Chicago Bears

Report card: Championship nearly earns straight A's

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Report card: Championship nearly earns straight A's

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.

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

If Mitchell Trubisky takes over as the Bears’ starting quarterback this year and has some success, keep Ben Roethlisberger’s perspective in mind: It’ll take a couple of years before he’s solidly established in the NFL. 

Roethlisberger said even after his rookie year — in which he won all 13 regular season games he started — he still was facing defensive looks he hadn’t seen before in Year 2 and 3 as a pro. So saying someone is and will be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL after a productive first season is, for Roethlisberger, too early. 

“I think it takes a couple years,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I’m always slow to send too much praise or anoint the next great quarterback after Year 1. I think people in the media and the 'professionals' in some of these big sports networks are so quick to anoint the next great one or say that they’re going to be great; this, that and the other. Let’s wait and see what happens after two to three years; after defenses understand what you’re bringing; you’re not a surprise anymore. 

“I think it takes a few years until you can really get that title of understanding being great or even good, because you see so many looks. In Year 2 and 3, you’re still seeing looks and can act like a rookie.”

The flip side to this would be not panicking if Trubisky struggles when he eventually becomes the Bears’ starting quarterback. For all the success he had during preseason play, most of it came against backup and third string defenses that hadn’t done much gameplanning for him. Defensive coordinators inevitably will scheme to make things more difficult for a rookie quarterback with normal week of planning, and it may take Trubisky a little while to adjust to seeing things he hasn't before. 

“They’re not going to line up in a 4-3 or a 3-4 base defense, they’re going to throw different looks at you, different blitzes to try and confuse you,” Roethlisberger said. “The confusion between the ears part is really one of the biggest keys to it.”

The “it” Roethlisberger referred to there is success as a rookie. The former 11th overall pick was lucky enough to begin his NFL career with a strong ground game headlined by Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a balanced receiving corps featuring Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randel El and a defense that led the NFL in points allowed (15.7/game). Trubisky, as the Bears’ roster currently stands, won’t be afforded that same level of support. 

Roethlisberger, though, had a chance to meet and work out with Trubisky before the draft (the two quarterbacks share the same agent) and, for what it's worth, came away impressed with 

“I thought he was a tremendous athlete,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought he could throw the ball. I thought when he got out of the pocket and made throws on the run, his improvising. I got to watch some of his college tape. Just really impressed with the athleticism. The ease of throwing the ball; it just looked easy to him when he was on the run, when it wasn’t supposed to be super easy. So I thought that those were the most impressive things that I got to see; obviously not sitting in a meeting room and knowing his smarts or things like that, but just the athleticism.”