Sorry all, grades are getting out a little late this week, but I’ve been busy celebrating the big 30-24 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. As ugly as the game seemed, I thought it was the prettiest win of the season. No, I’m talking about Jay Cutler’s butt (like Kristin Cavallari did when she crossed the line of TMI before Monday night’s game by tweeting, “To the man with the best butt in football, good luck tonight @jaycutler6 ill be watching” Gross.) I’m talking about the chemistry between Cutler and Earl Bennett. It was magical. A receiver who can catch is a welcome sight in Chicago. Now, let’s give out some grades to the Chicago Bears, who all passed the test this week.
QB Jay Cutler – After the Bears squandered their lead late in the third quarter, I couldn’t help but think they were down and out. But Jay Cutler led two fourth quarter scoring drives to seal the victory. His touchdown pass to WR Earl Bennett was one of the prettiest I’ve seen from a Bears quarterback in quite some time. He rolled out like a pro throughout the game and even did a few somersaults before completing one pass. It was great to watch. Cutler wasn’t perfect, making a few bad throws low and behind receivers, but he didn’t turn the ball over all game for the second time this year. Oh, speaking of rare occurrences, Cutler actually had time to throw the ball and wasn’t sacked all game long. It was the second time in 39 games with the Bears that he stayed upright all game. He threw for 208 yards, two touchdowns and completed 18 or 32 passes, despite some WR drops. Just imagine how good his stats would look if his receivers could catch the ball.
Offensive Line – Holy Mike Tice! The Bears finally look to have five guys who we can be proud to call professional offensive linemen. Lance Louis continues to fill in nicely for the injured Gabe Carimi. As a whole they had zero penalties, gave up zero sacks, and allowed the Bears to rush for 164 yards at an average of 4.8 yards a pop. It’s always a good game when you rarely hear an offensive lineman’s name spoken by the commentators. Now let’s see if they can string together a couple good games.
WR Devin Hester – Returning the ball, Hester had another very subpar performance, averaging just 10 yards per kickoff return in three attempts and returning only one punt for 19 yards. He is starting to look a little lost on these returns and he isn’t finding the seams. Let’s hope he can get back in the groove soon. As a receiver, Hester just doesn’t have what it takes. Having one catch for twelve yards on five targets won’t cut it. He had two opportunities to go up and catch a pass with guys right on him, but he let the defender break up the pass. Thank goodness Earl Bennett is back.
Lovie Smith – I hate to admit it but he’s doing an above average job coaching the team. No bad challenges and no wasted timeouts for two weeks in a row. The only complaint I have is that I saw Brandon Meriweather on the field a little too much. It didn’t cost the team anything though, so it all worked out.
Mike Martz – All in all, his play-calling got the job done. He finally figured out what the phrase “balance offense” means. The Bears called 33 pass plays and 33 runs plays. Perfect. The low point was in the second quarter when Martz called a Wildcat run on 2nd and 17 and then a run up the middle on 3rd and 14. Outside of that, the Bears moved the ball and made Martz look competent.
LB Lance Briggs and LB Brian Urlacher – Is there any linebacking pair better than these guys? They combined for 16 tackles, one for a loss, three pass deflections and chased down Michael Vick on multiple occasions. Vick had only 247 combined yards (passing and rushing), his second lowest total of the season. Like a fine wine, they both seem to be getting better with age.
WR Roy Williams and WR Dane Sanzenbacher – Oh my god, catch the ball!! Drops are killing the Bears this year and I’m looking at you two. Is Cutler throwing the ball too hard for you? Williams did have three catches for 46 yards but could have had a lot more if he had better hands. I’ve been talking up Sanzenbacher recently, but his second down drop in the second quarter immediately preceded the Matt Forte fumble/Eagles’ TD. The Bears did win, but it could have been more decisive if these two guys played better. They pass since they didn’t turn the ball over, but just barely.
WR Earl Bennett – Welcome back, Earl. His five catches for 95 yards and a touchdown is the best performance by a Bears wide receiver all year. We will overlook his offensive pass interference penalty, since it’s his first week back. And he should keep the orange shoes. They’re working for him, despite the fines. Also, tell Kristin Cavallari to move over because every time Cutler talks about Earl, his face lights up. Don’t believe me. Check out Jay’s reaction when talking to Suzy Kolber about Earl after the game. A happy Jay Cutler is a productive Jay Cutler.