Bears offense astonishing, but D-Line was key

326384.jpg

Bears offense astonishing, but D-Line was key

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2010
8:49 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Scoring a season-high 31 points wins high marks for just about everyone on offense, even the line despite allowing four sacks; that group settled in as the game went along and did not allow Philadelphia to dominate consistently at any point. The defense made plays when needed but was hit for 333 passing yards and a possible game-changing late TD. Still, a strong overall performance by an 8-3 team.

Quarterback A

Jay Cutlers 146.2 passer rating was a career best and four TD passes matches his best. His TD throw to Earl Bennett in the first quarter was one of his finest throws in two seasons, a low red-zone bullet that either his guy or nobody was going to catch. Cutler was sacked four times in the first half but maintained composure throughout for his best half of the season with three TDs, 7-for-10 passing and a 152.1 rating. Cutler finished with 14-for-21 passing for 247 yards and the TDs but most important, no INTs and had a total handle on the game.

Running backs A

Matt Forte broke off his left side for a 61-yard run in the first quarter to set up a TD and picked up 28 on a third-quarter carry that was the key starter for a 17-play drive of 83 yards. Forte finished with 117 yards on 14 carries and caught two of three passes for another 22 yards. Chester Taylor was ineffective again, with minus-three yards on six carries.

Receivers A

Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox each caught first quarter TD passes on precise throws from Cutler and wideouts provided solid blocking downfield to spring first-half plays for long yardage. Bennett and Knox provided excellent yardage after catches and Devin Hester added a game-high 86 yards on three catches. Greg Olsen scored on his one catch and he and Brandon Manumaleuna performed generally well in pass protection.

Offensive line B

A difficult grading situation. The Bears allowed no sacks of Cutler in the second half and Fortes runs were behind increasingly solid blocking. Assignments against a creative Philadelphia pass rush befuddled the Bears early, who allowed four sacks in the first half to squander momentum as well as yardage and possessions. LT Frank Omiyale was guilty of a third-down false start, then was beaten for a sack on the ensuing play and for a second sack in the second quarter. RT JMarcus Webb appeared to miss an assignment and leave rookie defensive end Brandon Graham unblocked for a sack, and breakdown between Webb and RG Roberto Garza left DT Mike Patterson unblocked for another sack. But give Philadelphias blitz looks credit for causing many problems.

Defensive line A

The rotating front four was arguably the key to the game, allowing the rest of the defense to focus on more than just Michael Vick, whom the Bears sacked four times in all. DT Henry Melton collected his third sack in three games, sharing a first-quarter takedown of Michael Vick shared with Israel Idonije and getting superb early pressure on Vick. DT Matt Toeainas seven-yard sack ended a drive and Julius Peppers third-down sack on a play from the Chicago-3 midway through the second quarter forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal. Peppers pursued and tackled Vick in the fourth quarter to force another FG. Tommie Harris pass deflection was a game turning point. Anthony Adams was credited with a sack of Vick.

Linebackers B

Brian Urlacher was initially credited with a team-high 10 tackles and appeared to force a fumble on a sack that wasnt credited to him. Urlacher broke up a pass while Lance Briggs added six tackles and Pisa Tinoisamoa was credited with two solo stops.

Secondary B

S Chris Harris pick off of a deflected Vick pass in the end zone and 39-yard return was a major turning point, from a Philly scoring shot at the Chicago-3 to a TD by the offense. Harris also had two passes broken up. Nickel back D.J. Moore turned in two impact plays with first-half blitzes and finished with six solo tackles, one for a loss. Vick passed for 333 yards but the game plan was to prevent big plays and force the Eagles to play on a long field.

Special teams B

Danieal Manning returned a kickoff 44 yards and Devin Hester opened the second half with one of 46 yards. Poor coverage on Brad Maynards booming first punt allowed DeSean Jackson a 35-yard return to set up a Philadelphia FG. Robbie Gould converted his one FG try from 23 yards.

Coaching A

Relying on basics and the scheme vs. Vick was superb and kept the Bears from leaving huge gaps. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli made stopping big plays the priority and the discipline staying with that plan was crucial. Mike Martz showed the run early with good effect and again called more than 20 runs by his backs. The Bears were clearly a team with solid focus and was not caught up in panic reactions against one of the NFLs best offenses and the No. 1 defense at producing turnovers.

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.

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

The Bears have until Tuesday to move their roster down to 75, and they began Sunday by cutting 10 players.

The following players were waived: DL Keith Browner, WR Kieran Duncan, WR Derek Keaton, OL John Kling, RB Senorise Perry, WR Darrin Peterson, DB Joel Ross, TE Gannon Sinclair, OL Martin Wallace, FB Darrell Young

The Bears' roster currently sits at 80 players. After getting the roster down to 75 on Tuesday, the team will then cut down to 53 for the start of the regular season.

The Bears open their regular season on Sept. 4 in Houston against the Texans.

For the Bears, defense can’t pick up all the pieces from broken offense

For the Bears, defense can’t pick up all the pieces from broken offense

The current state of affairs for the 2016 Bears is seriously concerning when, after adding multiple starting players and investing high draft choices, the best that can be said about the Bears defense is that it isn’t as bad as the Bears offense.

A unit predicted to contend for a spot among the NFL’s top 10 this year was pushed around for 378 yards and 23 points in a 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. To push all of it off onto the fact that it was a preseason game won’t work, if only because the No. 1 defense allowed 239 of those yards and 20 of those points in the first half.

One mitigating fact is that the Bears offense hit a new preseason low and was coming back off the field before most members of the defense had had time to look at photos and to hydrate. Five of the Bears’ first seven possessions lasted less than 1 minute 30 seconds. Defensive players usually had time to get water or get with their coaches; not both.

And the defense did stiffen in the red zone, forcing the Chiefs twice to settle for field goals with the ball inside the Chicago 10 and a third time at the 23. And players at least bristled at the suggestion that the Bears are soft. “I take that personally,” said safety Harold Jones-Quartey. "I have never heard that word… . The first time I’ve ever heard anybody call us ‘soft’ is [now].”

Coach John Fox found some good in “the way our defense improved. We got a couple turnovers down in the lower-red area.”

[SHOP: Get your Bears gear here]

But those were scant positives in a game that saw Kansas City put together drives of 50 yards or longer five of the first six times it had the football, and those were against the supposed front liners.

The Chiefs drove 53 and 62 yards on their first two possessions, which included conversions of third-and-5 and third-and-14, part of the Chiefs converting six of 10 third downs in the first half. (“Obviously our third-and-long defense wasn’t real sufficient,” Fox allowed.)

Kansas City piled up 106 yards in the first quarter and what defensive “stops” there were might just as easily be credited to Kansas City execution as Bears playmaking. The Chiefs arguably had their initial drive stopped as much by tailback Spencer Ware colliding with blocking back Darrin Reaves on a third-and-short (2) for no gain. A fourth long drive of the half ended only when the Chiefs had a Bears blitz blocked, only to have Smith miss wide open wideout Albert Wilson inside the Chicago 10.

Special teams did the defense few favors. Kansas City punt returns of 18 and 15 yards put the ball at the KC 36 and the 50. The Bears did well to leave those possessions giving up only 3 points.

The game, in which starters and first-alternates play the longest of the preseason, had its points of player evaluation. Rookie cornerback Deiondre’ Hall, whose preseason has been marked by impact plays (not all of them good, of course), did generate another in the third quarter with an interception that thwarted a Kansas City scoring drive deep in the Chicago end. This was, however, after he had lost the ball and the receiver on a 58-yard completion the previous Chiefs possession.

And rookie defensive end Jonathan Bullard, after missing practice last week to attend to family matters, collected two quarterback hits, a sack and two tackles for loss among his three solo stops, according to initial game stats.

But rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has missed practice time with three different health issues since the start of training camp, was limited in practice this week with a hamstring strain, and missed an important opportunity for much-needed work against unfamiliar competition.

“We got a chance to look at some young guys and make evaluations,” Fox said, “and that’s what preseason’s for.”

Best thing about Bears’ preseason loss to Chiefs: 'It wasn’t all bad'

Best thing about Bears’ preseason loss to Chiefs: 'It wasn’t all bad'

John Fox’s hopes for this preseason game No. 3 actually were fairly modest: show improvement. The Bears gave their coach pretty much the exact opposite in a dismal 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, which wasn’t really even as close as that score.

Tellingly perhaps, Fox was moderately damning with faint praise: “I don’t think it was all bad,” Fox said. “It might have looked like that but so do a lot of preseason games.”

And any presumed correlation between Saturday’s woeful performance and how the season may be a stretch. Five of the last six times the Bears have lost their third preseason game, they finished .500 or better, last year’s 34-6 drubbing at Cincinnati being the lone time the game-three result foreshadowed the course of the season.

But Fox was accurate in how the 2016 game-three loss looked. With quarterback Jay Cutler and the No. 1 one offense – or what was healthy of it – played into the third quarter, by which time the Chiefs were leading 20-0, had out-gained the Bears 331-94 and had allowed the Bears into plus-territory just once in seven possessions and with the Bears picking up zero first downs on five of the seven “drives.”

“It was good and bad, like anything else,” Cutler said.

[SHOP: Get your Bears gear here]

Concerning perhaps, while not easily quantifiable from a distance, the play by too many players looked lethargic and disinterested, whether it was the cause or the result of repeated breakdowns that killed Chicago drives and extended Kansas City ones. Whether success grows out of confidence or confidence follows from success is a relevant question but one that really doesn’t matter until the Bears have at least one or the other.

“I’ve never had a problem, whether it was all of last year or this year, as far as effort,” Fox said. “Our guys try hard and work hard. Now it’s just crossing that gap to having it happen under pressure. I think with young people sometimes that’s the growing pains. We’ve got the talent to do it. Now we’ve just got to execute better."

Cutler appeared frustrated on more than one occasion, which in the past has been a source of problems. Some of it clearly was with teammates and failed assignments. But this is a young Bears team still in a molten state and frustration, even when justified, can be an accelerant for tension.

This is still only preseason, but the critical trust relationship between Cutler and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is still a work in progress. The No. 1 offense has done less than nothing – 29 total points from 12 quarters of work – other than a brief burst early in New England. History suggests that Cutler is among those who need success to believe in his chief architect, and if Cutler’s attitude is fraying even a little bit, the danger is that it spread without something positive.

“We’ve got a great attitude,” Cutler insisted. “We’ve got a good team. Coach Fox put together a heck of a staff. Dowell and his staff are doing everything possible. Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] is a proven vet… . It’s just up to the guys.”

[RELATED: Bears No. 1 offense moving in wrong direction after three preseason games]

The game was one of the poorer examples of complementary football, with no phase of the Bears – offense, defense, special teams – doing anything remotely setting up another in field position, momentum or whatever. That is unsettling, since it is unusual for a game to be marked by none of a team’s units performing well.

The offense went without a first down on its final four possessions going into halftime. That was capped off by an abysmal final three trips to the line of scrimmage that produced a false-start penalty, incomplete pass to a wide-open receiver and a sack.

The defense, which wasn’t getting much recovery time from those brief series, failed to stop any of the Chiefs’ possessions through three quarters without at least one first down. The Chiefs had six drives of 40 yards or longer and had the ball approaching 30 minutes to the Bears’ 15 through three quarters.

Special teams did the defense few favors. Kansas City punt returns of 18 and 15 yards put the ball at the KC 36 and the 50. The Bears did well to leave those possessions giving up only 3 points, but the Chiefs had three different punt returners with at least one runback of 10 yards or longer.

As far as what might be positive in all of that: “It IS preseason,” Fox stated.