Grades: A woeful offensive performance

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Grades: A woeful offensive performance

The concussion suffered by Jay Cutler overshadowed some elements of the game played by the offense.
But not all.
The offense was presented with the ball at the Chicago 45, its 37 and the Houston 45. The result: zero points, three turnovers and 10 plays in arguably the worst single quarter of the 2012 season. Of the Bears 14 possessions, nine started at no worse than the Chicago 35, yet the offense managed just six points for the game.
It is not automatically a positive that the Bears offense got better when Cutler was out.
The defense, as it has so frequently through this half-season, gave the Bears opportunities on Tim Jennings interceptions twice in the first 16 minutes. Devin Hester returned Houstons punt after the first possession to the Chicago 45. None of hose mattered.
The problem is that the offense turned those into just three points. The offense gave away the ball on its first two first-quarter possessions on fumbles, by Kellen Davis and Michael Bush, when players simply failed to secure the ball on basic tackles, no overt strip. Add to that Cutlers puzzling mis-throw toward Davis and the Bears were very lucky to end the first quarter down just 3-0.
In the end, luck had nothing to do with it.
QUARTERBACK    D
Jay Cutler threw 14 passes. Seven were caught by his receivers, two were caught by Texans and five were caught by no one. His 16.7 passer rating was the second-lowest of his career behind only his 7.9 in 2009 at Baltimore.
Cutlers first interception thrown into double coverage to Kellen Davis was a poor decision and wasted a first-quarter scoring opportunity after a Jennings interception. He squandered a drive in the Houston end with another throw into coverage, forced toward Brandon Marshall.
Jason Campbell was an upgrade, at least for the moment. Campbell completed 11 of 19 for 94 yards, 45 of those coming on a toss to Marshall. The Texans committed to taking away anything deep but Campbell, the receivers and backs were not able to exploit anything underneath.
RUNNING BACK    D
Matt Forte was controlled with 39 yards on 16 carries (2.4 ypc.), the first time this season he was held below four yards per carry. Forte had no run longer than eight yards and was less than ineffective in the passing game, with five receptions for a net two yards (minus-1.5 yd. average).
Michael Bush had a 20-yard carry but squandered a scoring drive with a fumble after a good fourth-down conversion run in Houstons end in the first quarter. Backs provided support in pass protection with fullback Evan Rodriguez delivering solid blocks that helped keep Bears quarterbacks from being sacked.
RECEIVERS   F
Brandon Marshall recorded his standard 100-yard game (107) with eight catches. But the rest of the receiving group was close to useless, particularly the tight end group.
Kellen Davis position in the starting lineup has to be evaluated. His fumble on the Bears first play after a big Devin Hester punt return was a disastrous start in a game where the Bears desperately needed a fast start. Davis also committed a decisive drop late in the fourth quarter on what would have been a big third-down conversion. Davis finished with one reception from the five passes on which he was targeted.
Matt Spaeth caught all three of the passes thrown to him but for a total of four yards. He got no depth on routes and netted five yards on one catch, meaning his net was minus-1 on two other catches. Kyle Adams had one reception for seven yards.
Devin Hester produced little from his two receptions, a total of four yards. Earl Bennett caught one ball for nine yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE   C-
A difficult group to assess. The run game was effectively stuffed virtually the entire game but Bears quarterbacks were unsacked for the first time this season against one of the leagues best attacking fronts.
The Texans moved rush terror J.J. Watt to multiple spots for matchups, including most of the first quarter against JMarcus Webb. Webb and Gabe Carimi got some help from their guards but both held up well against one of the NFLs elite pass rushers. Watt had no sacks, two tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. No passes defensed by someone with 10 on the year.
The Bears were without penalty in the first half but saved the worst til last. Chilo Rachal drew a false-start flag in the third quarter and holding in the fourth. Carimi had his holding penalty on the Bears final possession.
COACHING     C-
Deciding what is poor execution and what was poor design is never easy. Play calling was surprising. The offense had 19 running plays and 37 pass plays (including quarterback runs off pass calls). The Houston defense schemed to take away the deep balls in the second half but too many plays were designed for less than yardage for first downs and little effort was made to loosen a defense that was giving up very little underneath.
The 150 yards in the second half after 99 in the first were a step in the right direction but not enough to overcome shortcomings in all areas.

Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

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Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Royals on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. from Kansas City. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 2.13 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Phillies on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60 ERA) vs. Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

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Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”