Once again, with everything on the line the Bears came up short. Unlike last week however, the team actually decided to show up and played well making a game of it.
On the bright side at least it was close. The game featured six lead changes and came down to wire.
In case you weren't on social media last night, quarterback Jay Cutler did not lose this game for the Bears. He led four touchdown drives and gave the lead to the defense to protect three times. Cutler did not turn the ball over until the last pass of the game.
The defense takes the blame for this one, again. The defense allowed the Packers to rush for 160 yards and gain 473 total yards. The defensive line played poorly and the lack of situational awareness on the Aaron Rodgers fumble-Jarrett Boykin play was embarrassing. The Packers converted 50 percent of their third downs and ran 27 more plays than the Bears.
The Packers possessed the ball for nine minutes longer than the Bears. The defense could not get off the field when they needed to.
At the end of the day the 2013 season will be remembered for the defensive shortcomings and how that ultimately sunk the team.
I don't really know what Cutler could have done differently. By my eye I saw only one bad throw from Cutler before the final drive. I judge the final drive slightly differently because heaving Hail Marys to the endzone is a shot-in-the-dark thing anyway, so of course he was taking chances. That said, I wonder if he shouldn't have tried one last time to get a play short of the endzone instead of heaving it deep three out of the four plays. All told Cutler was 15/24 (62.5 percent completion) for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His rating was 103.8, making his record when his QB rating is over 100 27-3. Two of those losses were this season (yesterday and the Saints).
Running backs: A
Matt Forte had a phenomenal game yesterday, running for 110 yards and two touchdowns and catching four passes for 47 yards and another touchdown. Forte had no pass protection issues yesterday like he did last week, and he rarely was taken down for negative yardage. Michael Bush got 11 yards on his two carries.
Wide Receivers: D+
The receivers, for all the good they've done this year, turned in a poor game yesterday. Alshon Jeffery was frustrating to watch as he fumbled the ball, but turned around with a spectacular 67-yard catch and run, but he caught only three of his eight targets and dropped at least three of those. Brandon Marshall managed to register his fifth 100-catch season of his career and he hauled in a great touchdown catch, but also had a couple of costly drops. Marquess Wilson filled in for Earl Bennett and caught one pass for 10 yards.
Tight ends: C-
Martellus Bennett was a non-factor in this game. He caught his only target of the game, but where was he the rest of the time? Bennett also gave up the team's only sack when he failed to adequately block Andy Mulumba. Dante Rosario turned in a good game blocking for Forte and helped seal the second of his two touchdowns.
Offensive line: A
The offensive line bounced back from their horrible showing last week to keep Cutler clean and open up many holes for Forte. It was a great effort and it's worth noting that the Bears managed to have the same starting five start every game this season; however they were unable to finish the season together as Jordan Mills left the game with a foot injury and was replaced by Eben Britton. Britton was able to step in without a noticeable drop off in play at the right tackle position. The Bears haven't had the same five OL start all 16 games since 2008.
Overall offensive grade: B
Another good effort wasted by the team's best unit. They scored four touchdowns but ultimately couldn't chew up enough clock or score on their second-to-last possession to put the game away.
Defensive line grade: D
The defensive line was once again a non-factor. The box score credits them with one of the team's three sacks, but it was Julius Peppers merely touching Rodgers after he slid in the pocket. Hardly a sack. Peppers and Wootton were relatively active and they stepped it up in the run game but none were able to make any big impact plays. Peppers had the strip/sack that led to the Jarrett Boykin TD but the defense stopped playing.
The linebackers bounced back to play well late in the game, helping shore up the run defense late, but it wasn't enough to save their grade. James Anderson led the team in tackles and had a decent game and even managed to defend Jordy Nelson well on one play. Lance Briggs and Anderson each notched a sack and the team's two tackles for loss. That said though each player missed some plays and had Eddie Lacy or James Starks bouncing off of them.
Tim Jennings made an interception, good for him, it was a heads up play. That said though, the ball bounced off Jordy Nelson's hands and was tipped up to Jennings. Nelson had a chance at the play but couldn't get it done. Jennings has filled in for Charles Tillman pretty well, shadowing other teams' playmakers, but he was overmatched by Nelson. Nelson abused both Jennings and Zach Bowman to the tune of 10 catches and 161 yards.
Another utter failure by the last line of the Bears defense. Chris Conte made a great interception early in the game by staying with the play and reading Rodgers' eyes, but other than that he was abused by whoever he was assigned to defend. He was responsible for Randall Cobb on the game-winning throw. I understand why he stopped at the first down marker but with the blitz that was called, isn't he supposed to stay with his man? Post game tweets from reporters suggested players and coaches each were saying different calls were on, which is something to watch for in the aftermath of this game. Who screwed up? Major Wright had an unspectacular game.
Overall defensive grade: D
Terrible game. All the hyperbole has pretty much been used up at this point. There was no pass rush, no gap discipline, no contain, no pass defense and safety help. At the end of the season it somehow seemed fitting that the Bears season would be lost on a blown defensive play starring Chris Conte.
Special teams: D
The disintegration of this unit has been the single most frustrating part of the transition from Lovie Smith to Marc Trestman, in my opinion. Adam Podlesh had another bad game averaging 34.3 yards per punt. One of those was a 30 yard dud that set up the Packers in Bears territory. Devin Hester had one of his best games returning, bringing a punt back 49 yards and a kick back 39 yards but he fumbled for the second game in a row.
I really don't have many complaints about the offensive game plan, there wasn't a ton I'd change on that side of the ball. The pass-rush ratio was dead even at 24 attempts each. The defensive game plan leaves more questions, especially the final, ill-fated play. I can understand the all-out blitz but it has to get there for the play to work and it didn't. At the end of the day this game, to me, was more on the players than the coaches.
How would you grade the team's game yesterday?
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