So Jimmy Clausen got his shot and wasn't a total disaster. Great, but he still isn't the solution to the Bears' quarterback woes. It was overwhelmingly obvious yesterday that his ceiling is somewhat close to that of Kyle Orton's or even last year's quarterback crush Josh McCown: solid but unspectacular.
Can he manage a game? Sure. But can he make the huge plays and stay out of trouble enough to lead a team for 16 games to the playoffs? No way.
One game might not be enough to say that for certain, but consider that his offense still needed turnovers to set them up to score; he led one long scoring drive without the aid of a turnover, and even that one was helped by a Detroit roughing the kicker penalty that brought the offense back onto the field. Leading the offense to 14 points was something Jay Cutler could have done.
But I'm getting ahead of myself though, more on the quarterback play in a minute.
The Bears managed only 234 total yards of offense and 17 first downs, three of which came by way of penalty. This is despite sticking with the run against the league's best rush defense, for a change. They rushed the ball 22 times for only 64 yards (2.2 yards per attempt). The Lions committed more penalties and turnovers than the Bears, but the offense couldn't get it going and put points on the board to put the Lions away for good.
That is not to say that the defense played great, either. The defensive line bothered Matt Stafford all day, sacking him four times and hitting him another seven times but, other than that, the Lions managed to have their way with the defense.
The Lions averaged 5.3 yards per rush and had 138 rushing yards. Reggie Bush looked a younger, fast version of himself and bad tackling plagued the unit as the Lions racked up 367 total yards and converted five of 13 third downs, as well as both of their fourth down attempts.
It was another disappointing game but this time Chicago was in it right down to the wire, for a change.
Clausen, starting his first game in four years, played completely average football. His line was 23/39 (59.0 percent) for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a rating of 77.0. If that doesn't make you yawn I don't know what will. He averaged 7.9 yards per completion and 4.6 yards per attempt. Part of that is the offense, but what does it say about the offense when you're relying on your receivers to get all the yards after the catch? Clausen started shaky before hitting a rhythm, but still had some very errant passes. By no means was he terrible, but he really didn't do a ton to keep the Bears in the game.
Running backs: B-
Forte did what he could and actually, given the Lions' run defense, had a decent game. He broke tackles when he could and pushed for extra yards and, perhaps just as importantly, hardly ever went backwards. In fact, Forte lost yardage on only four of his 19 carries. He caught the ball well, including his touchdown. He whiffed in pass-blocking and struggled there again so for that I knocked him down a little more.
Wide receivers: D-
Can somebody catch, anybody? Alshon Jeffery caught just six of his 15 targets and it's probably fair to say no fewer than four of those were straight drops on his part, and possibly one or two more. Marquess Wilson, with whom Clausen is likely most familiar throwing to, had a career game but still only caught seven of his 10 targets and dropped a key third down pass as well. Josh Morgan caught both of his targets but, overall, the receivers were not up to snuff. This unit, especially Jeffery, had to help out Clausen and they did not do it.
Tight ends: D
Where was Martellus Bennett? After his only catch, which was challenged and overturned from a nine-yard gain to no gain, he disappeared. He once again didn't make an impact in the blocking game. Dante Rosario caught one pass for one yard. This unit was invisible yesterday
Offensive line: B
Honestly, the offensive line played way, way better than I would have expected for them considering they started two undrafted players at the guard positions. They actually managed to hold their own against Ndamukong Suh and Co., allowing just two sacks and six QB hits. Clausen did well to avoid pressure but the line played pretty well. They got a little push in the run game, nothing huge but they opened enough creases and helped Forte avoid yardage loss. The one thing that was noticeably absent was the lack of good downfield blocking on screens by pulling OL.
Overall offensive grade: C
A very middling performance at best; the balance helped keep the Lions pass rush at bay but the short pass game did nothing to open things up and when the Lions loaded up the box on third downs, Clausen couldn't make them pay. As it was pointed out on Twitter by a few reporters, the problems are as much systemic as they are with the QB. Clausen might turn the ball over less but the offense is not suddenly clicking better or getting gobs of yards, either.
Defensive line: B+
This might have been the defensive line's best game pass rushing. As I mentioned before they sacked Stafford four times and pressured him enough that he was somewhat off most of the game. Jared Allen, Jeremiah Ratliff and David Bass each had a sack. Allen, Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Willie Young each added a QB hit each while Bass had two. Allen, Ratliff and Bass also each had a tackle for loss. It was unfortunate that Young left the game early, he wasn't making a ton of plays but he has had a strong season. In the run game, though, the line was lacking; many of the Lions' big runs came to the outside but, still, it has to be noted.
The linebackers didn't have a spectacular game. Christian Jones was the lone bright spot, leading Chicago in tackles with 11 and adding a sack and a tackle for loss. Jon Bostic added six and a TFL and Shea McClellin was M.I.A., recording only one tackle. The tackling in the run game was shoddy all over the back nine but I didn't catch any linebackers being embarrassed in pass defense.
Kyle Fuller had about as many bad plays as good, which is kind of the norm with him. Hopefully he is learning and will get better over the offseason and really grow into a starting role next season. Tim Jennings had a baffling game, giving up a HUGE pass interference penalty when he easily could have spun his head around and had a pick or not gotten flagged, at the very least. Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson abused their cover man repeatedly. The secondary struggles continue but they were facing a very good duo.
The safeties actually played fairly well. Brock Vereen and Ryan Mundy each notched an interception and Vereen deflected a pass, while Mundy defended two. They didn't blow any huge coverages but their tackling was shoddy, especially Vereen on Joique Bell's TD run. Vereen has to be able to get Bell out of bounds in that situation. Vereen shows flashes but he struggles at times as well. At this point in the season it is hard to tell what the Bears have in him. Overall though, the safeties played better than they usually do and came up with the turnovers which helped their grades.
Overall defensive grade: C
Not a great showing from the defense; they were on the field a lot which certainly didn't help them slow down the Lions. The biggest problem to me was the tackling and they could not contain Bush out of Detroit's back field. A struggling defense coupled with a stagnant offense is a recipe for disaster.
Special teams grade: A-
I have to give the special teams credit, first for taking the ball away from the Lions, as well as for a lack of flags. They had no punt returns but the Lions only punted once. Marc Mariani averaged 24.7 yards per kickoff and Pat O'Donnell averaged 40.3 per punt. On coverage, the longest returned they allowed was 16 on a kick. Very good for a unit marred by poor showings.
The coaching actually wasn't terrible for a change. I have to give credit where credit was due. The offense was relatively balanced (39 pass, 22 run), especially given how strong the Lions' rushing attack is. The offense continued to lack in shots downfield and at times the defense was daring Clausen to pass it and, while he did get rid of the ball quickly, nothing was spectacular about the game plan. Defensively it was nice to finally see Mel Tucker play a lot of press coverage, but the secondary was in over their head anyway. They didn't get burned though, so take that for whatever it's worth.
Overall, this was far from the worst showing of the season and, while it was nice that the Bears were competitive, it was disappointing that they couldn't capitalize on a Detroit team that was playing more like the Lions of recent years than one that has a shot at the division title. Overall, more of the same but slightly better, maybe. Let's just get through next week.
What did you think of the game? Where am I being too harsh or too soft?