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4.) Rookie ILB John Timu made some mistakes, but played well overall
The Bears gave rookie John Timu his first chance to play ILB this year and he delivered a team leading 9 tackles including one for a loss. Timu was aggressive against the run all day and spent more time in the backfield in one game than McClellin and Christian Jones have all season.
I’ve been complaining most of the year about the tentative play of the Bears inside linebackers. They have been waiting back behind the line of scrimmage to see where the play is going before reacting and usually showing up after the opposing back has gained 4-5 yards (at least). Timu attacked the line of scrimmage with abandon, consistently bursting into the backfield to at least force the RB to pick a new lane.
It worked a few times, once for a tackle for loss and a couple others for stops near the line of scrimmage. Timu also was able to drive RBs back on contact, which is something we just haven’t seen from Bears LBs this year. Unfortunately there were multiple plays were Timu burst through the line forcing the RB outside only for there to be no Bears containing the edge or LBs able to catch the back before he could turn the corner.
Timu was beat a couple times in coverage, which is never going to be a strength, but his aggressive run defense was a welcome change from the Bears usual tentative play at LB and they were able to hold Adrian Peterson to just 63 rushing yards and the Vikings as a team to just 3.6 yards per carry. The rookie wasn’t perfect but he improved the Bears run defense and did more than enough to earn another start next week.
5.) Jay Cutler didn’t have much of a chance today, but didn’t help the team much either
Cutler was under pressure all day and couldn’t escape the pressure like he’s been able to most of the season. With both of the Bears tackles allowing consistent pressure and Alshon Jeffery spending most of the game on the sidelines, Cutler had very little to work with this week. For the most part Cutler took what was there, but he did lose another fumble and also threw one of the worst screen passes I have ever seen that was intercepted by a Vikings D-lineman.
On the day Cutler finished with an impressive 26/37, 231 yard, 2 TD day, but a lot of that came in garbage time and Cutler couldn’t get the offense going early while the game was still in question. It’s hard to pin too much blame on Cutler for this one, when his O-line was awful, his top receiver couldn’t play through a minor injury, and his running backs gained less than a 100 yards combined on the day.
6.) Man up Alshon
For a player in a contract year, one would think Alshon would do whatever he can to be on the field and build his contract value. Instead fans got five or six shots of Jeffery walking up and down the sideline testing his hamstring. Jeffery at 75% is better than any other receiver the Bears have and they could have used him today.
His lack of toughness and resiliency this season isn’t going to gain any points with HC John Fox who is as old-school as they come and has already gotten rid of one former top draft pick (Jon Bostic) who wouldn’t play through minor injuries. The Bears could have an explosive receiving core next year with Jeffery, Kevin White, and Eddie Royal but with the questionable toughness of both Jeffery and Royal you have to wonder if they will both be around next year.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
7.) There isn’t any reason to play McClellin the rest of the season
It was a typical game for McClellin. His stat line looks respectable with 8 tackles, but the majority of those were 5-6 yards past the line of scrimmage and he also missed his usual 3-4 tackles, two of those resulting in Vikings touchdowns.
The two TD plays summed up McClellin’s season perfectly. He was slow reacting to a RB in the flat, got there too late to break up the pass, and then missed the tackle that allowed the back to score. I feel like McClellin makes that same mistake a few times every game. He spends too much time reading the play, doesn’t have the recovery speed to get there in time, or the strength to make the tackle once he gets there. McClellin also got drawn in too often on play-action leaving the middle of the field open for two long completions.
I understand that he brings value to the team by calling plays and making sure the Bears young defenders are in the right place, but he just doesn’t bring enough (anything?) to the table on defense, he misses too many tackles, struggles to maintain zone coverage integrity, can’t cover athletic TE/RBs, and is the worst blitzer I’ve ever seen.
On one of his few blitzes today McClellin had a clear path to Bridgewater on a 3rd & long play but for some reason he slowed up at the last second and let the QB get the pass off and convert a 1st down. I just can’t take watching him out there anymore. He’s not going to be on the team next year, regardless of what Fangio says about him, and it’s time to hand the reigns over to Timu, Jon Anderson, Christian Jones, and Lamin Barrow to see if any of those players are long-term pieces. McClellin clearly isn’t.
8.) At least the Special Teams unit played well!
It’s been a long-time since I’ve been able to say nice things about the special teams unit, but they actually had a very strong game today. Robbie Gould broke out of his slump to kick a 51-yard field goal and also completed his first successful onside kick in his 11-year career.
Kick returner Deonte Thompson is looking like a possible keeper with another good game. He finished with an average of 30.6 yards per return including a 49-yard run back to start the game.
Even beleaguered punter Pat O’Donnell managed to average over 40 yards per punt and pin three of his four attempts inside the 20. O’Donnell will still need to finish the season with an amazing two games for me to think the Bears won’t look for a new punter this off-season.
After being in the bottom five of both yards per punt and net average for most of the season, O’Donnell has improved to 23rd in yards per punt and 15th in net yardage. He will most likely finish in the bottom half of the league in both stats, but he’s still young and a near mid-league finish might be enough to get O’Donnell one more season to prove himself.
9.) Marc Mariani has earned a spot as a back-up receiver on next year’s roster
I mentioned the questionable toughness of some of the Bears top receivers, but one player whose mettle shouldn’t be questioned is Marc Mariani. He had just three catches today for 31 yards and only 14 on the season, but 13 of those catches have resulted in first downs. Mariani has shown the ability to run after the catch, the awareness to know where the first down marker is, and the toughness to fight for the necessary yardage to get there despite his slight frame (6’1 | 187).
With Jeffery, White, and Royal penciled in as the Bears top three WRs in 2016 and Marquess Wilson having shown enough to earn a spot on the roster, it’s going to be a tough competition for the last two WR jobs. In my opinion, Mariani has shown more than enough to back up Royal for the slot job and his ability to handle punt return duties gives him some added value.
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