DST grades: Peterson's 'soft hundred' leaves Bears unhappy

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DST grades: Peterson's 'soft hundred' leaves Bears unhappy

Members of the Bears defense were mad. Theyd just held the Minnesota Vikings, with the NFLs leading rusher, to 10 points, the first time Minnesota has been held under 20 all season, and they were mad.

The miff was coming from allowing Adrian Peterson to net 108 yards. One lineman called it a soft hundred but put the blame squarely on the unit for not making tackles when they were there to be made. Petersons yards were indeed soft, coming largely after the Bears were up by three scores. Peterson had 25 rushing yards in the first half and 10 on the Vikings first possession of the third quarter so 73 yards over the final 19 minutes when the game was effectively over.

The overall was an effective shutdown of Minnesota, with the Vikings totaling just 181 yards through three quarters and mounting only one drive longer than 3-and-a-half minutes.

The Bears led the NFL with an opponent passer rating of 65.9 before the game and even improved on that, holding Christian Ponder to 58.2.

DEFENSIVE LINE A-

The sack total was modest, with one on the games first play by defensive tackle Henry Melton (sixth this season) and a second shared by Israel Idonije and Shea McClellin in the fourth quarter sack of Christian Ponder to end a possession. The Bears combined for seven hits on Ponder, with McClellin and Melton each getting two.

The line play was key, however, in getting to Adrian Peterson repeatedly on his side of the line and forcing early cuts in his runs to prevent him from reaching escape velocity. Julius Peppers took a lead role in calling stunts and specifics on various plays, giving the Vikings linemen changing assignments almost on the fly.

LINEBACKERS A

Nick Roach forced an Adrian Peterson fumble in the first quarter that led to the Bears first touchdown. Flow to the ball was excellent and contributed to holding Peterson to 65 yards through three quarters, with no run longer than 14 yards. Roach, playing heavy minutes with the Vikings' use of Peterson, tied for Bears high with seven tackles, six of them solo.

Lance Briggs also had seven stops, five solos, and broke up two passes. He and Brian Urlacher (four stops) combined with Roach to take Peterson away from dominating the game.

SECONDARY A

Kelvin Hayden, pressed into regular-down duty after an ankle injury to Charles Tillman, saved a TD with a fourth-quarter pass breakup and locked up WR Michael Jenkins on the next play as well to turn back a four-down effort with momentum at stake.

Tillman outfought Peterson for a fumble on the Vikings third possession to set up a touchdown and broke up a third-down slant pattern on Minnesotas second possession to force a field goal.

Run support from safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright was not flawless, but tackling Adrian Peterson rarely is. And Conte broke up two passes while coming up with an interception to set up a touchdown and nearly tipped a ball for another.

Tim Jennings was strong in open-field tackling and finished with five solo tackles.

Altogether, Bears defensive backs broke up nine passes as part of holding Christian Ponder to 22-of-43 passing for 159 yards, a TD, and INT and a passer rating of just 58.2.

COACHING A

After the debacle in San Francisco, coaches prepared for a rushing onslaught from Adrian Peterson by stressing basics and gaps, but also have wanted the defensive linemen in particular also to read the offense. Julius Peppers has stunt responsibilities as coaches have put the game in the players hands, with solid results again.

The mix of safeties on Cover-2 and Cover-1 alignments for run support may have benefited from the absence of injured receiver Percy Harvin. But the Bears committed to making the Vikings one-dimensional, and taking away Peterson and forcing Ponder to beat them was solid planning and execution.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The return game remains an issue with Devin Hester unable to regain his mojo of past seasons, and then being sidelined with a concussion. But other areas of special teams responded, with a two-point conversion and blocked field goal.

KICKING A-

Robbie Gould was good from 47 and 46 yards to get points from stalled possessions. Adam Podlesh executed a perfect fake PAT and ran in a two-point conversion. He also was good for 43.3 yards per on four punts, none returned and two inside the 20.

Julius Peppers turned in the 12th kick block of his career. But the Vikings blocked a Gould field goal late in the second quarter.

COVERAGE A

The Vikings were not able to return any of Adam Podleshs four punts. Marcus Sherels returned one kickoff 38 yards but the other two KORs were for 14 and 15 yards. The Vikings had an average starting field position of their own 29 and started eight out of 10 possessions after kicks from inside their own 30.

RETURNS C-

Devin Hester did nothing with a first-quarter punt return when he appeared to have running room and was replaced on the next kickoff return by Eric Weems. Hester left the game with a concussion in the first quarter. Weems returned three kickoffs an average of 21.7 with a long of 27.

COACHING A

The scouting of Minnesotas kick-block unit was exploited for a two-point conversion. Bears coverage units were near flawless and prevented the Vikings from gaining any sort of advantage or momentum after either punts or kickoffs.

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Miguel Montero is out and Victor Caratini is in.

The Cubs made a shakeup at catcher Wednesday and will have to forge the last half of the 2017 season without the presence of veteran Montero, who has 1,149 MLB games under his belt and was hitting .286 with an .805 OPS this year.

But Montero talked his way out of town and Caratini is the immediate choice for a replacement behind starting backstop Willson Contreras.

[Where it all went wrong with Miguel Montero and the Cubs]

Caratini is a 23-year-old switch-hitter whom the Cubs acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2014 as part of the Emilio Bonifacio/James Russell deadline deal. The Braves initially selected Caratini in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Miami-Dade College.

The Puerto Rican native has mostly played catcher (297 games) in his minor-league career, but has also seen time at first base (76 games) and third base (57 games). 

Caratini got his first taste of big-league spring training action this season, impressing with a .379 average and 1.175 OPS in 16 games (29 at-bats).

He is enjoying the best offensive season of his career in Triple-A Iowa, hitting .343 with a .384 on-base percentage and .923 OPS.

Caratini has already set a career high with eight home runs while clubbing 20 doubles and driving in 54 runs in 68 games. He also has only 40 strikeouts in 245 at-bats.

The Cubs named Caratini the organization's minor league player of the month in May after he drove in 17 runs in 24 games while hitting .366 with a .573 slugging percentage.

Caratini also should help the Cubs running game — an area where Montero was 0-for-31 in throwing out baserunners. Caratini has nabbed 28 percent of would-be basestealers in Iowa, a mark that is directly even with the MLB average.

Contreras is throwing out 34 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017.

Caratini figures to be the short-term answer for the Cubs at catcher given the organzation doesn't have many other options. Kyle Schwarber has not been a viable option behind the plate after recovering from major knee surgery that sapped almost his entire 2016 season. Taylor Davis — a 27-year-old catcher/infielder — is currently on the disabled list and has yet to make his MLB debut.

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

WASHINGTON – The Cubs swiftly reacted to Miguel Montero’s jaw-dropping criticism of Jake Arrieta, dumping the veteran catcher the day after the Washington Nationals ran wild with seven stolen bases and exposed some of the issues within the visiting clubhouse.

You could read the writing on the wall Wednesday morning when Anthony Rizzo’s comments on his weekly WMVP-AM 1000 appearance went viral. An All-Star first baseman who is tight with management and picky about when he decides to speak up called out Montero as a “selfish player.”

In designating Montero for assignment – a source confirmed catcher Victor Caratini will also be promoted from Triple-A Iowa – the Cubs will have to eat roughly half of his $14 million salary in the final year of his contract. 

Montero’s biggest sin is that he no longer produces like the two-time All-Star he had been with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he developed a reputation for blunt honesty and a willingness to mentor young players. The Cubs wanted that edge when they traded for Montero at the 2014 winter meetings, part of a dramatic makeover that included signing ace pitcher Jon Lester to a $155 million megadeal.

Montero’s goofy “#WeAreGood” hashtag on Twitter became a symbol for a rising franchise and a loose team that didn’t care about the weight of history. 

But where Montero could be the spokesman in Arizona and wear the target on his back, a backup catcher can’t torch a Cy Young Award winner and the team’s running-game strategy when he is 0-for-31 and Contreras is throwing guys out 34 percent of the time.     

Montero welcomed Contreras and Kyle Schwarber to the big leagues, generously trying to help with their learning curve, even as they kept taking his playing time. Montero didn’t exactly have the same reaction to David Ross becoming a media darling and a crossover celebrity.

[RELATED: Miguel Montero sends classy goodbye to Cubs players and fans]

Montero already put himself in jeopardy in the immediate World Series aftermath, ripping manager Joe Maddon in a radio interview on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally.  

Montero couldn’t help himself, even after delivering a pinch-hit grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, and driving in what turned out to be the winning run in the 10th inning against the Cleveland Indians in a World Series Game 7.

Montero wouldn’t bite his tongue late Tuesday night after a sloppy, frustrating 6-1 loss at Nationals Park. With a 39-38 record, several key players on the disabled list and a clubhouse far more complex than Maddon’s Woodstock visions, the Cubs are in crisis mode.   

“It really sucks because the stolen bases go on me,” Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s just like: ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough, because it doesn’t matter how much work I put in.

“If I don’t get a chance to throw, that’s the reason why they were running left and right today, because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. It’s a shame that it’s my fault because I didn’t throw anybody out.”