Bears report card not championship worthy

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Bears report card not championship worthy

Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011
8:00 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

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.

Quarterback C-

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 C-

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.

Linebackers B

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.

Secondary D
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.

Coaching C-

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.

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

If the Lions beat the Bears in Detroit, it'd be a recent rarity. No, not the Bears losing, but in this long series that reaches 175 games Sunday. One team or the other has swept the season series 11 of the last 12 years (the lone exception being 2011). The 17-14 Bears win Oct. 2 ended a string of six consecutive losses to their division rivals. At that point, both clubs were 1-3. The Bears have remained at that pace since, while the Lions have taken off, winning seven of eight.

It was Brian Hoyer's steady hand that guided that win, while a Vic Fangio defense missing Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan forced Matthew Stafford into easily his worst game of the season.

1. STAY COMMITTED

That first meeting was Jordan Howard's first start, and his first 100-yard game, and the rook ran it 23 times for the first of five 100-yard rushing efforts (113). And since the two Bears touchdowns were scored by a couple of players who won't suit up Sunday (Eddie Royal and Zach Miller, from a quarterback who also won't be suiting up), keep feeding the beast. He's 117 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard mark (after just a dozen carries the first three games), and another 100-yard effort would give him the most for a rookie in Bears franchise history.

2. A FASTER START FOR MATT

...meaning Barkley, not Stafford. The Bears want to avoid a faster start by Stafford and the home offense, which was held to just one first down and 14 total plays on their first four possessions back in October. As Barkley makes his first NFL road start in a dome, he and his offensive teammates need to get out of the gate quicker than they have the last two home games. Before they got things rolling on the final drive of the first half against the San Francisco 49ers, they had four possessions that totaled 14 plays, 27 net yards and two first downs. In Barkley's first start two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, they surrounded one 13-play touchdown drive in the opening half with five possessions, totaling 16 plays, 108 yards, three first downs, and an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

3. HOO-RATIO

The Bears have lost the turnover battle in eight of their 12 games, and just twice have they won it. One of those instances was in Week 4. For a team that has just five interceptions all year, against a quarterback who's thrown just five picks, two came in the first meeting on the lakefront. And those picks were by (....wait for it....) Deiondre Hall (the rookie who'll play for the first time since that game), and Jacoby Glenn, who's now back on the practice squad. Now, yes, Stafford is a different beast in his den, and there's a completely different confidence level now for the NFC North leaders. But what if the defense can pull an encore? And can Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks pick up where they left off against another mobile quarterback? The Bears had just two sacks in the first meeting, registered by (....wait for it....) Mitch Unrein and Cornelius Washington.

** Finish up your snow removal by 11 a.m. Plop yourself in front of CSN, and watch ex-Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Alex Brown join Chris for Bears Pregame Live. Then as soon as the second quarter ends on CBS, log on here to CSNChicago.com as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments on Bears Halftime Live. Finally, as soon as the team's start sharing handshakes, flip back to CSN as the three ex-Bears and Chris provide 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, press conferences and locker room interviews from Detroit on Bears Postgame Live. **

Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN

Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN

The Bears and Detroit Lions square off Sunday at noon and CSN Chicago has you covered along the way.

Check out a schedule of Sunday's events:

— Meijer Bears Pregame Live with Chris Boden, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller airs at 11 a.m. on CSN.

— Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Bears Halftime Live streaming live on CSNChicago.com and ChicagoBears.com.

— State Farm Bears Postgame Live airing immediately after the game on CSN.

Important Twitter follows:

— John "Moon" Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), CSNChicago

— Bears Talk (@CSNBears), CSNChicago

— Kip Lewis (@CSNKipLewis), CSNChicago

— Chris Boden (@CSNBoden), CSNChicago