Chicago Bears

Bears Grades: High marks across the board

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Bears Grades: High marks across the board

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 5:30 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
A 30-12 win over the winningest team in the 2010 NFC couldve been even more lopsided for a Bears team that rates high marks in nearly every area.

QUARTERBACK A

Jay Cutler both managed the game and attacked the Falcons, completing 22-of-32 passes for 312 yards and 2 TDs despite pressure that sacked him five times and hit him on six other occasions, once enough to shake him up. He was accurate with mid-range throws to wide receivers and also got rid of throws quickly for the most part, although two sacks might have been avoided by throwing the ball away. His passing was even better than the 107.8 rating as his one interception was a batted ball.

RUNNING BACK B

Matt Forte turned short passes into 23- and 56-yard plays, the latter a first-quarter TD with broken tackles and exquisite open-field moves, with fullback Tyler Clutts providing a solid downfield block. Forte averaged 4.3 yards per carry and led the Bears with 5 catches for 90 yards to go with 68 rushing yards. Kahlil Bell carried 10 times for just 24 yards, Chester Taylor-like numbers, but controlled the ball against tough hitting to give Forte needed rest.
RECEIVERS A-

Devin Hester turned a flanker screen into a 53-yard gain that came up a yard short of the end zone and caught two other passes. Roy Williams caught all four of the passes thrown to him, totaling 55 yards before he strained a groin while signaling a first down. Williams blocked well downfield and sustained a first-quarter drive with a 23-yard catch on third down. Johnny Knoxs downfield blocking was key on the Forte TD pass in the first quarter and Williams provided a strong downfield block on Hesters twisting catch-and-run in the third quarter.

Tight end Matt Spaeth caught both balls thrown to him, one for a 1-yard TD in the third quarter when the Bears were putting the game away. Kellen Davis caught two passes, blocked adequately but turned a defensive end loose on the hit that shook Cutler up badly.

OFFENSIVE LINE B
Jay Cutler was sacked three times in the first half, five times in all, but the line was hurt by excellent coverage that forced Cutler to hold onto the ball too long. Chris Spencer was pressed into service at right guard when Lance Louis was injured in the second quarter. JMarcus Webb was called for two holding penalties in the fourth quarter to wipe out sizeable gains. But against consistently strong pressure, the line handled the Falcons front adequately, although Atlanta posted an alarming 11 tackles for loss.
DEFENSIVE LINE A

Henry Meltons sack, supported by Israel Idonije, created a near-safety in the second quarter. Melton added a second sack in the fourth quarter and was a dominant presence with seven QB hits and two tackles for loss. Julius Peppers had a sack of Matt Ryan that turned into a fumble that was recovered and taken in for a TD by Brian Urlacher. Peppers also recovered a fumble to thwart an Atlanta drive, deflected a pass that led to a five-yard loss, forced a holding penalty on left tackle Sam Baker, and sacked Ryan on a two-point conversion. Nick Reed turned in a crucial pass defense on a third down inside the 10 to force a field goal. Amobi Okoye sacked Ryan late in the third quarter.

LINEBACKERS A

Brian Urlachers diving interception stopped one Falcons possession and was followed by the Forte TD in the first quarter. His pickup of the Matt Ryan fumble in the third quarter was even more dramatic, going in for a TD that put the Bears up 30-6 in the third quarter. The defense allowed just two field goals overall and Urlacher was initially credited with a team-high 10 tackles, one for loss, and a pass deflection. Atlanta rushed for 110 yards but 53 of that came on one carry.

SECONDARY A

Major Wrights hit and Charles Tillmans strip forced a fumble by Michael Turner. D.J. Moores blitz forced Matt Ryan to throw his first-quarter interception. Tillmans tackling was poor in spots but his third-down pass deflection was a key stop in the second quarter. Ryan threw 47 passes but the coverage contributed to the lines 5 sacks. Roddy White (8-61) and Julio Jones (5-71) are as dangerous as their billing but the secondarys overall tackling was solid and did not allow either receiver into the end zone.

SPECIAL TEAMS A

Robbie Goulds field goal from 41 yards gave the Bears their first points of the 2011 season and he added two more from in close to get some sort of points off thwarted red-zone possessions. Goulds five touchbacks forced the Falcons to operate from a long field and his second-quarter kickoff 5 yards deep was turned into excellent field position by a Corey Graham tackle at the Atlanta 15. Penalties by Graham and Craig Steltz on kickoff returns were costly in field position. Adam Podlesh averaged 48 yards gross and 46.3 net on 6 punts.

COACHING A

Play design by Mike Martz had receivers wide open in the first quarter, using mis-direction and delays. A back-side throwback should have been a TD as well but for a Cutler overthrow of a wide-open Kellen Davis. The Bears ran the ball 27 times vs. 37 pass plays but MartzCutler threw 14 passes to backs and tight ends to take advantage of defenders committed to stopping the run. Rod Marinelli had the defense prepared to handle Atlantas offensive firepower being run at the Bears in a no-huddle attack. Dave Toubs coverage teams allowed the Falcons just 3.3 yards on 3 punt returns and 16.5 yards per on the only two of seven kickoffs Gould allowed the Falcons to return.

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.

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

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Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

1. QB Mike Glennon

The Bears’ first team offense as a whole could be included under this subhead, whether it’s the offensive line creating holes for a running back (Jordan Howard won't play with a minor corneal abrasion) or the receivers creating more separation to get open. But the onus is on Glennon to be better than he was Thursday night and prove that 0.0 quarterback rating was the product of a small sample size and not a sign of more serious issues. On the other side of things, a bad game from Glennon only would lead to further questions about his ability to succeed as the Bears’ starting quarterback. 

“I mean, (this game is) bigger than the first but not as big as the third,” Glennon said. “I don’t really know how else to say it. Everything gets more amplified Week 1 to 2, 2 to 3 and then ultimately the season opener. Obviously I want to go out and play well but I don’t want to make too big a deal and put too much pressure on a preseason game.” 

2. WR Kevin White

Cameron Meredith can do a lot to help Glennon’s case, but the Bears have a good idea of what they have in the third-year receiver who’s been one of the more steady performers during training camp. Kevin White is in a different position, having not been targeted at all against the Denver Broncos and still needing to prove plenty going into his third year in the NFL. White’s growth this year may be slow, but he needs to show some signs of that growth during preseason games to build up some confidence for Sept. 10. 

“Anytime you go through some injuries, there’s a whole mental game that plays a part of it,” fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz (more on him in a bit) said. “Just talking to him – I think he’s over it. He understands those things are behind him. His confidence is back in his body with the things that he can do. You’re starting to see that out there on the football field. He’s really hitting another gear, catching these balls, going deep down the field and putting pressure on these defensive backs.”

3. WR Victor Cruz

It was a little jarring to see Cruz, a Super Bowl-winning former Pro Bowler, playing until the final snap of Thursday’s game — even if that had something to do with the Bears not having Daniel Braverman available and losing Rueben Randle and Joshua Bellamy to injuries during the game. But Cruz hasn’t seemed to significantly push Kendall Wright for the No. 1 slot receiver job over the last few weeks, and could find himself on the roster bubble by the end of the month. A good showing Saturday night could provide a nice boost to his chance of avoiding that bubble.  

“I've been impressed with him,” Fox said before the Bears’ first preseason game. “He's got a great feel for the game. Sometimes it might not be just how fast they are physically but how fast they play, and he seems to be that type of guy. He's still got plenty of gas in the tank and we're excited to have him.”

4. DE Jonathan Bullard

Bullard is the only player on this list who flashed last Thursday, with an impressive tackle for a loss probably the Bears’ second-best defensive play of the day behind Leonard Floyd’s first-play-of-the-game sack. He’s had a solid camp, too, showing some promising signs after struggling to show much of anything a year ago. For Bullard, Saturday night will be about keeping his arrow pointing up, perhaps to the point that he could start at defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks in Week 1. 

“He’s definitely stronger, faster,” Hicks said. “He was already explosive, right? He has picked up the game to a point where he can play within the scheme now and see things come and be able to predict the play in order to get a step on the guard or the tackle, whoever he’s playing against. Just the things that come with getting more reps.”

5. CB Kyle Fuller

No player may have a better opportunity Saturday night than Fuller, who should be in line to take first-team reps with Bryce Callahan out and Prince Amukamara missing practices this week with a strained hamstring. What Fuller does with this opportunity could be a major deciding factor of whether or not he’s part of the Bears’ 53-man roster — this coaching staff and front office didn’t draft him, and his fifth-year option for 2018 was declined in the spring. 

“It’s a new year,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said earlier this month when asked about Fuller. “We start evaluating guys by what you’ve seen on the field at this point.”

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

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USA TODAY

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

The Bears' best offensive player won't be suiting up in Saturday's preseason game. In fact, he won't even be on the sideline. 

Jordan Howard suffered an eye injury Friday, preventing him from flying with the team to Arizona. 

Although ESPN's Adam Schefter believes it's minor, that's not a good sign for an offense that relies heavily on the run game.

Joining Howard on the inactive list are more key offensive guys: 

- Kyle Long, OL

- Jeremy Langford, RB

- Joshua Bellamy, WR

- Markus Wheaton, WR

That means Mike Glennon, who is embroiled in a growing quarterback controversy, will have his work cut out for him. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears will also be missing some notables: 

- Danny Trevathan, LB

- Mitch Unrein, DL

- Bryce Callahan, DB

- Alex Scearse, LB

- Jonathan Anderson, LB

- Kapron Lewis-Moore, DL

Hopefully Howard and the team can get healthy before the real deal begins because last year's injury-plagued season was certainly no fun.