Looking at the 41-3 score, you would assume the Chicago Bears (4-1) dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) throughout the game. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The score was 3-3 at halftime and then Lovie Smith got … loud. According to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, Lance Briggs described what happened at halftime, “I don’t know exactly what [Lovie Smith] said, but it was loud, though. Probably the loudest I’ve ever heard him. Whatever he said, it sunk in. And it jump-started us.”
It was perfect timing for Lovie to show some raw emotion, because the Bears responded with a 17 play scoring drive, two defensive touchdowns and three offensive touchdowns. Everything started to click. The defense now has five touchdowns in three weeks and leads the league with 17 takeaways. The Bears are going into the bye with a lot of momentum, but will gladly take the time off to let a few guys heal up.
Let’s check out the grades for their dominant Week 5 performance against the Jaguars.
Quarterback – B+
As Boomer stated yesterday, it was a tale of two halves, especially for Jay Cutler. He threw an interception on his first pass and over/under threw too many receivers. He went into halftime completing just 50 percent of his passes for 110 yards and only one field goal to the Bears credit. Then, he started to find Brandon Marshall all over the field, leading the Bears on four scoring driving in four chances in the second half. He finished the game 23-for-39 for 292 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. Cutler is beginning to show that he can be clutch when he needs to be. I just hope he is a little more careful when he runs the ball. Slide, Jay, slide!
Wide Receivers – A
Marshall caught 12 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, Alshon Jeffery had a nice touchdown catch and Devin Hester show his speed once again, making a beautiful 39-yard reception in the fourth quarter. Overall, Marshall had the bulk of the catches, but when he was covered, the other receivers were able to get open and make plays. It looks like Jeffery is going to miss a few weeks after fracturing his right hand, but at least he did it while catching a touchdown. It looked like he was getting into a groove, so hopefully he can pick up where he left off when he returns.
Running Backs – A+
Matt Forte finally looked to be 100 percent, rushing for 107 yards on 22 rushes and catches two passes for 20 yards. Michael Bush contributed as well with 52 total yards on six touches, including a nice show of athleticism. This is the type of game that Mike Tice envisioned when taking over as the offensive coordinator. He stuck with the run on the first and second down and set up manageable third downs. Eventually, the passing game also opened up and the Cutler took advantage. Forte’s longest run was only 14 yards, but he was consistently breaking tackles and gaining first downs. Even third-string running back Armando Allen joined in the fun with a nifty 46-yard touchdown run to cap off the victory.
Tight Ends/Fullback – C
Kellen Davis once again showed his upside and his shortcomings. In the first quarter, he dropped a pass that was right in his hands, but then made two nice catches to keep the Bears first scoring drive alive. After the first quarter, he wasn’t targeted again. Davis and Matt Spaeth did a nice job blocking, giving Cutler time to throw, but they will somehow need to get open and catch some more balls with Jeffery out. I feel as though we have seen the ceiling for Davis. Let’s face it, he’s just average at best.
Offensive Line – B+
This grade is a bit skewed by the multiple mistakes from Gabe Carimi. He single-handedly stopped the Bears from scoring a touchdown in the third quarter with two false starts in the red zone. He also gave up the only sack on Cutler. Other than Carimi, the line played very well against a below average Jaguars defense. J’Marcus Webb has fallen off the fans radar and seems to have responded since Cutler bumped and yelled at him a few weeks ago. I also want to mention that Roberto Garza has played extremely well all season.
Defensive Line – B
Corey Wooton was the only Bears to sack Blaine Gabbert, but he did it twice and forced a fumble that was recovered by Julius Peppers. After the last few weeks, this performance seemed to be a bit of a letdown. However, if giving up 60 rushing yards and three points is the worst they play all season, I’ll take it. Henry Melton has slowed a bit from his quick start and didn’t record a tackle against the Jaguars. Let’s hope he doesn’t fall into a slump like he did last year around this time. (Games 4-7 he had just one tackle and zero sacks).
Linebackers – B+
Brian Urlacher still doesn’t look like himself. He’s definitely a few steps slower than he was last year and doesn’t seem to have the burst we’ve always seen from him. A long bye week should help to heal his aging body. Lance Briggs, on the other hand, is playing at a level as high as Urlacher did in his prime. Briggs recorded his second pick-six in as many weeks to go along with a sack (almost a safety) and four total tackles. He’s definitely holding down the fort while Urlacher is getting healthy. Nick Roach had a nice pass deflection in the end zone and has been doing a nice job containing and covering running backs and tight ends.
Secondary – A
Is it just me or is Major Wright starting to look like a Pro Bowl safety? He and Chris Conte are patrolling the secondary like a couple of veterans. Tim Jennings, however, briefly reverted to mediocrity in the first half, capped off by giving up a 34-yard reception to Cecil Shorts (longest play from scrimmage by a Bears opponent in 2012). He bounced back in the second half and finished the game as the Bears leading tackler with six. Charles Tillman equaled Briggs’ pick-six repeat, making them the first set of teammates in NFL history to have back-to-back games with interception returns for touchdowns. Anyone who worried about Tillman after the Giants preseason game should now be resting easy.
Special Teams – C+
For the first time in a long time, the Bears special teams unit has been the weakest phase of the game. They haven’t made any big mistakes, but they haven’t been very special. The coverage team held Jaguars KR Rashad Jennings to just 21.7 yards per kick return. Hester had four punt returns for eight total yards and one kick return for 28 yards. Adam Podlesh averaged just 40.7 yards on three punts and kicked one into the end zone. The consistent bright spot has been Robbie Gould, who continued his perfect season, making two field goals and five extra points. He’s on pace for over 150 points this season, which would break Kevin Butler’s franchise record of 144 points, set in 1985.
Coaching – A
Even a person who has been critical of Lovie Smith’s coaching style has to give him a ton of credit for motivating the Bears at halftime. The Bears outscored the Jaguars 38-0 in the second half after looking ineffective throughout the first and second quarter. Mike Tice has shown that he’s willing to establish the run early, but also go the pass when it’s working. Any time that a team can come out of halftime with a drive of 17 plays for over nine minutes, you have to give credit to the coaching staff.
Overall – A-