Report card: Championship nearly earns straight A's

Report card: Championship nearly earns straight A's
December 21, 2010, 6:38 am
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Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010
12: 52 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The second-highest point total of the past two seasons was the result of impact plays in virtually every area and helped the Bears become the first team to clinch a division title. Not many negatives in a 26-point win on the road in adverse conditions.

QUARTERBACK A

Jay Cutler shook off some early struggles to seize momentum with a 67-yard TD pass to Johnny Knox on a third-and-long. He finished with three TD passes, all to different receivers, and was in control of the offense throughout. Cutler completed a modest 14 of 24 passes and threw a bad interception, but his teams are 20-0 when he puts up a 100-plus passer rating and in a game for a division championship, he posted a 106.6.

RUNNING BACKS B

Matt Forte netted 92 yards on 17 carries (5.4 per rush) and had repeated runs for first downs which set up second downs without long yardage to convert. Forte carried 10 times in the first half to help establish a ground presence in inclement weather and forced the Vikings to slow their pass rush to account for him. Chester Taylor struggled against his old teammates with just five yards in 11 carries.

RECEIVERS A

Knoxs 67-yard TD catch was a precision route and game-changer in the first quarter. Devin Hesters post route set him up for a 15-yard strike from Cutler in the second quarter. Rashied Davis scored his first TD of the season. Greg Olsen caught all four of the passes thrown to him and gave the offense solid underneath threats. All four WRs averaged at least 11.5 yards per reception.

OFFENSIVE LINE A

The offense netted 104 rushing yards and Cutler was sacked just once in 25 pass plays. Chris Williams and Olin Kreutz had 10-yard penalties on consecutive first-quarter plays but the line consistently righted itself in difficult situations and kept Minnesotas front from ever establishing any control over the line of scrimmage.

DEFENSIVE LINE A

Julius Peppers collected his second interception of the season on a pass deflected by Henry Melton and nearly had another in the second quarter. Corey Wootton beat Pro Bowl LT Bryant McKinnie for a 12-yard, second-quarter sack of Brett Favre that sent him out of the game. Matt Toeaina had his second career sack when he took down rookie Joe Webb in the second quarter. Melton recovered a red-zone fumble in the fourth quarter.

LINEBACKERS A-

Lance Briggs sacked Webb at the end of the second quarter and added a tackle for loss, quarterback hit and pass breakup. Toby Gerhart rushed for 5.7 yards per carry as Adrian Petersons fill-in and had too many yards after first hits. But Nick Roach and Brian Iwuh forced fumbles and gave the defense solid performances.
SECONDARY A-

Tim Jennings had an interception of a Favre pass but it was taken way after an offsides penalty. Charles Tillman and Chris Harris collected interceptions while Harris also added six tackles. Tillman and Jennings had pass breakups as the secondary kept Webb from enjoying his first extended action.

SPECIAL TEAMS A
Hester nearly had his TD return record when he broke the opening kickoff of the second half 79 yards. He then got the record on a 64-yard punt return for an NFL record. Robbie Gould was perfect on all four field goal attempts - from 29, 26, 34 and 20 yards - to finish possessions that the offense couldnt punch into the end zone. Coverage units limited Minnesota to 19.6 yards per KOR and Brad Maynard punted well under the conditions, averaging 41.7 on three kicks and posting a 39.7 net.

COACHING A

Leaving Cutler in a game with a 23-point lead and throwing the ball put the franchise quarterback at questionable risk in a game where the outcome was no longer in question. But the Bears were well prepared and focused on winning a division championship and playing with no ill effects left over from the New England massacre. Return teams executed precise plans of attack against Minnesota weaknesses. The defense adapted well to the change in quarterbacks after the Vikings first possession.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.