Lovie Smith still has the Monday night magic. He improved his Monday Night Football record to 8-2 as the Chicago Bears destroyed Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys, 34-18. Jay Cutler had the offense working like a well-oiled machine, led by the strategic play-calling of Mike Tice. The Bears defense had 5 interceptions, 2 touchdowns, 1 sack and forced the Cowboys to bring in Kyle Orton to finish up the game. It was a thing of beauty down in Big D.
Let’s give the Bears a report card they will be happy to bring home to Chicago.
Quarterback – A
Cutler was firing on all cylinders after the Bears established their running game in the first half. He went 11-for-12 for 221 yards and 2 TDs after halftime, slamming the door on any hope the Cowboys had for a comeback. Cutler’s fumble in the third quarter was his fault, but the defense got the ball back immediately. He then led the offense on two scoring drives of over 60 yards. Overall, it was his best game of the season, and you can tell that once he gets the offense flowing, they are unstoppable. Not to mention he has now won 8 of his last 9 starts.
Wide Receivers – A-
Even without Earl Bennett in the lineup, the Bears wide receivers played a great game. Marshall racked up 138 yards and a touchdown, while catching pretty much everything thrown his way. He even showed some nice moves after the catch. Hester showed that, with his speed, he can be a great asset to Cutler. His 34-yard touchdown catch is a sample of what the Bears were expecting to see, after adding two big wideouts around him. Alshon Jeffery didn’t catch everything that came his way, but seems to be getting open more and more each week. Watch for his productivity to increase as he learns how to play in the NFL.
Running Backs – B+
The Bears came out running early. Then we once again saw the value of having a backup like Michael Bush when Matt Forte went out after the first play. Forte did come back and rushed for 52 yards on 14 carries, but the passing game was clicking so well, he didn’t need to do much. Bush only gained 29 yards on 10 carries but gained a few nice short yardage first downs early in the game. Forte also had a nice game blocking. As long as these guys stay healthy and the Bears run early and often, they will be as important as anyone on the offense.
Tight Ends/Fullback – B+
After a bad drop early in the game, Kellen Davis finished the game with 3 catches for 62 yards, his best career game to date. His acrobatic, over-the-defender catch in the fourth quarter showed his potential. The only critique from Monday night was that every time he catches the ball, he’s on the ground or about to topple over (He does this all the time. He has 4 Yards After the Catch on 6 receptions this season.) Matt Spaeth also excelled in his role as the Bears sixth offensive lineman, despite a false start penalty. Those solid performances aside, I still would like to see Kyle Adams get on the field a bit more.
Offensive Line – A-
Finally, the offensive line looked like they belong in the NFL. No penalties, DeMarcus Ware only had 1 sack (which was more Cutler’s fault), and the receivers had time to get open. And best of all, no injuries. Tice set these guys up for success with his game plan and Webb, Rachal, Garza, Louis and Carimi all responded. Monday night was a great effort to build on moving forward. The only complaint is that the running game only averaged 3.7 yards per carry…but, any Bears fan has to be happy with what we saw against one of the best defenses in the league.
Defensive Line – A+
The only sack was registered by Henry Melton, but the line played a huge part in Tony Romo’s 5 interceptions. Not to mention that they held the Cowboys to 41 rushing yards. Stephen Paea is living up to the expectations put on him when the Bears picked him in the second round in 2011. Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije didn’t show up much on the stat sheet, but their presence was felt. Add in Amobi Okoye, Corey Wooton and Shea McClellin and the Bears have one of the deepest lines in the league.
Linebackers – B+
It is obvious that Urlacher is not the same guy he was five years ago, but he’s still the leader of the defense. Lance Briggs showed some sweet moves on a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown (longest in the NFL this season) and was all over the field making tackles. Nick Roach had a nice tackle for loss as well. The Cowboys did excel at short and mid-range plays to the tune of 396 passing yards, but the Cover 2 got the turnovers when they needed them. Despite their average age of nearly 31 years old, Briggs, Urlacher and Roach showed that they can execute the Cover 2 as well as any LBs in the league.
Secondary – A
The Cowboys threw and threw and threw on Monday night, racking up nearly 400 yards. The Bears secondary waited and waited and waited, until Romo made a mistake…err…5 mistakes. Major Wright (2 INTs), Charles Tillman (1 INT, 1 TD) and D.J. Moore (1 INT) accounted for 4 interceptions and killed drive after drive. Tim Jennings ended his four game interception streak, but blanketed Kevin Ogletree on a pass that bounced off his hands and into the waiting arms of Major Wright. The Bears secondary now leads the league with 10 interceptions. Tillman’s seventh career defensive touchdown showed that a veteran cornerback can make plays just by reading the quarterback’s eyes.
Special Teams – B
The special teams didn’t do anything spectacular, but they neutralized the Cowboys special teams. You know Dave Toub wants fireworks from his guys each week, but sometimes vanilla is all you need. Robbie Gould made 2 field goal attempts to remain perfect on the year. Hester had a few average kick/punt returns. Adam Podlesh’s 3 punts helped pin the Cowboys deep in their own zone and the coverage teams didn’t allow any big plays. Overall, just what the Bears needed on a night that the defense took center stage.
Coaching – A
It looks like Tice is a lot different than Mike Martz. He actually learns from his mistakes. He stuck to the run in the first half and exploited the Cowboys downfield in the second half. I can’t wait to see what Tice calls next week. Even Lovie had a productive game. No bad challenges and he had timeouts to spare when the game ended. I’m not on the Lovie bandwagon yet, but his defensive mindset looks to be fueling the Bears early on in the season.
Overall – A