They say there are no bad wins in the NFL and while that may be true, there are certainly hollow victories. As soon as the clock (allegedly, since it didn't work) hit triple zero my Twitter feed didn't exactly erupt into a bevy of excitement and celebration. It became more of a "oh well that was nice, but I'm going to get back to cleaning the house and making sure the snowblower is ready."
No one really believes that the Bears have turned their season around do they? There is no way that an eight point win over a four-win team is suddenly going to be the thing that gets them back on track and propels them to the playoffs. The fork was placed in the 2014 season and nothing changes that. Sure Monday is a little more tolerable after a win and the rest of Sunday was a little bit sweeter, but in the grand scheme of things this wasn't a win to hang their head on.
With the wet blanket out of the way, there is a lot to celebrate. The Bears offense looked good for long stretches. The WRs were in full-on 2013 ballin' beast mode. The Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffery duo absolutely abused the Vikings secondary, specifically Josh Robinson.
The offense strung together touchdown drives of 10, 12 and 16 plays, they rushed for over 100 yards and overcame a ten point deficit early. The offense converted 10 of 17 third downs (58.8 percent).
The Vikings did, at times, inflict some damage on the Bears' defense. Jerick McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards per carry against the defense and receiver Charles Johnson had six receptions for 87 yards. Luckily for the Bears, Teddy Bridgewater is still adapting to the NFL game and was unable to get too comfortable with a feisty Bears pass rush coming at him.
Overall it was a good win, but hardly earth-shattering. Onto the grades:
What can I say? Jay Cutler had two ugly, awful interceptions at inopportune times yesterday but it didn't end up hurting the Bears too much. One led to a missed field goal by the Vikings and the other essentially ended the half but that doesn't mean they should be excused. Other than those two throws, Cutler was on. He actually held a safety with his eyes on his 44-yard touchdown to Marshall, instead of just staring him down. His second TD to Marshall came on a beautiful back-shoulder throw when the CB was playing slightly inside. It would either be six, defensive pass interference or incomplete. His TD to Jeffery was equally impressive, avoiding the rush and then throwing a back shoulder throw to allow Jeffery to come back to the ball and use his size to box out the CB. All told Cutler completed 72.1 percent of his passes (31/43) for 330 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for a 98.0 rating. He was also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Running backs: A
Matt Forte had another stellar game for the Bears. The veteran all-purpose back had 175 total yards on 32 touches (5.5 YPT). He had 117 yards on the ground (4.5 YPC) on 26 carries and caught all six of his targets in the passing game for 58 yards. It was his first 100-yard rushing game in a victory this season as well as a season high number of carries. His tackle-busting 32-yard gain was the longest run of the Bears' season.
Wide receivers: A
Anytime the Big Two Duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are able to get going it will likely be a good day for the offense, and yesterday was no different. The two combined for 18 catches, 225 yards and three touchdowns. Only nine of the passes targeted at them were incomplete. Jeffery had a season-high 11 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. It was his third 100-yard game of 2014, all three of which have come in wins. Marshall, coming off his ankle injury, had 90 yards on seven receptions and two touchdowns to bring his season total to eight. Marquess Wilson, whose return was really only hyped by fans, did about match his career output with two catches and 11 yards (his stat line last year was two catches, 13 yards).
Tight ends: B
Martellus Bennett had a relatively quiet game as a receiver, catching all four of his targets for 29 yards, and was his usual up and down self as a blocker. He was called for illegal formation though. Dante Rosario caught one of his two targets for seven yards. He had a good day blocking and opening things up for Forte. Nothing spectacular from the group.
Offensive line: B
This is a tough grade to hand out. First of all because I'm doing this based on just watching the game and not going through the coaches film and second of all, I have to use my own eye test because - unlike Lester Wiltfong - I do not have extensive offensive line coaching/playing experience. So as always, come back and read Sackwatch later this week for a better grade on what the OL did or didn't do.
Now, with that said, they did play very well because they did not give up a sack. Against a fierce Vikings pass rush which entered the game tied for third in the league with 30 sacks, that was very good. However, LT Jermon Bushrod struggled against Everson Griffen, at times getting straight up abused by the defensive end. He also missed the block on the failed fourth and goal quarterback sweep. A rough day for him. Kyle Long had a false start.
Offensive grade: B+
All told it was a good day from the Bears' lead unit. They were able to brush off an early deficit and put points on the board. The receivers got their mojo going and Cutler made some good throws. If Forte can get going like this the offense might actually break 30 points before the season ends.
Defensive line: B+
The defensive line had one of its better games this year led by ex-Viking Jared Allen. Perhaps the Bears can get him special-colored contact lenses that make him see all opponents in purple and yellow so that his effort will continue to pick up. Allen had five tackles to finish second on the team, a tackle for loss, a sack and three QB hits. He was exposing Matt Kalil time and time again. Willie Young continued his strong season with a late sack of his own to go with a tackle for loss and a QB hit. The DL was solid in rush defense with Young, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton and Jeremiah Ratliff each notching a tackle.
Lance Briggs might have played his best game of the season. He was flying around, making plays, getting in the backfield and overall playing very well. He looked like a younger version of himself; where this Briggs has been all year, I do not know. He had a pass deflection, four tackles and a tackle for loss, although he bit hard on the Rhett Ellison TD. D.J. Williams did not have himself a bad game either, notching a TFL and two other tackles. Shea McClellin had two tackles while Christian Jones had one. Overall there was some good stuff but still nothing really above average.
I'd have to go back and watch the coaches film but I never heard Kyle Fuller's name Sunday and usually for a CB, that's a good thing. I don't know if Bridgewater didn't throw his way on purpose, if Fuller covered his WR very well or if it was just coincidence, but it seems like a good thing. Most of the damage was done by Charles Johnson, who to my eye was most covered by Demontre Hurst and Tim Jennings. Hurst led the Bears in tackles with six and gave up a fourth down completion late in the game, but did come back with a QB hit on a blitz. Jennings had two tackles and a TFL. Overall a solid game for this group.
Chris Conte had four tackles while Ryan Mundy had a pass deflection and the interception to seal the victory. I didn't catch any egregious errors by the safeties and I didn't note anyone getting trucked. At this point I will take that from our safeties any week.
Defensive grade: B
Nothing too exciting here outside of the play of the defensive line. It was solid effort but nothing spectacular. They made some stops but most of the offensive ineptitude was self-inflicted by the Vikings more so than anything the Bears did. Outside of the pass rush there wasn't much the Bears did. They did effectively blitz for one of the first times this season though. Kudos to the much-maligned unit for bouncing back; hopefully they can get some confidence going forward.
Special teams: F
Another week, another poor showing. Giving up 48 yards on a fake punt was the by far the worst play this week. Christian Jones was flagged for an illegal block. Robbie Gould had a rough day, missing his only field goal attempt wide right and kicking a ball out of bounds. Pat O'Donnell had a horrible day punting, averaging a poor 29.5 yards per punt. Chris Williams and Senorise Perry did all right returning kicks, at least fielding ones that were outside the endzone but even still they couldn't sniff the 20 yard line.
Marc Trestman's clock management still baffles me. He calls a timeout after an opponent's third down comes up short, gets the ball, runs it twice with no urgency, calls his final timeout then dials up a pass play. Either try to score or run out the clock, this between stuff is killing me. The fourth and goal play call was a little suspect, mostly because it didn't work and, while it was a Bushrod block away from being six, I don't know how you don't trust the interior of your OL and your Pro-Bowl RB to get you three feet. My final complaint is on the drive at the start of the fourth quarter he runs Matt Forte seven times and then inside the five he goes with three straight pass plays out of the shotgun formation. Sure, it ended up with a four-yard touchdown to Marshall but at least give it a running look once, no?
All that said though, I did like Trestman's plan to get the ball out of Jay's hand quick. The short passing game helped open things up for Forte a little bit and slow down the Vikings pass rush. The offensive game plan was very solid but my criticisms lie in the play calling more.
Mel Tucker had a solid game plan as well and the Vikings only had 243 yards of offense, compared to the Bears' 468.
How would you grade the team?