Bears vs. Lions: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Chicago
After starting 3-0, the Chicago Bears saved their worst for Detroit as they were bad in just about every area in a 40-32 loss.
It's easy to blame one player, but, the truth is, the Bears were terrible all the way around. Quarterback Jay Cutler had possibly the worst game in his career, but he wasn't given much help either. The Bears receivers dropped a few passes and didn't make plays on other balls that they should have.
Even if Cutler had played his best, the Bears would've had to win a shootout. Their defense helped make Reggie Bush look like Barry Sanders as it missed numerous tackles and left receivers open in the middle of the field from the opening drive on. Had Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford not struggled with accuracy early on, it could've been even uglier than it was.
When a team is as awful all around as the Bears were from start to finish, much of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of the coach. The Bears clearly weren't prepared for the Lions on either side of the ball, and Marc Trestman needs to be held accountable.
This was the worst performance by a Bears team in a long time. The grades you'll see in the ensuing slides certainly reflect that.
Cutler has always been known to throw some stink bombs out there, but it's hard to remember if he has ever been this bad.
It wasn't just the turnovers—which are unacceptable—but he was missing wide-open receivers. There were several times when the Bears had chances to come back in the game, but he was unable to help them until it was too late.
That said, it was the turnovers that gave the team no chance in this game.
His first interception should've been caught by Alshon Jeffery or at the very least been an incompletion. It still wasn't a good read or a good throw. His second was an unacceptable mistake. He should've known better after throwing a similar-looking interception against the Vikings.
His third interception was similar to a punt on 3rd-and-18 but should've been a first down as Jeffery was open. It would've been an exceptional play, but one you expect him to make.
The biggest mistake came when the Bears had the ball down by 14 points. Cutler was a statue in the pocket while holding the ball at his hip, allowing Ndamukong Suh to pry it free. Nick Fairley picked it up and ran it in for what was the game-clinching touchdown.
Even when Cutler has been awful as he was Sunday, there's usually some good in the game. In this case, however, he was Rex Grossman bad.
Matt Forte, Tony Fiammetta
Forte might have been the only bright spot for the Bears, but they ignored him for a long stretch when they needed a play the most.
After his 53-yard touchdown run, Forte only got two carries the rest of the first half. It wasn't all his or the coach's fault. The Bears did throw him three passes that didn't go for much, and they had another drive that lasted just one play as Cutler threw an unforgivable interception.
Still, while Cutler was struggling, why wasn't Forte made the focal point of the offense? He finished with 14 carries for 95 yards while catching five passes for 22 yards.
Fiammetta had a few nice blocks, including one on Alshon Jeffery's 27-yard reverse. He wasn't spectacular, but he wasn't awful either.
Michael Bush didn't get a single carry. In the preseason, the Bears were able to use Bush and Forte together effectively, but we haven't seen much of that in the regular season. They're paying a lot of money for a pretty good player that they're not using.
Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett
The Bears decided to go with just three receivers this game, playing just two with either two tight ends or one tight end and a fullback for most of the game.
Marshall was solid, although he had a drop on a first down that would've picked up at least eight yards. He made a few solid plays.
Although he didn't have a big impact in the box score, Bennett did his job for the most part. He dropped what could've been a touchdown with under a minute left in the game. The ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage, making it a difficult catch. Then he caught a touchdown on the next play. He's a player the Bears need to involve more.
The most interesting player for the Bears was Jeffery. He didn't attack the ball as he should've on Jay Cutler's first interception. The worst-case scenario for that play should've been an incomplete pass.
On the Bears' next drive, he showed good vision and burst on a reverse. Later in the drive, he took out two Lions, springing Forte for a long touchdown run.
Later in the game, he made a nice catch for a 44-yard reception. A few plays later, Cutler threw a jump ball to him in the end zone. The ball hit Darius Slay, but Jeffery had a chance for the touchdown as the ball was in his grasp. Still, it fell incomplete.
As the Bears entered desperation time, Jeffery dropped what should've been an easy touchdown, then made a great catch for one a play later.
Jeffery finished with five catches for 107 yards, but it took 11 targets to get there. He was as good as he was bad. In many ways, he was the Jay Cutler of wide receivers on this day.
Martellus Bennett, Steve Maneri, Dante Rosario, Eben Britton
Bennett made a number of plays in the passing game as the Bears were trying to come back late. The Bears tried to target him in the red zone and had one play that should've been a touchdown, but he was unable to secure the catch as he fell to the ground.
His stats look good, but he wasn't able to make an impact early when the Bears needed it the most. He had one reception when he was left uncovered early on, and five of his catches came on one drive when the Bears were trailing 40-16.
What was particularly interesting about what the Bears did late in the game was they benched Maneri and played Britton—an offensive lineman—as the second tight end to improve protection. Maneri used to be an offensive lineman, and the Bears pay him to block. The hope was that he'd be another Matt Spaeth, but he's failed to live up to those reasonably low expectations.
It's hard to see why the Bears would keep a blocking tight end who can't block from this point on. It's also hard to see how Rosario is an upgrade over the man he replaced, Kyle Adams.
Outside of Bennett, the Bears have failed at this position. At least they don't still employ Kellen Davis.
Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills
This is a hard unit to grade because of the competition it was going against.
I'll start with the good. Matt Forte doesn't average almost seven yards per carry if it's not doing something right. It didn't blow open many big holes, but they were just big enough.
Now, the bad.
Cutler dropped back 50 times and was hit on six of those dropbacks and sacked three times, according to the box score on ESPN. While that's not as bad as the Bears lines have performed in the past, it still isn't good.
It's true that one of those hits and sacks was squarely on Cutler for not getting rid of the ball. It's also true that there were several times when he escaped pressure.
Both rookies—Long and Mills—had key penalties. Mills had a false start on 3rd-and-10 that pushed the Bears back. Long was called for a questionable "illegal use of hands" penalty that took a first down off the board on a third down. On the next play, Cutler threw his third interception.
The Bears' line play wasn't why the Bears lost, but it certainly didn't help them win. At a certain point, they will need their offensive line to hold its own without help if they're ever going to become an explosive offense.
Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin, Nate Collins, Stephen Paea, Landon Cohen, Cornelius Washington
The good news: Peppers lives!
The bad news: Nobody else made much of an impact.
Peppers had been struggling all season but had a breakout game with six tackles and a strip-sack. There were a number of times he was just a hair late in getting to Stafford, but he still had his best game of the season.
The rest of them, however, were M.I.A.
Wootton forced a fumble late, but the outcome was decided by that point. Unless something changes drastically in the next 12 weeks, McClellin appears to be a clear bust. He can't hold his own in the run game and hasn't developed any pass-rush moves.
Without Melton next to him, Paea didn't have an impact on the game. Collins had a few solid plays here and there but nothing substantial. Neither Cohen nor Washington did much of anything.
In addition to only hitting Stafford once, the Bears provided almost no push in the run game. The only way to stop a runner like Bush is to get to him before he can get up to speed. The Bears got pushed around, allowing Bush to get to the second level.
It's worth questioning why the Bears didn't play undrafted rookie Zach Minter or why Washington didn't get more snaps. It doesn't seem like they could do worse than the players playing in their place.
Peppers' revival is the only reason this unit doesn't get a failing grade. If the Bears don't start getting something from this group, they can forget about the playoffs.
Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, James Anderson
Once the defensive line got blown off the ball, the Bears linebackers had little chance of doing anything. That said, when they did have opportunities to make plays, they let them slide by.
Briggs led the team with 13 tackles, but he let Bush run right by him quite a few times. He had a chance to make a big play when he hit Matthew Stafford on a quarterback sneak. His hit jarred the ball free, but he failed to realize the fumble and Stafford recovered for the touchdown.
Neither James Anderson nor D.J. Williams made a big play all game, but they were both credited with four solo tackles.
It's hard to judge their pass coverage much without further film study, but the Lions tight ends ran free down the field far too often. Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught all seven of his targets.
While their linebacker play has been a strength of the team, it might be time for the Bears to consider giving second-round rookie Jonathan Bostic more snaps in hopes his hard-hitting style will spark the rest of the defense.
Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Zack Bowman, Isaiah Frey, Chris Conte, Major Wright
Despite the injury concerns heading into the game, Tillman showed that he still has Detroit star Calvin Johnson's number. Johnson caught just four passes for 44 yards despite being targeted 10 times. He did have a touchdown catch, but that wasn't due to poor coverage.
When Tillman wasn't in the game, Bowman seemed to do a solid job. At least nobody really noticed him, which is no small feat considering who he was going against.
Jennings also did a solid job on the other side, while Frey was adequate but not spectacular in the slot. Wright showed good awareness in catching an interception that bounced off Johnson's foot.
The big weak spot of this unit was Conte, who doesn't seem to be doing well in any area. Conte was particularly atrocious in run defense, allowing Bush to have his way with him any time he was in the area. At this point, Conte either needs to play better or the Bears need to replace him.
Conte wasn't the only player who struggled tackling. It was an issue for every member of the secondary. Tillman and Jennings both missed key tackles.
With the difficulties in the front seven, it's hard to grade the Bears secondary. It didn't get torched as much as it has in past games, but it also didn't help stop the bleeding.
Robbie Gould, Adam Podlesh, Devin Hester
This was another area that killed the Bears.
The 57-yard punt return they allowed to Micheal Spurlock turned the momentum needle completely over to the Lions. That return should've never happened, as Michael Ford was in position to make the tackle right away but didn't. The remainder of the unit was slow in filling its lanes, and the rest is history. Luckily, Podlesh saved a touchdown.
That return led to a panic move by special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, as he avoided kicking to Spurlock the rest of the game. That gave up potentially valuable yardage because he wasn't confident in his coverage units. Does anyone else miss Dave Toub?
Hester's numbers don't look bad as he averaged 8.5 yards per punt return and 24.5 yards per kick return, but he seemed to be missing holes and running right into packs of defenders.
Gould was perfect on his three field-goal attempts and his only extra point, but the Bears had no chance at recovering either of his onside kick attempts.