The Chicago Bears (5-1 overall, 3-0 at home) defense dominated the Detroit Lions (2-4 overall, 1-3 on the road) en route to a 13-7 victory on Monday night. Lovie Smith improved his MNF record to 9-2 for his career. Ndamukong Suh and the Lions defense used every trick they had to try to finish off Jay Cutler once and for all, but the Bears quarterback prevailed in the end. Brandon Marshall showed that no defense can stop him at Soldier Field, scoring the Bears only touchdown.
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman wrote the story of the night, shutting down the Lions top wideout Calvin Johnson, who didn’t catch a pass until the third quarter. Tillman also saved a touchdown late in the game and punched out, what seemed like, every ball that came within his arm’s reach. The rest of the team forced four turnovers and held the Lions scoreless for the first 59 minutes and 30 seconds of the game.
What we saw on the field wasn’t pretty, but the Bears won the game and are sitting alone atop the NFC North. It looks like everyone passed the test this week, but some players just barely made it. Let’s go to the grades.
Quarterback – B
Cutler had a tough day against a ferocious Lions defense, completing just 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown. The Bears faithful had a big scare when Suh body slammed Jay in the second quarter, but that wasn’t enough to keep the ever resilient Bears quarterback from completing the game. Despite being sacked four more times, the most telling stat was that Cutler did not turn the ball over. He also scrambled well, rushing for 34 yards on three carries. In the end, Jay did enough to win the game, and that’s all that matters.
Wide Receivers – B
With Alshon Jeffery out and Earl Bennett back in the lineup, the wide receiving core looked to be having a little bit of trouble gaining chemistry. Marshall was solid, yet again, with six catches (10 targets) for 81 yards and the Bears only touchdown. Devin Hester had a nice 23-yard catch but will need to amass more than three catches for 38 yards in upcoming games. Bennett still knows how to make a first down in the slot, twice moving the chains deep in Bears territory. As long as Marshall is on the field, everyone should continue to improve.
Running Backs – A-
Matt Forte had one of his best games of the season, rushing 22 times for 96 yards (including a season long 39-yard scamper) and catching three balls for four yards. It was the third time this season he had 100 or more yards from scrimmage. His production fell off in the second half, but Michael Bush stepped in and rushed six times for 36 yards. It was nice to see the value of having two legitimate backs produce throughout the game. If the Bears had better blocking, the screen pass game could have succeeded as well.
Tight Ends/Fullback – D
It seems to happen every week. Kellen Davis drops at least one pass and misses at least one block. Do the Bears still think he is the answer at tight end? I don’t see how. Matt Spaeth had some nice blocks, but he isn’t a pass-catching tight end (was targeted once and dropped the pass). It was nice to see rookie FB Evan Rodriguez active for the game, but he didn’t see any time on the field. Hopefully, he will return next week and be another weapon for Cutler.
Offensive Line – D+
Not their best performance of the season (five sacks allowed), but at least J’Marcus Webb seems to have faded into the background. Gabe Carimi is the new “most scrutinized” Bears offensive lineman. He was called for two penalties (one was offset and caused by a defensive offsides) and was beat off the snap multiple times. Roberto Garza had two false starts, Lance Louis had one and Chilo Rachal had a dumb unnecessary roughness call after a nice run by Bush. However, I’m starting to like Rachal more and more each week. He brings an Olin Kreutz-type toughness to the line.
Defensive Line – A-
They are a model of consistency. If the starters can’t get pressure on the quarterback, the subs can. Shea McClellin registered half of a sack, and his speed is proving to be problematic for every opposing quarterback. Israel Idonije (1 sack), Julius Peppers (1), and Stephen Paea (0.5) also showed up on the stat sheet. The Lions ran for 99 yards (5.5 yards/carry), but went pass happy toward the end of the game and the defensive line brought the pressure. Overall, these guys are gelling into one of the top front fours in the NFL. If the Bears blitz a few guys from the secondary like they did against the Lions, the defensive line will have even more shots at opposing quarterbacks.
Linebackers – A-
When it comes to Bears defense, it starts and ends with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Combined, they had 15 tackles, three pass deflections and a fumble recovery. Urlacher still looks to have lost a step, but he can still make big plays (red zone fumble recovery). Having these two guys run Lovie’s Cover 2 defense is like having Bill Gates as your IT support. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Secondary – A
Tillman is showing just how valuable experience is in the NFL. He shut down one of the top receivers in Calvin Johnson, holding him to season lows in catches (3) and yards (34) and forced two more fumbles (32 forced fumbles for his career). Some people over at ESPN even think that he is in the race for MVP of the league. Chris Conte and Major Wright continue to keep everything in front of them (Lions longest play was 23 yards) and they both almost had an interception. Tim Jennings has dropped off in interceptions a bit, but led the team in tackles (9). Despite a fourth quarter interception, D.J. Moore had a tough day at nickelback. However, the Bears let backup Kelvin Hayden take some snaps at that position, and he blanketed the Lions receivers.
Special Teams – D
Based on what we have come to expect from Dave Toub and the Bears special teams unit, Monday night was a disaster. Robbie Gould had a field goal blocked for the first time since Week 6 of the 2010 season, Hester was replaced on kick and punt returns, and they had three special teams penalties. The lone bright spot was Zack Bowman, who recorded two special teams tackles and recovered a fumble that led to a Bears field goal. The Lions have one of the worst special teams units in the NFL and all the Bears could muster was 2 kick returns for 27 total yards and 2 punt returns for 7 total yards.
Coaching – B+
I applaud defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith for using more blitzes at the right times. Stafford seemed confused all night long and the Bears just kept coming. Tice called a pretty much even run-pass game plan, and it worked. However, I thought the run game could have been used more, especially in the second half when it was obvious that Cutler was hindered by the hit he took from Suh. Since 2010, Lovie is now 13-3 when he loses the coin toss (Detroit won the toss on Monday) and 11-11 when he wins it. Coincidence?
Overall – B