Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011
By John Mullin
Another difficult game to critique in a season with many of them. The offense was bumbling, then came to life with the game on the line. The defense was pushed around for the first 20 minutes, then shut the Packers out. And the Bears nearly won the NFC Championship with their No. 3 quarterback.
Jay Cutler D
Todd Collins F-
Caleb Hanie A (grading on a curve, for extenuating circumstances)
Cutlers knee injury took the No. 1 out of a game in which he was ineffective for two quarters and was unable to deliver key plays for a unit that needed a big boost in what was ultimately a close game. His interception in the first half was costly and gave the Packers momentum.
Collins was a disaster and is probably done in the NFL.
Hanie, however, is a different matter altogether. As the No. 3 he has not run a Bears offensive play since the off week 12 weeks ago. He came off the bench and directed two scoring drives in the fourth quarter against the No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL. The interception thrown to DT B.J. Raji was not his finest moment but that was in the flow of a defensive scheme that someone who hasnt run his teams offense since October could hardly have recognized.
Running backs A-
Matt Forte provided what little initial offensive pop the Bears managed on a disappointing afternoon. He netted 160 total yards on 70 rushing and 90 receiving and was targeted on 15 passes, catching 10 of them. Chester Taylor got the goal-line score he was supposed to while Forte, clearly the focus of the Green Bay defense, delivered a respectable 4.1 yards per carry against a strong defensive front.
Receivers appeared to have a bad case of jitters at times and did not distinguish themselves with route-running to give Cutler opportunities early. Devin Hester slowing at the end of a third-down route cost a potential completion inside the Green Bay 20 on the first possession and seemed out of his element with other poorly run routes. Earl Bennett nearly brought the Bears back with his 35-yard TD catch against double coverage that included Charles Woodson. Johnny Knox finished with just two catches but broke loose for a 32-yarder to set up a fourth-quarter score. Greg Olsen caught three passes and the tight ends made contributions to Fortes running.
Offensive line C-
Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams were flagged for false starts, in a home game. Bears linemen were repeatedly bull-rushed and were thoroughly handled for the better part of three quarters. But the Packers managed just two sacks and six quarterback hits despite repeated blitzing The run game was serviceable but in no area were the Bears able to establish consistent control on the line and the offense had seven three-and-out possessions in large part because the bigger front three of Green Bay was not being consistently blocked.
Defensive line B
Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije were invisible on the edges early and the tackles were being controlled in the first half. Tommie Harris had only one quarterback hit on his stat line and Matt Toeaina was initially credited with nothing in the way of even an assisted tackle. The play of the front picked up significantly in the second half with Peppers getting hits on Aaron Rodgers and Henry Melton contributing two solo tackles. Green Bays offense was shut out for the final 41 minutes of the game and the play up front was the key.
Brian Urlacher had a sack of Rodgers in the first quarter to save points by moving the Packers back out of field goal range and his interception in the third quarter was (briefly) a momentum-changer. Lance Briggs intercepted a bobbled pass. Urlacher was credited with a team-high 10 tackles and Briggs with five plus a pass deflection to go with his interception. The linebackers were beaten on occasional plays; Urlacher was thoroughly faked out on one screen pass and Briggs lost contain on Rodgers. But the linebacker fills were solid and Packers running backs carried 25 times for 81 total yards.
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman looks on as the Packers celebrate winning the NFC Championship. Tillman and the secondary struggled to stop Green Bay receivers throughout the game. (AP)
The Packers had eight plays of 20 yards or longer and Rodgers threw for 244 yards against coverages that appeared slow to close with receivers and forced no turnovers. Greg Jennings caught eight passes for 130 yards, Jordy Nelson added four for 67 yards and the Packers piled up 107 passing yards and nine first downs in just the first quarter. Danieal Manning had six tackles, one for a loss, and Major Wright, Chris Harris and D.J. Moore all were credited with five.
Special teams C
The return game got a 22-yard punt runback from Bennett and Hester returned one kickoff 24. But Hester managed just 16 yards on three punt returns and the Bears started no possession in Green Bay territory, only one as far as their own 45. Brad Maynard punted nine times, with two inside the 20 but coverage allowed one to be a touchback and the unit did little of note in a game where note was needed.
Moving Todd Collins ahead of Caleb Hanie on the depth chart made little sense when it happened and cost the better player practice time that may have equipped him to better handle his moment. But that was a while ago. The adjustments on defense at halftime allowed the unit to be more aggressive and hold the Packer offense scoreless as the Bears were rallying. Offensively the Bears held to a balanced plan (under the circumstances) with 21 run calls and 43 pass calls even though the Bears trailed throughout the game.
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.