Bengals vs. Bears: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Chicago
After months of anticipation, the Chicago Bears finally took the field Sunday afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bears came away with a 24-21 victory and showed that, offensively, they have begun to buy into head coach Marc Trestman's system.
While they ultimately came away with the victory, there are still some concerns on both sides of the ball and still the need for improvement.
Here are the full roster report card grades for the Chicago Bears for Week 1:
Jay Cutler finished Sunday's game, going 21-of-33 through the air for 242 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Cutler displayed poise in the pocket, stepped up to avoid pressure and showed off his ability to move outside of the pocket and make throws down the field.
His overall grade would have been an "A," but he threw a bad pass that was intended for Michael Bush in the fourth quarter that was intercepted by linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
He will have to work better with Marc Trestman on clock management as the team spent their first three timeouts of the first half quickly and used their first of the second half with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Overall, Cutler had one of his most consistent games as a member of the Chicago Bears, and that consistency is what Bears fans will be looking for throughout the year.
Matt Forte was never able to get into much of a rhythm Sunday in the running game, registering just 50 yards rushing on 19 attempts, good for just a 2.6 average. He did punch in a one-yard run on the goal line in the third quarter to tighten the score to 21-17.
He did haul in four catches for 41 yards, including a 24-yard reception early in the fourth quarter.
Bush did not fair much better, registering just 15 yards on six carries, but he did help the team run out the clock in the final minute of the fourth quarter.
Part of the running backs ineffectiveness Sunday was the stellar play of the Bengals' front seven. It is unlikely that the Bears will face a defensive front quite like that again this season.
Much had been made these last few weeks regarding the health of Brandon Marshall, but he looked very similar to the dominant player we saw last season in Chicago.
He finished Sunday's game with eight catches for 104 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter that ended up being the game-winning catch.
No matter who was defending him, he was able to get himself open, and he was willing to fight for extra yards.
Alshon Jeffery finished with five catches for 42 yards on eight targets, while Earl Bennett hauled in his lone target for six yards.
The Bears will likely want to involve Jeffery more in the passing game to help eliminate the stress on Marshall, but it is hard to argue with the results.
One area that the Bears wanted to improve this offseason was the tight end position. The team went out and signed veteran Martellus Bennett, and on Sunday, he showed why he can be a threat in the red zone this season.
Bennett finished with three catches for 49 yards, including a spectacular touchdown catch in the back of the end zone in the first quarter where he hauled in the catch between two defenders all while keeping his feet in bounds.
He was flagged twice for holding penalties and did drop his first pass, but overall, he played a solid game.
Steve Maneri and Kyle Adams both saw the field on Sunday, but neither registered a mark on the stat sheet.
General Manager Phil Emery used this past offseason to help rebuild the Bears' porous offensive line.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson were signed via free agency, while right guard Kyle Long (first round) and right tackle Jordan Mills (fifth round) were drafted this past April. Those four joined veteran center Roberto Garza to form the team's opening day offensive line.
While the offensive line struggled to open up consistent holes in the running game, they kept quarterback Jay Cutler on his feet, not allowing a sack on his 33 dropbacks.
When the team was faced with a 4th-and-inches with 8:32 in the fourth quarter, Trestman decided to run it to the right side behind rookies Long and Mills. Long pulled to the right to set the edge, and Matt Forte was able to pick up the first down, while Cutler hit Brandon Marshall on the next play for what would eventually become the game-winning touchdown.
If the offensive line can continue to protect Cutler like they did on Sunday, the sky is the limit for this offense.
The grade for the Bears' defensive line would have likely been a "D" had they not limited the Bengals to just 63 yards rushing on 21 attempts.
The Bengals game plan was to get the ball out of quarterback Andy Dalton's hand very quickly which limited the Bears' ability to get consistent pressure on him throughout much of the game.
With only 7:58 left to play in the fourth quarter, Shea McClellin was finally able to register the team's first sack on Dalton.
Stephen Paea played solid against the run, registering six total tackles, but defensive tackle Henry Melton (one tackle) and defensive ends Corey Wootton (two tackles) and Julius Peppers (zero tackles) were virtually non-existent for much of the game.
If the Bears intend to become a force on defense much like they were last season, they will need to improve their play along the defensive line.
D.J. Williams made his first appearance in a Bears uniform Sunday afternoon after nursing an injury throughout the majority of training camp and the preseason.
The biggest concern for Williams was his conditioning, as he told Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times after the game:
It’s been a long time since I’ve actually put a bunch of plays together. There is going to be a little bit of rust. But I went out there, I thought my conditioning was pretty well and gave everything I had.
Williams finished with three tackles against the Bengals and will likely continue to improve while he improves his conditioning.
James Anderson had a solid showing with five tackles and two defended passes, one of which stopped a Bengals drive late in the fourth quarter.
Veteran Lance Briggs had a relatively quiet day, but registered seven tackles, one defended pass and a tackle for loss.
Despite Charles Tillman intercepting Andy Dalton twice on Sunday afternoon, the team did allow A.J. Green to catch nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
In Tillman's defense, he did miss some time due to dehydration and was replaced by Zackary Bowman, but, at times, he seemed to be overmatched by the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
Tim Jennings led the team with eight total tackles, according to ESPN.com, and he also forced a fumble that went out of bounds.
Nickelback Isaiah Frey finished with four tackles and also saw some time at cornerback opposite Jennings, while Tillman was suffering from dehydration.
The Bears knew that slowing down Green was going to be a difficult task, and when their defensive line was not able to get much pressure up front, they struggled to slow down the Bengals' wide receivers.
Safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte had relatively quite games on Sunday with Wright recording seven total tackles and Conte making just one.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker did not dial up many blitzes on Sunday afternoon, but on one occasion, he did send Conte without much success.
Hard to give either safety a solid grade, considering the production of Andy Dalton (26-of-33, 282 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs) and the terrific play of A.J. Green.
Devin Hester had a minimal impact Sunday afternoon with just one kick return for 31 yards and two punt returns for a total of one yard, but both Robbie Gould and Adam Podlesh had solid games.
Gould only had one field goal attempt but nailed a franchise-record 58-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the first half. The field goal was also the 11th consecutive field goal from 50 yards or longer made by Gould, which tied an NFL record.
Podlesh had five punts, three of which landed within the 20-yard line, finishing with an average of 46.4 yards per punt.