Chicago Bears: Top 5 Performers from Saturday Night's Game vs. Washington
The Bears looked like a much improved team compared to what we saw the week before against Denver. They played all of their starters minus Brian Urlacher, and it paid off.
The defense was dominant through three quarters. They unraveled to some degree in the fourth quarter but managed to finished strong.
The Monsters of the Midway even managed to score quite often on special teams. It may have only been a preseason game, but it felt more like a regular-season matchup—especially since the Bears had to come from behind to win on Saturday.
But it was entertaining, fun to watch, kept me on the edge of my seat and gave me hope for the 2012 Chicago Bears.
Here are the top five performers who stood out to me on Saturday...
5. The Starting Offense
The starting offense put up 20 points in the first half on Saturday night. Jay Cutler completed 7-of-13 passes for 122 yards. With his arm, the Bears averaged 9.4 yards per completion. Cutler showed poise, confidence, pocket presence, a quick release, an accurate arm and no signs of offseason rust.
As for Brandon Marshall, he only had two receptions. but they accounted for big yardage. His first catch on the Bears' first play of the game was good for 41 yards. His second catch three plays later was good for 20 yards, and it put the Bears in the red zone.
He beat the Redskins defense and left them eating his dust. Matt Forte was silent, as he only had 16 yards on four carries. But Michael Bush, who also got snaps with the first team, chipped in big time.
He was the Bears' second leading rusher, as he gained 21 yards on five carries. He also scored the Bears' first two touchdowns.
When he scored those touchdowns, Bush showed just how valuable he is in the red zone. He ran straight through the Redskins defense, uncontested on both scoring runs.
Devin Hester caught two balls from Cutler, but they didn't have the same effect as Brandon Marshall's two catches.
But the real star of the game turned out to be the Bears' starting offensive line. It did not give up a sack, cleared the way for the run game and was much more dominant than it was against Denver.
What a huge difference playing all of your starters makes.
4. The Starting Defense
Despite the absence of Brian Urlacher, the Bears' starting defense held their own this time out. They gave Robert Griffin III his official welcome to the National Football League.
He was sacked three times by the Bears' front line and fumbled the ball on his first sack, which led to the Bears' second touchdown.
RG3 was also under pressure on numerous occasions during his time on the field. I wonder if last year's Heisman Trophy winner still thinks that practice is harder than games.
Nick Roach started for Brian Urlacher and managed to get the job done. Two of the three sacks on Griffin this past weekend came from Israel Idonije, while the other one came from Matt Toeaina.
The secondary was also solid during the first half, but the Bears' run defense did concern me at times. The Bears took a 20-10 lead into the locker room at halftime. Had the starting group played the whole game, the Bears would have won by a much larger margin, in my opinion.
3. Alshon Jeffery and Evan Rodriguez
Alshon Jeffery has managed to work his way into the top four on the wide receiver depth chart. Jeffery ran a few plays with the starters on Saturday.
The first of Jeffery's three receptions came from a Jay Cutler pass in the first quarter. It was on the Bears' first offensive series.
It took the Bears down to the Washington 1-yard line, and set up Michael Bush's first touchdown run. When the night was over, Jeffery was once again the Bears' leading receiver. He has led the Bears in receiving for two straight weeks now.
As for Evan Rodriguez, it was good to see No. 88 finally assert himself into the Bears offense. He only had three grabs on the evening, but two of those catches helped to set up the game-winning field goal.
Rodriguez finally showcased his ability to be used as an H-back. The first pass he caught came in the third quarter while lined up as a fullback. He ran a simple flat route out of the backfield, and it was good for 15 yards.
He also played a part in the Bears' running attack, as he made a few blocks which helped Kahlil Bell en-route to becoming the Bears' leading rusher on Saturday night.
I expect big things from both of these men in the future. I think that Saturday was just a taste of things to come.
2. Matt Blanchard
The undrafted rookie was given the ultimate test on Saturday when he was brought in to run the two-minute drill.
Matt Blanchard did not let the Washington Redskins blitz phase him. During the last drive of the game, the 'Skins were rushing five, sometimes six men on each play.
But Blanchard did not panic, he did not take off and try to run, and he looked danger right in the face. He only completed three of his pass attempts, but those three completions were enough to put Robbie Gould in field-goal range.
As a result, the Bears took home the victory. Matt Blanchard has managed to out-perform Josh McCown in these first two preseason games.
Blanchard has completed 9-of-16 passes for 94 yards with an interception this preseason. He's been sacked three times, but the Bears have scored twice with him on the field.
McCown, on the other hand, has only completed 8-of-15 pass attempts for 86 yards. He fumbled against Denver last week and has been sacked three times, as well.
But the biggest difference is that the Bears have not scored with McCown under center. I believe that when comparing the performances of these two men thus far, Blanchard has moved ahead of McCown on the depth chart.
1. Robbie Gould
Good old No. 9 has once again made my top-five list. Gould went 4-of-4 on field goals on Saturday, including the game winner.
He has converted all five of this field-goal attempts this preseason. There is no doubt that Robbie Gould is one of the best kickers in the NFL.
He's also becoming one of the best kickers in Chicago Bears history.