Grades: A woeful offensive performance

938517.png

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.

Fast Break Morning Update: Josh Sitton named to Pro Bowl; Blackhawks-Lightning on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: Josh Sitton named to Pro Bowl; Blackhawks-Lightning on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

CSN will air six Cubs spring training games in 2017

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

NBA Buzz: With trade deadline looming, Bulls' season at a crossroads

Bears' Josh Sitton finds fourth Pro Bowl most meaningful yet

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Four top prospects among 19 players invited to White Sox big league camp

NBA Insiders Notebook: Trade rumors heating up

Five B1G-gest things: Indiana wins first game without Anunoby, Michigan 'white collar' no more

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse