Monday, September 28, 2009

Week 3 Grades

***Going to try and provide my opinions on each area of the Bears team after each week from now on...here are my grades for Week 3 in Seattle.***

The Bears improved to 2-1 with a nice 25-19 road win against the Seahawks. Even though Seattle was very banged up coming into this week, Seattle is never an easy place to play. In fact the Bears hadn’t won in Seattle since the 70s. Any player will tell you they’ll take a road win any way they can take it. So, even though the game wasn’t the prettiest victory, it’s a win and the Bears are now 2-1 going into week 4 like I had predicted they would be.

Quarterback (Grade: A)

Second week in a row Jay Cutler was given the ball with Bears down in the 4th quarter. Second week in a row Jay Cutler comes through with the game winning drive. This is the quarterback we traded for and re-emphasizes how much week 1 was an aberration. It wasn’t a flawless game for Jay…the interception was a poorly thrown ball and killed a positive drive at a point in the game where the Bears were fighting uphill against an energized Seahawks team and a rowdy crowd. Cutler was also credited with 3 fumbles (1 lost)…but those aren’t really on him. Two were caused by poor blocking and one was a botched center exchange.

Cutler was, besides the pick, very efficient (21-27) and threw 3 touchdown passes including the eventual game winning throw. On that play to Hester, Cutler read the blitz and knew he’d have Hester 1 on 1 on the slant and Hester did the rest. As a fan, it’s so strange to have the Bears losing in the 4th (on the road no less) and be more than 50% confident that our QB can get it done. Cutler brings that confidence and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Random stat: with a 126.4 passer rating, Cutler posted the highest rating by an opponent in the
history of Qwest Field

Final stats: 126.4 passer rating, 21-27, 247 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT, 3 fumbles (1 lost)

Running Backs (Grade: C)

We’ve heard it like a broken record from Lovie Smith: “We are a running team; we like to get off the bus running”. Apparently that bus has been in the shop so far this season as the Bears once again had trouble getting the running game going…and against a team that was banged up and had just let up 200+ rushing yards against the 49ers, a team with a similar “run-first” mantra. You wonder how much of this is to be blamed on the O-Line and how much is to be blamed on the running backs. But for a team who was so successful against defenses stacked against the run last year to be so ineffective thus far when opponents actually have a passing attack to worry about, it’s been a puzzling struggle. Forte ran for 66 yards before reportedly leaving the game with a knee injury, not the production anyone hoped for, but he was also able to contribute to the passing game (6 catches, 40 yards). Adrian Peterson and Garret Wolfe got limited carries, including a puzzling third down run to Wolfe who isn’t exactly your best option in a third down running situation. Hopefully next week against the Lions the running game can really get going more effectively.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends (Grade: B)

Pros: The WRs and TEs have really begun to sync up with Cutler since week 1. I don’t recall any significant drops this week which is a major improvement from weeks 1 & 2. Earl Bennett is fast becoming Cutler’s preferred option (4 catches, 80 yards) as they continue their Vanderbilt partnership in Chicago. Greg Olsen showed a glimpse of why some football pundits predicted a pro bowl season from him (5 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD). It seems this receiving corps, while still not elite, may be able to get the job done with Cutler calling the shots.

Cons: Blocking. Greg Olsen got worked over on the lost fumble after Cutler audibled for max protection seeing a blitz coming. In addition, on a third and short running play in the second half, Kellen Davis blew his assignment and let a Seahawks DL into the backfield with minimal resistance. With a heavy dose of blitz packages becoming the fashionable defense in this league of copycat coaching (a la the Tampa 2 of the early 2000s and last year’s Wildcat offense), our TEs are going to need to be able to help our offensive line to provide Cutler with some protection.

Offensive Line (Grade: C)

So far the Bears offensive line seems to be doing just enough to give Cutler a chance to win some games. The Seahawks registered 2 sacks and 4 QB hits on the day (1 of those sacks coming on the aforementioned play where Olsen got owned by Curry). The running game racked up 85 yards on a pedestrian 3 YPC. This just isn’t acceptable for a team who ran so well last year against 8 man fronts. The only reason the line salvages a C is because they were able to pass protect well enough for Cutler to have a very efficient and successful day through the air. He was not flushed from the pocket often (although it should be noted he was under significant heat on the interception). Chris Williams got beat for one of the fumbles but had the presence of mind to recover his own blunder. Three false starts on the day certainly aren’t good, but for a stadium that averages 2.5 per game it’s not unexpected.

Still not sure if Omiyale should be starting ahead of Beekman at left guard (if they made the same $$$ would this be the case? I doubt it). I probably won’t be giving the line a higher grade than a C until they show me some run blocking.

Defensive Line (Grade: B)

Three sacks and three QB hits on a mobile quarterback like Seneca Wallace is a fairly successful outing. Mark Anderson, while unable to register a hit on the play, pressured Wallace into throwing the important, momentum shifting interception to Briggs in the third quarter. I still haven’t seen much from Tommie Harris and you have to wonder how healthy he truly is. The Seahawks ability to run the ball and convert on third downs (7 for 17 including a few third and longs) doesn’t fall solely on the D-Line but they need to be able to hit their gaps and cut off running lanes better than they did on Sunday as well as get pressure on the QB in long passing situations instead of giving opposing WRs time to find the holes in our secondary.

Linebackers (C+)

All things considered, our linebackers have been playing well. Two of our three starters were out, and then Hillenmayer injured his ribs during the Seattle game. The group of Roach, Williams and Briggs played OK, but not well enough. Julius Jones ran for 98 yards and the Seattle running backs and tight ends racked up 80 receiving yards on the day, including Jones’ first quarter touchdown reception that featured some of the poorest tackling I’ve seen since West Canaan’s improbable run to the 1999 district championship.

On the bright side, Lance Briggs Inc. did his thing (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and was flying all over the field Sunday showing his Pro Bowl pedigree. Tinoisamoa ran laps before the game and should be ready to go next week vs. the Lions, hopefully the run defense will see an improvement with his addition.

Secondary (C)

The secondary won the war of words with TJ Houshmanzadeh by limiting him to 4 catches for 35 yards with a huge fumble caused by Peanut. This is the best game they’ve played all season in my opinion overall, but there is still room for improvement. Afalava made a great defensive pass deflection to end a Seattle drive and Bowman played well (team high 9 tackles, one pass deflection). However, if it weren’t for Wallace’s lack of passing touch, John Carlson would have walked untouched into the end zone for a touchdown with Tillman trailing him by 2-3 steps. Hasselbeck would have made that pass…so would just about every other starter in the league (maybe even Orton).

I might have given the unit a B if it weren’t for Tillman’s non-tackle on Julius Jones’ touchdown catch. I know Lovie Smith preaches turnovers and stripping the ball…but generally you wrap the ball carrier up and the second defender tries for the strip. If I recall, Manning made the same bonehead mistake on an Adrian Peterson TD run last season. Tillman’s bullfighter impression trying to strip the ball from Jones was just pathetic.

Special Teams (Grade:C)

Not much to say, the kick coverage could have been better. Gould missed a field goal. Maynard shanked a punt badly early in the game when the Bears couldn’t afford to give up field position. Not what is generally expected from Dave Toub’s unit. Mare did miss two field goals, but not sure if the special teams D had much to do with them.

The bright spot was Johnny Knox’s kick return ability. This kid really has big play ability and averaged 33.5 yards per return on the day.

Coaching (B-)

Lovie won a challenge!! I am so used to writing off a timeout every time the red flag emerges from Lovie’s pocket I have to admit this shocked me…especially when it really was a coin flip challenge. I don’t think any one of us could claim that they saw definitive evidence in those replays. But I’ll take it. I also liked Lovie's decision to keep bringing the heat on Wallace even though he is a mobile QB. I would get sick watching the Bears drop into Cover 2 for long stretches of games last year only to be picked apart by the passing game.

I hate Ron Turner. Always have. And while, overall, he has been doing fairly well…his play calling in key situations remains puzzling to me. Down 13-0 in the second quarter he was sticking to his guns and running on 3rd down situations when the running game was clearly stalled. I’m all for getting the running game going…but down 2 scores and with Cutler at QB and 0 momentum, you have to get the ball in the air. In the second half, Garret Wolfe’s number was called on a key 3rd down conversion and a combination of poor blocking, poor personnel selection and poor play calling = a punt to Seattle in a close game. He has to get better.

1 comment:

Peter N. said...

I, like all bears fans, was very happy with the win and will take it in a tough environment like questfield. However, i saw some of the same things that DC saw. I'm not sold on greg olsen, not only cause he cant really block but i would love to see him break a tackle instead of just getting hit in his back.
the next time i see kevin payne play free safety is one time too many. while the seahawks didnt take advantage, payne seems to always be out of position on deep routes and it is a disaster waiting to happen.
something on the line needs to change. they get no push on running plays. maybe some of the blame lies on forte too but the line never moves anyone and is anyone else getting tired of seeing omiyale pulling, blocking no one, and looking like he is lost? beekman has to better than this guy.
i really like what the D-line has done. while they missed a bunch on wallace, there was consistent pressure which is something bears fans havent seen since 2006.

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