We are seeing almost a carbon copy of the way things went last year for the Chicago Bears. Week 3 against the St. Louis Rams was a lot like their game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 4 last season. The Bears were coming off of bad losses to the Green Bay Packers and the team looked like a mess. Against Carolina last year and the Rams this year, Jay Cutler threw for zero touchdowns and one interception in both games. He had 102 yards and a 52.9 completion percentage against Carolina and 183 yards and a 54.8 completion percentage against the Rams.
It just reminds me that recent Bears teams have been slow starters and a grind-it-out win is just as good as a blowout. So long as we continue to see improvement, a win is a win. The 2006 Bears didn’t win pretty, but they made it to the Super Bowl. This 2012 Bears team has plenty of new as well as unexpected weapons. Tim Jennings is playing out of his mind and the defensive line has more sacks than a potato farmer. If the offense can get on track, the Bears can be the most complete team in the NFL.
Let’s take a look at how the Bears graded out in their 23-6 victory over the Rams.
Quarterback – C-
This was far from Jay Cutler’s best game, but also not his worst. He went 17-for-31 and threw for 183 yards and 1 interception. The theme of the day was ‘safe’ after he gave away last week’s game in Green Bay with 4 interceptions. Against the Rams, he rarely attempted anything downfield and the interception was after a tipped ball. In the end, he got the win, thanks to a few successful drives and a great defensive effort. I think it’s important to note that Cutler has won seven of his last eight games. I’m a little concerned about a bunch of balls thrown into the ground and a noticeably bloody thumb, but an extra day off this week may be just what Cutler needs to find his rhythm.
Wide Receivers – D+
While Cutler made some errant throws, the Bears receiving corps didn’t do him many favors. Devin Hester whiffed on an easy touchdown catch and Alshon Jeffery dropped another easy pass. Brandon Marshall had 5 catches for 71 yards, but half of it came on one catch late in the game. I think he was open on some routes across the middle, but Cutler didn’t see him, most likely due to pressure from the Rams. Earl Bennett’s lack of production (1 catch for 11 yards) is starting to concern me. He’s needs to step up his game and fight for the balls that are thrown his way.
Running Backs – B
The Bears asked Michael Bush to be the starting running back in Matt Forte’s absence, and he fared very well. He had 14 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown in the first half, picking up multiple first downs. Kahlil Bell received the bulk of the work in the second half after Bush went out with an apparent minor injury and wasn’t very effective. At least the Bears stayed committed to the run game, gaining 103 yards on the ground. Bush’s effort was nice to see after a recent string of bad backup RBs in the Bears backfield.
Tight Ends/Fullback – D+
I’m going to continue to pick on Kellen Davis, who fails to live up to his potential. He had 2 catches for 20 yards, but, with his size, should get that on a bad day. His blocking wasn’t terrible this week, so that’s a plus. I don’t remember seeing much of Matt Spaeth, but he seems to be wasting a roster spot. Kyle Adams is young and does a great job blocking and catching the ball. I hope to see more of him. The Bears rookie fullback, Evan Rodriguez, injured himself early in the game. However, he has continued to do a nice job blocking, and I hope he’s back next week against the Cowboys.
Offensive Line – D
‘Anything you can do, I can do worse’ seems to be the mantra on the Bears offensive line. Gabe Carimi is the latest guy to throw up a stinker. I’m not sure if his knee is still bothering him or he just isn’t as good as we thought, but he’s needs to get better. Despite Chilo Rachal’s two false starts, I thought he did a better job than Chris Spencer was doing. The penalties were early in the first quarter and Bears scored on both drives. I think he will be a mainstay for now. Lance Louis, who is normally solid, had some problems, missing a few blocks and drawing a false start. J’Marcus Webb is who we thought he was, terrible. In the end, the only reason I didn’t give them a failing grade is because Cutler was only sacked twice and the Bears won.
Defensive Line – A+
This ferocious group tallied another 5 sacks and a new player stepped into the spotlight once again. Israel Idonije tore through the backfield with 2.5 sacks and 4 total QB hits. Amobi Okoye and Stephen Paea continued their stellar play with a sack each and Peppers rounded out the line with a half sack of his own. And as well as those guys played, I’m quickly falling in love with the whirling dervish that you know as Shea McClellin. His spin move has faked out offensive linemen around the league, and I can’t wait to see him improve as the season goes on.
Linebackers – B-
They haven’t been outstanding, but they have been the glue holding the defense together. Lance Briggs had a nice day, leading the team with 7 tackles and adding 2 pass deflections. Brian Urlacher still looks a little slow, but has typified the Bears style of ‘bend, but don’t break.’ Nothing special, but reliable. Hopefully, he continues to improve week-to-week. There was also a Nick Roach sighting, as he registered his first sack since 2009 (when he had 2 on the season).
Secondary – A
Another game, another Tim Jennings interception. And he had 3 total pass deflections. The guy is playing out of his mind and could break the Bears interception record of 10 set by Mark Carrier in 1990. One of his deflections also led to Major Wright’s pick-6 that helped seal the victory. We haven’t heard Charles Tillman’s name much this season, but that just means that he is doing his job well and QBs aren’t even throwing his way. The only negative was a 30-yard reception by Rams WR Danny Amendola, which was the longest the Bears secondary has given up so far this season.
Special Teams – B+
After Hester nearly broke a few returns early in the game, the Rams just stopped kicking to him, leading to nice field position for the Bears. He finished the game averaging 28.3 yards on kickoffs and 13.0 yards on punts. Podlesh only averaged 41.3 on his punts but kept the Rams pinned deep in their territory for most of the game. Gould was perfect again, going 3-for-3 and hitting a knuckleball 54-yarder early in the game. The coverage units kept the Rams from making any big plays. Give credit to Podlesh for taking a big illegal hit early in the game that led to the Bears first points. Dave Toub is back on track after being schooled last week in Green Bay.
Coaching – B
Give Mike Tice credit for toning down the offense. He may have erred a little too much in the direction of playing a vanilla game, but, hey, it worked. Also, I have to give Lovie credit for not wasting a challenge on the ball that Chris Conte almost intercepted in the first half. The Lovie timeout late in the second quarter that led to the Rams kicking a 56-yard field goal may have seemed dumb, but I can see that the Bears didn’t want to risk getting caught with their pants down again. Smart call.
Overall – C+