Report Card: How many F's? Coaches get an 'I'

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Report Card: How many F's? Coaches get an 'I'

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
8:41 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears will be looking for positives in a 36-7 loss to perhaps the NFLs best team. It will be a difficult search. New England dominated the game from the second series and never let the Bears develop momentum or production on offense, defense or special teams.

Quarterback F

Jay Cutler provided a fitting cap to a dismal game with a high-school-grade pass to a New England DB in the end zone in the fourth quarter. He lost the ball inside the Chicago 10 with a fumble on a sack and finished 12-for-26 passing for 152 yards, two interceptions and a 32.9 rating, his second-lowest as a Bear.

Running backs F

Chester Taylor scored on a one-yard run and Matt Forte turned in a 30-yard reception. But Bears backs totaled 26 rushing yards on 12 carries and were able to add just 44 receiving yards catching three of the eight passes thrown to them.

Receivers F

Footing was a problem but Patriot receivers were able to pick up substantial yards after catches and the Bears were not. Johnny Knox lost a fumble that was returned for a TD and only Earl Bennett (17.7) and Devin Aromashodu (16 yards, one catch) averaged as much as nine yards per catch.

Offensive line D-

New England sacked Cutler twice and got three other hits on him as protection was not as much a problem as receivers getting open and Cutler getting the ball out of his hands quickly. The Bears went with packages including three tight ends and unbalanced lines but failed miserably to control the line of scrimmage in a game that needed to be kept out of Tom Bradys hands.

Defensive line D

Israel Idonije shared a sack of Tom Brady in the first quarter. Julius Peppers sacked Brady in the third quarter and deflected two passes, and Anthony Adams took Brady down late in the fourth quarter. But against a very good New England offensive line the Bears could sustain no consistent pressure, particularly on third-and-long situations, and failed to control the line of scrimmage to blunt the Patriots on the ground.

Linebackers D

Brian Urlacher got a piece of a Brady sack but was out-positioned by TE Rob Gronkowski for a New England TD in the first quarter. Urlacher was credited with a game-high 11 tackles, three for loss and three passes broken up.

Secondary F-

Blown coverage accounted for a 59-yard Deion Branch TD catch just before halftime and Brady had no trouble picking the secondary apart for 369 yards, with Branch totaling 151 yards and Wes Welker 115, both with eight catches. Receivers were able to add substantial yardage after catches and the Patriots converted 12 of 19 third downs, many of longer than 10 yards.

Special teams C-

Danieal Manning and Devin Hester combined for 6 kickoff returns averaging 36 yards and Hester added a 17-yard punt return, only one of which (Hesters 61-yard KOR) the offense was able to turn into points. Conditions limited Brad Maynard top a net of 23.6 yards on 5 punts. Coverage units allowed the Patriots to return 2 punts for an average of 21.5 yards and benefit from field position that the Bears could not afford to allow.

Coaching I

Incomplete because execution in offense and defense was so poor as to make evaluating game plans virtually impossible. The Bears werent ready to play but the fault for too much lay with the players, not with coaching.

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 establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Eric Kush was in some pain after the Bears win over the San Francisco 49ers. But it was a “good” pain, particularly since part of it was inflicted by a teammate.

The teammate was running back Jordan Howard, and the Bears left guard was learning along with his linemates that when Howard is coming, “he’s a-comin’,” Kush said.

“Oh man, sometimes you’re, ‘[groan-groan-groan], and he’ll hit you right in the back, you fall and try to take your guy down with you and stick him in the snow so you’re not the only one getting soaking wet and cold. But Jordan’s a lot fun and we try to kick some butt for him.”

The rookie running back has become more than simply a draft nugget from the fifth round of this year’s draft. Howard has established himself as an integral part of a winning formula of complimentary football, the concept long favored by John Fox, Lovie Smith and coaches who operate from the foundation of a premier running game, impact defense and solid special teams.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears’ three wins have come this season in the only games in which Howard has been given 20-plus carries: 23 vs. Detroit, 26 vs. Minnesota, 32 vs. San Francisco. Add to those the 3 pass receptions against the Lions and the 4 against the Vikings and the true centerpiece of the 2016 Bears offense is more than a little apparent.

For obvious reasons beyond simply the rushing numbers.

“Especially pass protection,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “I think he's taken a big jump that way. When you're young in this league, those are the things that can get grey for you. You run the football, he's obviously a talented player there, but in pass pro, he's made his biggest growth.”

As a corollary to Howard, San Francisco was only the second game this season in which the Bears called fewer than 30 pass plays (the only other time was at Green Bay, when the Bears only ran a total of 45 plays, 27 of them pass plays). In that respect, the snow was viewed as an ally by some in the locker room who have been unhappy at the run:pass balance, which was just 36-percent-run coming into the 49ers game.

“It was one of these games where, with the weather, we couldn’t pass the ball like we normally do —  30 times — so we had to keep it on the ground,” said one member of the offense.

Howard’s breakout game as an NFL ball carrier came against the Lions (23 carries, 111 rushing yards, 3 receptions). The Bears, looking for a breakout of their own in the form of a first two-game win streak in more than a year, are expected to keep it simple — and in Howard’s hands.

“I always expected a lot out of myself,” Howard said. “I didn’t really think that things would happen maybe this soon or this fast. I’m definitely grateful for it.”

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

The adage “play the man, not the board” seems somehow appropriate for what the Bears are doing to prepare for the Detroit Lions behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

“The man” is Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and the Bears have been scouting him as well as his defenses, beyond just Bears games, beyond this season and last, taking in his 2014 Detroit season when Austin prepared defenses for Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen.

How did Austin scheme for rookie Carson Wentz when the Lions played (and beat) the Philadelphia Eagles? How did he structure is defense to stop a rookie Teddy Bridgewater when Detroit played Minnesota? (Not very well, apparently, since the Vikings won both games and scored 54 points combined in the two games).

While the John Fox Bears staff went against Austin’s Lions defense twice last year, Cutler was the Bears quarterback. When the Bears beat Austin and the Lions two months ago, it was with Brian Hoyer.

Now the Bears quarterback is Matt Barkley, who has fewer NFL games played (seven) than Cutler has NFL seasons (11), Hoyer (eight), too, for that matter.

“Different defensive coordinators attack young quarterbacks differently,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Some guys blitz, some guys play a bunch of zone. This group on defense there, they have a really good defensive coordinator, they're really smart, they do a bunch of stuff. On the back end, they run all the coverages.

“As a game, we'll have to make adjustments as the game goes and see what their plan to come out is early.”

Coaches and players may talk about how they prepare for a scheme irrespective of which opposing quarterback, running back, linebacker or whatever they will be facing. But in fact, preparations start with who is orchestrating the opponent’s offense or defense – play the man, not the board.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

A risk can be out-thinking yourself trying to anticipate what a coordinator will do. The first point, Loggains said, is to start with your own strengths.

“We definitely look at that,” Loggains said. “As you go in the league long and longer, you face these guys, you see them in crossover games. We always know how a guy attacks a rookie quarterback or attacks a young quarterback, a veteran, or, in Matt's case, a guy who hasn't played as much.”

Evaluations of Barkley’s performance will broaden, particularly now that he is on tape for defensive coordinators to scheme for and scout. And while they are watching Barkley, the Bears are watching them.