 seconds left.
I place responsibility for the team's only turnover on him as well, since he tried a two-handed shovel pass as he was halfway to the ground and the ball ended up with the Vikings. Doesn't matter that it was tipped and in the hands of Kyle Long, it should have been with McCown the whole time anyway.
Other than that though he threw a lot of good passes, completing 63.9 percent (23/36) for 255 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. He was sacked four times but credit him for losing only 10 yards on those sacks.
Running backs: A-
Matt Forte had a spectacular game with 23 carries for 120 yards and a healthy 5.2 yards per carry; he also added 31 yards on two catches for 151 total yards, putting him over 1,400 scrimmage yards for the season - a feat he's accomplished in all of his six NFL seasons. His best catch was his 31-yard over-the-shoulder reception that looked like it was made by a receiver. Forte had a good day in pass protection as well, Tony Fiammetta had a good day blocking for Forte and Michael Bush made the most of his single carry for 15 yards.
Wide receivers: A
What can be said about Alshon Jeffery? He broke his own team record for single-game reception yardage, a record that prior to this year had stood for 50 years! Jeffery displayed his versatility of strengths on his two TDs. On the first one he used his speed to get downfield, beat his man and break away from the coverage. On the second, he used his physicality and strong hands to get the ball, and then his awareness and footwork to stay in bounds - as well as keeping the ball high and not risk bringing it to the ground, so that the TD would stand. Also, I don't think I saw Jeffery drop a single catchable ball all day. Outstanding all-around effort by him.
Brandon Marshall had a quiet day for him catching just four passes for 45 yards, but he dropped at least one easy one. Earl Bennett caught two passes for 17 yards and proved to be an important safety valve for McCown.
Tight ends: B+
Martellus Bennett doesn't seem to get quite the looks he would see if Cutler was playing, but he makes the most of his opportunities. He still drops some easy ones, but so does Marshall. Bennett caught two of his three targets for 14 yards but had a strong day run blocking, as did Dante Rosario who also helped in the pass game a couple times. Bennett helped in that regard too, I noticed on a Marshall catch for a first down Bennett hit Xavier Rhodes just long enough to "rub" him off Marshall and open him up for the catch. He was also active in the screen game. Bennett did have an offensive pass interference penalty accepted against him that would have been a first down.
Offensive line: B-
The offensive line gave up four sacks and played solid in the run game all day (as evidenced by the team's 5.4 YPC). They also held their own in pass protection, especially Jermon Bushrod who held Jared Allen in check a week after being abused by Robert Quinn. Bushrod had two penalties against him though, a ticky-tacky delay of game penalty for "throwing the ball downfield" when it looked like he merely tossed it down instead of handing it straight to an official. He also had a false start and both of those penalties were on the opening possession of overtime.
Kyle Long fumbled the ball on the bizarre turnover discussed in McCown's grade. While he should have batted it down, he didn't, allowing it to be recovered by the Vikings. It didn't end up being damaging because of the interception thrown by Matt Cassel. Long looked to me to struggle a bit as the game went on, something to watch out for with him and Jordan Mills as the season wears on and the rookies could hit "the wall." Mills had a decent game but did give up some pressure. I thought Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson gave up ground in the run game a few times but, overall, played pretty well.
Overall offensive grade: B
Another slightly above-average day for the offense with one strange turnover and some penalties. The 0-for-1 in the redzone sticks out and ultimately you'd like to see more than 20 points on the road.
Defensive line: B+
Once again I find myself torn here with the grade as the d-line got beat at the point of attack in the run game often, but also tallied up five sacks and eight hits on the Vikings' QBs. Julius Peppers had himself a monster game and hopefully he is turning it on at a pivotal time in the year, but it might be too late. He recorded two-and-a-half sacks, two tackles for loss and two batted passes. He also was a force in the run game, easily the best of the DL in that regard, getting five solo stops. Even when he wasn't making plays he was chasing Peterson downfield or forcing him to move horizontally instead of downfield for positive yards.
Corey Wootton batted a couple of passes, had a TFL and recorded half a sack as well. Shea McClellin had a quiet game but did register the QB hit that knocked out Christian Ponder: is he becoming a "QB killer?" Probably not. Stephen Paea had half a sack, a QB hit and a deflected pass, but was quiet in the run game.
The first indication that the linebackers had yet another bad game is that Craig Stetlz and Chris Conte led the Bears in tackles Sunday. Any time the safeties have to make that many stops, it's an indication that the linebackers are neither bringing down running backs very often, nor making plays on receivers and tight ends after the catch.
Jonathan Bostic had the best game of the linebackers, notching five solo tackles, one QB hit, one sack and a pass deflection. However, he also had an inexcusable taunting penalty, and continued to struggle in pass coverage against John Carlson; he also broke contain a couple of times, once letting Peterson bounce out for a 23-yard run, his longest of the day.
Khaseem Greene registered his first career interception on a pass tipped by a couple of teammates and a Viking. He recorded a pass deflection and three solo tackles but was otherwise unspectacular. James Anderson had three tackles but was also trucked by A.P. on a couple of occasions.
Nine different Vikings caught passes and the Vikings' receivers had 283 yards through the air, led by former Packer Greg Jennings who had seven catches for 78 yards and a TD. I felt like the Vikings QBs were picking on Isaiah Frey, targeting whomever he was covering, which was Jennings sometimes or Jarius Wright other times. Frey recorded half a sack but he seems like he's replaced D.J. Moore, as the Bears' nickel back who can blitz well but is too often a liability in coverage.
Tim Jennings had an all right game but he wasn't quite the force against the run that he needed to be. Zach Bowman had a tackle for loss but was otherwise unspectacular, although he did defend a pass in the endzone late in the fourth, helping force the Vikings to settle for a tying field goal. Sherrick McManis was in the game in OT and struggled against Jennings as well.
Well the best compliment I can give the safeties is that A.P.'s longest run was 23 yards, so they didn't get juked out of their cleats and give up any big 25+ yard runs, which I certainly thought would happen at some point. Steltz for the most part played well, but he missed an open field tackle on Cordarrelle Patterson's TD run, and Conte missed a chance at bringing him down too. Steltz was not over the top on Wright when he caught his 24 yard pass, and was also beat by Carlson. Conte was flagged for a horse-collar tackle, which was arguable to some degree because he tried to change his hand positions to avoid the penalty but it was too late. Overall, it was more of the same for the safeties.
Overall defensive grade: D+
More of the same for the struggling, injured defense. Steltz seems to be a slight upgrade over Major Wright at safety and Trestman has made it sound like he's going to stick with him, but I don't know how much of a difference it will make. If Peppers can continue to play like he did Sunday, and Bostic and Greene continue to improve with Lance Briggs set to come back, this unit could finish the season strong. However, at this point "strong" would be going from giving up 386 yards and 27 points a game to 350 and 24.
Special teams: D
This unit is so very middling it's frustrating after a decade plus of truly special results. Cheta Ozougwu was this week's pariah of the unit by committing an illegal block penalty on the game's first punt and then not getting away from a punt Devin Hester let bounce, but luckily for Ozougwu, Derrick Martin came in and fell on the loose ball.
Hester had another quiet day until he ripped a 53-yard kick return when the Bears needed it most with under 30 seconds left in regulation, but the offense did nothing with the field position.
Adam Podlesh was decent until he shanked what was arguably his most important punt of the day in overtime. Of course, we all know about Robbie Gould: he was two-for-four, one miss being a 66-yard desperation attempt and then the make-able indoors 47-yarder in OT.
I hate to be this harsh but there are just too many unexplained issues. The biggest, by far, was Trestman's decision to kick on second down and seven from the Minnesota 29-yard line after Forte had ripped off five straight runs for 24 yards. Trestman began to play very scared at the end and did not show confidence in his offense. Maybe he was spooked by the fact that McCown had fumbled when he was sacked on their first possession, or by the penalty committed by the Vikings on their attempt. It was a strange game but he can't let that fear control his decision-making, especially of something that happened to the opponent.
The Bears' struggles began in the fourth quarter when they opened the quarter in the midst of a drive, but only snapped two offensive plays before punting. That drive was seven plays for 48 yards but ended in a punt. The drives after that totaled eight plays for nine yards and ended with a punt, a fumble and a missed field goal. But in overtime they were moving the ball better, totaling 41 yards on 11 plays on their two drives. Why, suddenly, would Trestman clam up the offense and run it and then try a FG, when he could have easily run it two more times, or even take a shot with play action and then kick a field goal? It's baffling and it's not something fans are going to forget soon.
How would you grade the Bears?
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