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7.) The Bears O-line had their best game in a long time
In the Bears last two losses (WAS, MIN) the Bears O-line wasn’t able to open up any holes in the running game or even protect Jay Cutler as well as they had early in the season. The Bears had less than 100 yards rushing in both losses and allowed eight sacks over that stretch.
It looked like perhaps fatigue, or maybe some flaws exposed on tape, or just a general lack of talent was finally catching up to the Bears O-line. It’s a credit to O-line coach Dave Magazu that the O-line had been competent most of this year considering the injuries and constant shuffling of inexperienced starters.
On Sunday the Bears O-line played their best game in at least a month with 174 total rushing yards at 4.5 yards per carry and only one sack allowed. The Bucs rank 10th in the NFL in total yards allowed, so it’s not like the Bears were beating up on a weak defense. Say what you want about Lovie Smith, but his teams play D.
Tackles Kyle Long and Charles Leno Jr had plenty to do with the Bears struggles the last few weeks, but both played solid games on Sunday. Both tackles were able to give Cutler time to find an open receiver, granted he was getting rid of the ball pretty quickly, but they were also able to seal the edge on a couple of nice outside runs. On Ka’Deem Carey’s 1-yard TD plunge, it was Kyle Long’s block that opened the hole. After two weeks of media scrutiny and questions about whether Long should move back to guard, he stepped up with a big game that should silence his critics for at least a week.
Perhaps no O-linemen has been criticized as much as rookie center Hroniss Grasu, but he played the best game of his young career. The Bucs went after Grasu early with blitzes up the middle that other teams have had success with, but to Grasu’s credit he seems to have learned from his earlier mistakes and did a great job picking up the blitz.
Grasu still needs to get stronger, but was able to get more movement in the run game than I’ve seen all season. It was a promising game for the rookie and gives me hope that with some added bulk, Grasu could live up to his 3rd round draft status.
Guard Vlad Ducasse got his first chance to play in a few weeks and of course was called for a hold, but was tossing people around in the run game. If he can ever get the mental / language aspects of the game down, Ducassse has as much physical potential as anyone on the Bears O-line.
8.) The Bears 3-man running attack was solid today
The solid blocking of the O-line definitely was a factor in the Bears rushing success, but it’s not like the RBs were getting through the line untouched. All three backs ran hard Sunday and the majority of the yards were picked up after contact. On the Bears last two drives that chewed up over eight minutes of clock, both Langford and Carey broke multiple tackles and it took a group of Bucs to bring them down. The two young backs at least showed the potential to carry the team should they decide to part ways with Forte. Personally I hope they keep Forte around on a reasonable contract (wishful thinking, I know).
None of the three RBs hit the 100 yard mark on the day but Langford had a career high 83 yards and both he and Forte (11-54) averaged over 4 yards per carry. Ka’Deem Carey (7-16) only averaged 2.3, but was used mostly in short yardage scenarios when only a yard or two was needed.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
9.) The Bears caught some breaks on Bucs deep passes
The Bucs had back-to-back deep passes in the 4th quarter that could have changed the outcome of the game had they been completed. With the Bucs trailing by just six (20-14) and 13:47 left in the game, WR Mike Evans had Tracy Porter beat down-field and despite Winston’s pass hitting him in the hands, Evans got turned around a little and couldn’t reel it in.
On the very next play Winston went deep again, this time to Donteea Dye who had a couple steps on Kyle Fuller, but Winston was blasted by Demontre Hurst on a safety blitz which caused the ball to hang just a bit and gave Fuller enough time to catch up and break up the pass. Either play could have resulted in a Bucs TD, given them the lead, and possibly led to a Bucs win.
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