Finally, a break for my ulcer. That was the first game all year that I wasn’t nervous in the fourth quarter. I forgot how much fun football can be when your team plays well. It was far from perfect, the run defense is still awful, but the Bears did more than enough Monday to crush the Cowboys 45-28. The offense scored on every drive except for the last one of the game and the defense at least got a few stops. I didn’t think there was a defense out there worse than the Bears, but the Cowboys proved it Monday night. It’s a nice change to write a positive takeaways article and it’s hard not to be thinking about the Bears playoffs chances after the way the offense performed Monday night. Can Ditka give a half time speech every game?
Josh McCown: If this is his last start as a Bear, McCown definitely went out in style. He threw for over 300 yards for the third straight week, his 4 TD passes were a career high, and he got his first rushing touchdown since 2004. Overall he had a 141.9 passer rating and is now the league leader in passer rating over the last five weeks. McCown made himself some money next year. Hopefully the Bears are the ones cutting the check for McCown services as a back-up QB, but I’d be surprised if some team didn’t give McCown at least low-end starter money next year. He deserves it after the way he’s played for the Bears the last five weeks. He did have two interceptions dropped last night and another called back on a Dallas penalty, but those don’t show up in the stat sheet and will be forgotten soon.
Alshon Jeffery: Wow. What else is there to say? For the second straight week, Jeffery made a highlight reel touchdown grab and led the Bears in receiving yards. It’s hard to say which of the two Bears receivers is more valuable right now, but it’s easy to call them the best WR duo in the NFL.
Brandon Marshall: Jeffery might be the better receiver of the two right now, but Marshall is clearly the best blocker. Everyone saw his highlight reel block on Sean Lee, but had an even better one on Michael Bush’s TD reception. He was no slouch catching passes either with 6 receptions for 100 yards.
Matt Forte: Another monster game for Forte with 175 total yards and a touchdown. He’s 3rd in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (Charles, McCoy) and should be a lock for the Pro Bowl. Forte also did a good job picking up the blitz in pass pro and played a brilliant overall game.
Offensive Line: McCown was only hit four times all game, Forte averaged 5.1 yards a carry, and the offense racked up 490 yards. Roberto Garza was the only player on the Bears offense with a negative grade and just barely (-.5). The line played their best game of the season; Individually rookies Kyle Long (4) & Jordan Mills (3.9) had their best grades this year.
Defensive Line: The Bears run defense was garbage again. Dallas gained 198 yards on the ground on only 26 carries (7.71 YPC). Everyone on the defensive line graded negatively on the day except Jay Ratliff (.2) who was playing a little harder than usual due to a beef with his old team. Ratliff had one of the Bears two sacks and the only one from a D-lineman. The Bears line is really bad right now and have given up over 100 yards rushing 6 games in a row. Cleveland has had zero 100-yard rushers this season, so something has to give next Sunday.
Linebackers: It’s hard to believe, but the linebackers were even worse than the D-line on Sunday. The three starting linebackers combined for a -10.7 grade and consistently missed tackles on DeMarco Murray. They were decent in pass defense at least, only giving up 4 catches for 38 yards with 25 of those coming in garbage times. The Bears really need Briggs back if they are going to have a shot to make the playoffs. None of these LBs can shed blocks well enough to make tackles near the line of scrimmage.
Defensive Backs: The bright spot on the defense was the play of Tim Jennings and Zach Bowman. Jennings was giving up 5 inches and almost 40 pounds to Dez Bryant, but shut him down for only 2 catches and 12 yards (1 TD). The Jennings / Bryant size differential was similar to the Bears WR vs the Cowboys corners and we saw how bad the Cowboys DBs were burned. Heck of a performance by Jennings. Bowman played his best game of his 6 year career. He switched off between Miles Austin and Terrance Williams and held them to 4 catches for 40 total yards. On the day Bowman had 6 tackles and a pass deflection. I’m not sure why teams are passing at all against the Bears, but they keep doing it and Jennings & Bowman shut down one of the more potent passing attacks in the NFL .
Safeties: As much as I enjoy pointing out Conte & Wright’s failures, they were pretty solid on Sunday. Conte had 9 tackles and no glaring mistakes though he did miss 2 tackles. Wright was bad, but not as bad as usual (-1.9). Overall they weren’t horrible, which is an improvement over their usual incompetence.
Marc Trestman: I’ve been pretty rough on Trestman the last few weeks (deserved), but he coached a flawless game Monday night. Welcome back.