Well, it wasn’t pretty on Sunday when the Chicago Bears played the Carolina Panthers, but Lovie Smith pulled out a victory, 34-29. The running game and special teams looked solid but everything else was a mess. No one could tackle Cam Newton, but a pick-6 from D.J. Moore was enough to complement the record-setting efforts from Matt Forte and Devin Hester. We even experienced a couple of Bears flip-flopping like salmon. I just hope you didn’t put any money on Chicago if you were betting the spread. If you did, you can make your checks out to Gregory Olsen, c/o Carolina Panthers.
Now, let’s hand out some grades as the Bears pulled back into the contention at 2-2 after the first quarter of the season.
Matt Forte – I think one word describes Forte’s effort on Sunday: Production. He rushed 25 times for 205 yards (8.2 yards per rush), scored one touchdown and had four catches for 23 yards (5.8 yards per catch), setting personal single game records for rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage in a game. He joins Walter Payton (twice) and Gale Sayers (once) as the only Bears players to rush for over 200 yards in a game. However, it’s a little concerning that Forte accounted for 228 or the team’s 317 yards on offense. Not his fault though, he did his job. Forte now averages 158.5 yards from scrimmage per game and is on pace for 2,536 total yards for the season.
Devin Hester – There is only one grade you can give him and his returning ability.
Grade: R (for Ridiculous)
Bears Offensive Line – Hey everybody, come look. Chris Williams can pull and make a block. And what’s this? The rest of the guys are actually creating holes and pushing the D-line back. Let’s try a QB sneak from the four-yard line in the shotgun…Oops. Sorry we almost got you killed again, Jay. Well, at least they only gave up one sack. I think we know what they are capable of, so let’s hope Martz doesn’t ask too much of them moving forward.
Mary Lou Barber and Keri Hester – If you missed the touchdown celebrations of Hester and Barber, you missed some acrobatics that would make Bela Karolyi cringe. Hester performed a flawless double somersault, drawing awe from the referees and an A grade from me. But his third flip (practically onto his head) drew ire from the refs and a flag for “illegal demonstration.” Then, a couple of quarters later, Barber’s backflip into a face plant was even less graceful. He did just miss three games with a calf injury, right? Stick to football, guys. I know you are heading to London in three weeks, but the Summer Olympics aren’t until 2012 and we have two 4-0 teams in our division. Needless to say, the judges were not impressed with the overall performance.
Brandon Meriweather/Major Wright – When your starting safeties get 13 tackles (Craig Steltz added another three), you are going to give up a lot of yards, 543 to be exact. Carolina WR Steve Smith had 181 receiving yards alone and was seemingly wide open all day. You can put most of the blame on the safeties and their inability to play a zone. Meriweather looked more interested in drilling Smith after he caught the ball than breaking up the pass. Wright was pretty much non-existent throughout. Chris Harris better come back soon. For now, as far as a grade goes for Brandon and Major, I’ll go with their first initials.
Grade: A big, smelly BM
Mike Martz – Someone give this man a dictionary so he will understand what the word “balanced” means. The Bears ran 31 run plays and 18 pass plays against the Panthers. That being said, I was okay with 30 of those runs (See Offensive Line), but the passing game looked out our sorts for the third straight game. At least he didn’t try the wildcat again.
Jay Cutler – He still looks a little shell shocked in the pocket but was only sacked once. The interception he threw wasn’t completely his fault. Yes, he overthrew the receiver, but had he thrown it any lower, Panther’s linebacker James Anderson would have tipped it. Had he held the ball any longer, he would have been sacked. Mistakes happen. At least it wasn’t in the red zone. Cutler also was battling Martz not calling in the plays fast enough and was out of timeouts by 6:45 left in the fourth. Maybe if Martz was on the sidelines (he was up in the booth all game), Cutler could have had some face-to-face conversations with him between drives or just wrote the plays on his enormous belly. Even with the lack of passes, I still give Cutler a passing grade.