In today's Four Phases report card, we grade out how the Chicago Bears did in the four phases of their win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The Chicago Bears took advantage of yet another fourth quarter comeback to down the Minnesota Vikings, and the ability of their offense to click under pressure is definitely something worthy of praise.
In fact, most of the second half saw the Bears executing some great playcalls, with Matt Forte carrying the ball effectively and Jay Cutler making solid passes for the most part. Cutler's last toss to Martellus Bennett for the winning touchdown in the game was a work of art, firing it perfectly to his back shoulder and preventing the Vikings' DB from making a play on the ball.
Finally, the Bears' first touchdown of the game was also worthy of praise. It was a perfect route run by two different Chicago receivers, as Alshon Jeffrey set a fantastic pick along the goal line and Bennett shed his blocking assignment and got a free release along the line for an easy pitch and catch from Cutler.
There were a few reasons that got the Bears dinged a letter grade in this area, unfortunately. For starters, Cutler's pass at the goal line in the second quarter that was deflected and intercepted was a combination of a bad decision by the QB and a questionable play call by Marc Trestman. Cutler
has to know better than to throw the ball into that kind of traffic when he checks down on his read progression, but considering it's something that he's consistently done throughout his career, it's unlikely to change.
The other deduction from the Bears' grade was their relatively slow progression down the field on the game's last drive. Yes, they only had one timeout, so it was tough to stop the clock, but it seemed as though there was no particular hurry at times, and both Brandon Marshall and Bennett elected to stay in bounds for a couple of extra yards instead of getting out of bounds to stop the clock.
Obviously, it worked out in the Bears' favor, but they can't keep tempting fate like that and expecting to come out on top every time.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Bears' secondary looked excellent against Christian Ponder and company. Tim Jennings' interception return for a touchdown was a definite highlight, and there were several other plays that Bears corners made on balls that could have resulted in big gains for the Vikings.
In addition to that, the Bears' linebackers had a very solid game. Lance Briggs did a great job in plugging up gaps that Adrian Peterson normally bursts through, and also did a nice job of getting pressure on Ponder in the pocket. James Anderson also had his second good game in a row in pass coverage, defending a couple different passes over the middle.
The only real negative for the Bears in the game on the defensive side of the ball was their inability once again to get pressure up front on the defensive line. Teams seem to be stopping Julius Peppers and Henry Melton with ease, and even though Shea McClellin and Stephen Paea occasionally got into the Vikings' backfield, it wasn't enough, and the Bears once again had to rely on their secondary way too much to stop the passing game of the Vikings.
One game shouldn't be a cause for concern, but when you factor in the Bears' struggles in Week 1, it is probably necessary to pay extra attention to this area of the game in next week's tilt with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Special Teams: B+
Devin Hester set a new Bears team record for most kick return yards in a game with the 249 he racked up in five returns on Sunday, and an equal amount of the credit has to be given to his blockers, who did a great job of creating gaps for him to exploit. He may not have brought a return back for a touchdown, but he definitely helped the Bears into some fantastic field position, and that contribution cannot be overstated.
The only real knock that can be held against Joe Decamillis' special teams unit is their poor play on the game's opening kickoff. Cordarrelle Patterson ran into the end zone virtually untouched on a 105 yard return, and it just seemed as though the Bears' feet were set in concrete on the play. They definitely recovered later on and held him in check for the most part, but that opening play definitely left the Soldier Field crowd in a stunned silence.
Fan Performance: A-
Fox's broadcasting difficulties were the source of much comedic fodder during the afternoon, and various Bears fans came up with their own theories on what had happened (yes, the author tweeted one of these things, but Simpsons references are always winners).
Twitter user Eddie Welsh had this theory:
#Bears Fox has no idea it's Johnny from Air plane causing the technical difficulties . pic.twitter.com/b8fEuHROKx — Eddie welsh (@Slapshoted24) September 15, 2013
Meanwhile, the author went with an even more sarcastic picture:
This was definitely my favorite play of the first half for the #Bears pic.twitter.com/6NuNTC5mxx — James Neveau (@JamesNeveau) September 15, 2013