Unfortunately we're starting off the first Monday of the NFL season with a loss, and many of the same questions we had going into the season being unanswered or simply giving us the wrong answer.
The Bears went up 7-0 but managed to allow 17 straight points, before getting back into the game and tying it up with 30 seconds left at 20 apiece. One four-play possession in the overtime period and then it was the same old Bears defense getting gashed, allowing the Bills to chip in a field goal for the 23-20 win.
The defense did not appear much improved, Jay Cutler made the same poor decisions that have plagued him his whole career, and the offensive line played about as poorly as we've seen under Marc Trestman.
To top it off the Bears lost Alshon Jeffery to an injury, Brandon Marshall became hobbled, and the offensive line lost Matt Slauson and Roberto Garza. The Bears can't afford to lose so many key contributors this early in the season, but that's football.
As always my grades are based on my eye test during the live game. They are an initial reaction to the game rather than a scout-type break down of the all-22 film.
On to the grades:
This easily could have been an F, and I'm sure several people will argue it should, but he did have long strings of brilliance. He completed 69.8 percent of his passes for 349 yards and two great touchdown passes. He had an 86.2 rating. His two interceptions, though, halted promising drives and while the first was likely a miscommunication, the second was unforgivable. Rolling to his right to avoid pressure, Cutler tried to make something out of nothing and threw across his body into a mass of defenders, having it picked by defensive tackle Kyle Williams. He also had a pass that should have been intercepted on third down in overtime. It was the last time the Bears had the ball.
Running backs: A
Matt Forte had 169 total yards, 82 on the ground and 87 receiving. He was solid in pass protection and took over several drives in the game, including the pivotal fourth quarter drive that tied the game.
Wide receivers: C-
Injuries played a part, with Jeffery missing most of the second half and Brandon Marshall being banged up. Their backups had Bears fans flashing back to the pre-Marshall days with Michael Spurlock, Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan combining for only four receptions from 11 targets. Marshall fumbled and had a couple of drops. It was a big letdown yesterday by the WRs who got bested by Corey Graham and the Bills secondary too often.
Tight ends: A-
Martellus Bennett had a great day as a receiver, hauling in eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Dante Rosario added one reception for 12 yards. Matthew Mulligan got called for an offensive pass interference penalty on a play he wasn't even targeted on. The TEs appeared to hold up fairly well in pass protection.
Offensive line: D-
This was one of the worst OL performances we've seen since Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer came to town. The line routinely lost at the line of scrimmage and, while Forte averaged a robust 4.8 yards per carry, the pass protection left much to be desired. The pocket collapsed on Cutler a lot; he was sacked twice and hit three times according to ESPN. The Bills also had three tackles for loss.
Overall offensive grade: C
It was a frustrating day for the offense, with mistakes ultimately plaguing the final product. If not for the three turnovers this is a whole different ball game. If the offensive line blocked just slightly better then maybe Cutler is able to make a few better throws. Overall this was a letdown from what we got used to last season.
Defensive line: D-
High-priced defensive additions Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen combined for two tackles, which is really bad for starters, but it's not like they were being taken out of the game in order for their teammates to make plays. Willie Young had the best game of the DL in recording the team's only sack, two of their three tackles for loss, and one of their two QB hits. The other TFL and QB hits were by the cornerbacks. Allen bit on a read-option on E.J. Manuel's touchdown run. A pathetic showing by the supposedly improved DL.
All of the offseason concerns unfortunately came to fruition Sunday when the linebackers were once again routinely looking lost, out of position, slow and/or tackled poorly. The linebackers should be leading the team in tackles but yet, once again, the safeties topped the tackles category in the box score, which means those in front of them were failing. D.J. Williams did not even show up in the final stats, Lance Briggs recorded three tackles, Shea McClellin two and Jon Bostic three. No tackles for loss, no pass deflections and no QB hits. Just awful.
The CBs were very average; they were good blitzing (Charles Tillman recorded a QB hit) and in run protection (Kyle Fuller had a TFL) . They had a couple of lapses but for the most part were sound in their defense. A lot of the bigger plays they gave up were more a result of the Bills finding the soft spots in the zone coverages than poor coverage on the Bears. Very average game for them, nothing egregious and nothing spectacular.
Look, Chris Conte gave up the last big play of the game, again, to set up a defeat. However, it should not all be his fault. That final Fred Jackson play is much more on the LBs. Bostic and Williams get out of position on the bootleg look Manuel gave them and the DL got overpowered at the line of scrimmage. Briggs came through the line too late and whiffed on Jackson in the backfield. Jackson bounced to the outside and Conte came up to make the play and got stiff-armed. Stiff arms happen to every defensive player, Conte still got him out of bounds but that was a failure by the front seven more than by Conte.
Conte had a nice interception and prevented Robert Woods from getting extra yards after his spectacular fourth quarter grab. The Bears gave up six plays of 20 yards or more, still way too many big plays, but those plays didn't turn into touchdowns and that is because of the safeties. Ryan Mundy and Conte each had seven tackles to lead the team, while Danny McCray had two.
Overall defensive grade: D
The defense looked like it picked up where it left off, which is unfortunate after all the retooling that the Bears did during theoffseason. Lack of pressure, lack of turnovers, shoddy tackling. If this doesn't get better it could be a long season.
Special teams: C
It was an incredibly average performance by the special teams coverage and return units which was, unfortunately, welcome after the preseason. Senorise Perry seemed reluctant to take the ball out of the endzone, which Tom Thayer was criticizing him for on the radio. It won't help his blockers for him to be so indecisive. If he catches it, he should run it out. Santonio Holmes had only one punt return for -1 yard. Pat O'Donnell averaged a healthy 40 yards per punt and pinned one inside the 20. Robbie Gould was his usual self.
While Trestman made good halftime adjustments, as we've become accustomed to seeing, the offense was still up and down in the second half and the defense was as spotty as its been. I didn't have any huge issues with any in-game decisions Trestman made; although the flea flicker seemed like a weird play call, it was a first down play so it wasn't crazily risky or anything. Really the Bears got outplayed, not out-coached.
How would you grade the Bears yesterday?