The Chicago Bears limp into the break, literally and figuratively, with a 4-3 record and a defense that can’t stop anything. Add in all of the injuries, and the bye week is probably the best thing that could have happened to the team at this time.
With no game this week, it is an opportune time to take a look at grading the major components of the team after seven games and hope the future brings better results. (Admittedly, that is wishful thinking at this point.)
Passing offense: B
The Bears can’t blame the loss to the Redskins on the injury to Jay Cutler, as backup Josh McCown was outstanding. But can the Bears count on him to continue to play as well if he has to become the starter for a long period? That’s a big question mark.
Meanwhile, Cutler has been very good for most of the season. Pro Football Focus had Cutler graded as its third best QB, and even if you don’t buy into that lofty ranking, he had been throwing fewer interceptions and making better decisions.
Prior to Sunday, Cutler had one bad game that prevents this grade from being higher.
The improved offensive line has had much to do with any success the Bears passing game has experienced. They have been decent for the most part. Bushrod has performed below average in pass blocking, but much better than Webb could have done.
Slauson has graded out the best, Garza has done well, and the rookie Long has performed decently. Mills, however, is the lowest-ranked tackle in the NFL to this point.
This grade is based on the passing game up to this point. Going forward, it’s anybody’s guess.
Rushing offense: B
Matt Forte had a real good game on Sunday, rushing for 91 yards and three TDs on just 16 carries, and he has run fairly well for most of the season. However, the Bears have played catch-up a lot, so the number of runs has been down.
For the season, Forte has rushed for 442 yards on 100 carries, scoring six times. He has also caught 33 balls for 244 yards. He has lost just one fumble.
Michael Bush hasn’t had any real impact, with a 1.8 yard average and just one TD. Even in short yardage situations, where Bush is supposed to excel, he has fared poorly.
Bears’ QBs have generally scrambled well. Cutler has averaged just over five yards per carry, while McCown was effective with his feet as well Sunday, taking off four times for 33 yards.
Bears’ coaches had to be holding their collective breath every time McCown scrambled, since there were no other QBs on the roster.
The sweeps by Alshon Jeffery have worked well, too. Again, kudos to the o-line. Run blocking is where this unit excels. Long and Mills have performed much better vs. the run.
Only Slauson has been better in passing situations.
Passing defense: D
While they have taken the ball away, coverage has been poor overall, though it’s not all on the corners and safeties. The lack of a pass rush plays a large part of that, of course.
That said, Chris Conte had a terrible game vs. Washington, and Charles Tillman continues to battle injuries.
The Bears’ pass coverage is ranked 21st in the league by Pro Football Focus. In fact, Jennings is tied for only the 31st ranked corner in coverage, while Tillman is tied for 62nd.
Surprisingly, Conte is ranked first overall among safeties in run stops, although when your safety has that many chances, it doesn’t speak too highly of your defense overall. Plus, in coverage, both Conte and Major Wright are lacking.
The main thing that saves this grade from being an “F” is the takeaways. The Bears are tied for third in picks, and first in forced fumbles.
But in terms of the pass rush, McClellin and Peppers each rank near the bottom of the league. And other than Paea, who ranks about middle-of-the-pack, there hasn’t been consistent pressure from the tackles.
Rushing defense: F
Coming into the Redskins game, Pro Football Focus had the Bears ranked next-to-last in terms of run defense. Their performance on Sunday certainly won’t help that standing get any better.
The Redskins rushed for 209 yards on Sunday against a Bears’ defense that couldn’t contain on the edge and is soft up the middle. Hey, other than that, everything’s fine.
Bears rank 25th in rushing yards allowed, giving up an average of 117.3 per game.
Special teams: D
Dave Toub was a terrific coach, but he’s no longer in charge. Joe DeCamillis, who previously coached the Cowboys’ special teams, hasn’t stepped into Toub’s rather large footprints just yet.
While Devin Hester was his old ridiculous self on Sunday, the return game isn’t really as vital as it used to be given the rules changes.
But the blocking hasn’t been as good, and the formations haven’t been as crisp. Punting has been a problem in some games as well.
Heck, even the normally unflappable Robbie Gould missed a field goal on Sunday, though he has been good as gold for most of the season.
The Bears’ ST unit ranks 24th in the NFL overall.
This grade would be higher if it was just based on the offense, but Mel Tucker’s defense and DeCamillis’ ST have to be factored in as well.
Marc Trestman has generally been a steady, calm presence on the sidelines, and the offensive game plans have been, for the most part, pretty solid.
But that defense has been … I’m looking for another word for terrible … awful … let’s go with miserable.
Not all of that has to do with coaching, of course, as Peppers has suddenly gotten old and Melton was playing like a guy who had just received a huge payday (which he did, of course) before he went down with a season-ending injury, so DT is very thin.
Now, going forward, they will have to carry on without Lance Briggs, who may be done for the season (minimum six weeks).
Injuries aside, the defense has looked confused at times, and Tucker just hasn’t had the unit ready to play. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him leave after just one season.
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Filed under: Report Card