Bears offensive report card just good enough

921973.png

Bears offensive report card just good enough

Call it a workmanlike effort, nothing special, except that it was good enough to win. The offense finished with 296 yards and 13 points, lowest point total in a win since the 10-0 victory against the New York Jets in 2006.

The critical element was not turning the ball over in a close game and the Bears didnt, while defense and special teams were taking the ball away four times from the Detroit Lions.

QUARTERBACK C

Most of the breath left Soldier Field when Jay Cutler went down with a rib injury in the second quarter, bringing on Jason Campbell for a total of five plays.

Cutlers rollout and measured flip to Brandon Marshall produced the Bears first first-quarter TD since the Indianapolis game and only touchdown of the night. Cutler hurt the Lions with his scrambles in the first half, totaling 34 yards on three runs.

Passing was so-so, with 16 completions in 31 attempts for 150 yards and a 76.0 rating, but done in the face of five sacks.

RUNNING BACKS B

Matt Fortes 39-yard gallop through the Detroit right side set up the first Bears score and Forte finished with 96 yards on 22 carries in addition to three pass receptions, though for a net of four yards. Michael Bush added 36 yards on six carries.

The combination of backs averaged 4.7 yards per carry, many of the yards coming after first hits.

RECEIVERS B

Brandon Marshall had the better of Calvin Johnson for the evening, with a TD catch in the first quarter and two big third-down catches in the second, both for conversions. Marshall tied for the game high with six receptions for a total of 81 yards.

Devin Hesters 23-yard run with a fourth-quarter screen pass got the Bears out of a hole. He caught three of the six passes directed his way and combined with Earl Bennetts three to give some balance opposite Marshall, who faced double coverage much of the game.

Tight ends were not much of a factor receiving (one of four targets) but Kellen Davis, Matt Spaeth and Kyle Adams contributed with run blocking.

OFFENSIVE LINE C-

Protection of Cutler in the first half was generally adequate but he was sacked five times in the game and hit another nine times. Cutler contributed to problems by holding the ball too long on occasion but he also was running from pressure too often.

Run blocking by left guard Chilo Rachal and left tackle JMarcus Webb broke Fortes big first-quarter run and the Bears were able to achieve some run-pass balance.

Gabe Carimi had a second straight difficult evening with a pair of penalties and Rachal took an ill-advised personal foul penalty in the fourth quarter. Robeto Garza was called for a pair of false starts.

COACHING B

Commitment to the run was critical against the Detroit pass rush from the front four. Coaches called 41 pass plays, including the four QB scrambles, and ran the ball 28 times against a defense stacked to take Matt Forte away.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Rangers tonight on CSN

Bulls erase recent struggles, hand Spurs first road loss of season

Joe Maddon breaks down Wade Davis vs. Aroldis Chapman as Cubs ramp up for another World Series run

Rick Hahn: White Sox 'still thoroughly, deeply engaged' in trade talks as meetings close

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook out vs. Rangers

Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls

Bears, Lions have been totally different teams in fourth quarters

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Cubs unveil championship Trophy Tour