Chicago Bears: First Quarter Report Card

4 of 5

Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams: D

Only Robbie Gould and Pat O’Donnell stop this from being an F.

There isn’t much to say here. The special teams are atrocious. Two kickoff returns for touchdown in the first three games; an average return allowed of almost 39 yards. Averaging allowing about 12 yards per return on punts. Both of those numbers are bad, but the kickoff coverage issue has been particularly egregious.

Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

To right the issue, the Bears actually started to do short kickoffs against Oakland, negating the chances for long returns but basically guaranteeing field position better than the 25 yard line. That’s not a genuine solution, and Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Rodgers has to do a better job of teaching coverage men to get off blocks and make a tackle in the open field. Gould hasn’t kicked many touchbacks this season, and the distance on his kickoffs likely won’t improve as the weather gets colder, so hoping he goes back to blasting the ball through the endzone isn’t practical, either.

In terms of their own return game, the Bears have been nothing special. They don’t have a dynamic return man, as Marc Mariani is solid at averaging 26 yards per kickoff return and 12 yards per punt return, but he isn’t a genuine threat to take a return to the house.

The lone bright spots have been Gould and O’Donnell. Gould is nine-for-nine on field goals, including a 54-yarder and a game-winner against Oakland in Week 4. O’Donnell, meanwhile, is averaging almost 48 yards per punt. Gould had an extra point blocked, but aside from that has had no miscues related to the new extra point rules.

Aside from that, it’s been pretty bleak for a unit that just three years ago was one of the best in the league.

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