Giants vs. Bears: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Chicago

Andrew Dannehy@@ADannChiBearsCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2013

Giants vs. Bears: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Chicago

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    The Chicago Bears were far from perfect, but they were good enough to top the New York Giants this past Thursday, snapping a two-game losing streak.

    The Bears showed flashes of being very good on both sides of the ball, but they still haven't been able to be consistent for four quarters.

    Luckily, they didn't need to against a reeling Giants team.

    Offensively, the Bears were terrific for most of the first half. But they struggled in the second half. Defensively, the Bears were shorthanded but still forced three takeaways.

    Unfortunately, that's all they did well.

    The Bears need to be better going forward. That said, how many teams look good in Thursday Night Football games? Not many. The Bears were good enough to get a win, and hopefully the extra rest and preparation time will help them going forward.

    In the following slides, you'll see a position-by-position breakdown of how they performed against the Giants. 

Quarterback

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    Jay Cutler

    Once again Cutler was on his game, especially in the first half. He was throwing tight spirals on time and on target.

    Cutler's statistics don't jump off the page, but they're very good. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and—perhaps most importantly—no interceptions. If you're a believer in ESPN's QBR for grading a quarterback's performance, it was Cutler's best game of the season.

    Although he completed 66.7 percent of his passes, that doesn't really do Cutler justice; he threw away four passes and had another batted at the line of scrimmage. 

    He also had a nice deep ball to Alshon Jeffery late in the game, but Jeffery wasn't able to track it down.

    In addition to being on the mark with his throws, Cutler scrambled effectively, rushing for 20 yards on three rushes.

    He was in complete control and was a large part of the reason for the win.

    Grade: A

Running Backs

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    Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Tony Fiammetta

    If you predicted Fiammetta would make one of the biggest plays in this game, give yourself a pat on the back. Now, quit lying.

    The Bears signed Fiammetta after Evan Rodriguez proved he couldn't stay out of trouble. He's been an adequate blocker, but he didn't have a significant impact in any game until Thursday, when he caught a dump-off pass and turned it into a 30-yard gain.

    Fiammetta has the ability to make more plays like that. He was a fourth-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2009 thanks to some good workout numbers.

    He also did an admirable job as a blocker for Forte and Bush.

    Forte didn't have his best game, but he still finished with 111 yards from scrimmage. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and had a long of 13 yards, but the Giants defense can be tough on running backs. They held LeSean McCoy to just 46 yards on 20 carries a week earlier.

    We saw quite a bit more from Michael Bush, but we also saw why he doesn't play a lot. Bush has been a productive player in the past, but the Bears haven't used him much. This week he had just eight yards on six carries. He also caught a pass for six yards, but he dropped another that was thrown his way. 

    Overall, the Bears' running backs were solid. While Forte didn't produce a big play as he usually does, they got it from someone else. 

    Grade: B+

Wide Receivers

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    Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Joe Anderson, Marquess Wilson

    The statistics don't really do Marshall justice. He caught nine passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns, but he made big plays when the Bears needed them.

    Marshall was huge on their first touchdown drive when they needed to answer a Giants score. The drive started at the Bears' 14-yard line, but Marshall got them out of a hole early with a 20-yard catch on the first play. He caught three passes for 42 yards on that drive, including a 10-yard touchdown.

    He added a three-yard touchdown catch on a nice back-shoulder play to cap off their next touchdown drive.

    Marshall also did a nice job blocking on the edge, an underrated part of his game.

    Other than that, however, the Bears didn't get much from their receivers.

    After a record-setting game against the Saints, Jeffery showed that he's still very much in the developmental process. He caught just one of the five passes thrown his way. He had his hands on another, but he couldn't bring it in. He had a chance for a big play late, but he failed to track Jay Cutler's deep pass as it fell incomplete. He also had a 15-yard run on a reverse.

    The Bears shouldn't be concerned about his performance, however. The Giants threw some different coverages at him and he'll have to adjust. It's all a part of becoming a top-flight receiver.

    Bennett and Anderson were both shut out. Bennett had two passes thrown his way and Anderson had one. The Bears also gave Wilson his first snap of the season, although they didn't throw in his direction.

    It will be interesting to see what the Bears do with their third receiver position. Bennett has dropped a couple passes recently, and both Anderson and Wilson have a physical advantage over him.

    Marshall's performance in this game was certainly worth an A, but the Bears didn't get much else from this position, so the grade is lowered a little bit.

    Grade: B+ 

Tight Ends

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    Martellus Bennett, Eben Britton, Dante Rosario

    Bennett once again showed why he was worth the money the Bears paid him.

    The Giants had to know how good he was since he played for them last year, but they could do little to stop him. He caught six of the seven passes thrown his way for 68 yards. Five of his six catches gave the Bears first downs, including his final one, a seven-yard reception on 3rd-and-7 to clinch the win.

    Britton is listed as an offensive lineman, but the Bears used him as a blocking tight end for the second straight week. He once again blocked better than most tight ends would, but not as well as one would expect from a lineman in that situation.

    Rosario didn't catch a pass, but he held his own as a blocker.

    All around, the Bears' tight end position was solid.

    Grade: B+

Offensive Line

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    Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills

    Did the Bears play well, or were they going against a bad team? Probably a combination of both.

    The Giants came into the game with just five sacks, the second-lowest total in the league. They weren't able to add to it against the Bears, though they did hit quarterback Jay Cutler twice.

    It wasn't as if the pocket was clean all night. The Bears line struggled in the second half and was a large part of the reason they weren't able to move the ball effectively.

    Garza had a huge holding call go against him, knocking out a 19-yard run by Matt Forte. The Bears would've had a first down inside the New York 10, but instead they faced a 2nd-and-20 at the Giants' 38. They had to settle for a 52-yard field-goal attempt by Robbie Gould.

    Pro Football Focus (subscription required) counted nine hurries against the Bears' offensive line, led by three on Mills. 

    The Bears line also didn't do a great job opening up holes in the Bears' running game. They finished with over 100 yards rushing but averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. As I mentioned in the running backs' slide, the Giants have actually been stout against the run, so the opponent deserves credit there.

    Run blocking hasn't been a big issue for the Bears this season. They are and will be judged based on their ability to protect the quarterback. 

    While they haven't been productive, the Giants' defensive line is talented. That should not be completely discounted. Still, they were going against a defensive line that has performed like one of the worst in the league.

    I'll give the Bears a passing grade. To say they were good, however, I would've needed to see them dominate a bad defensive front.

    Grade: D+

Defensive Line

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    Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin, Corey Wootton, Landon Cohen, David Bass, Zach Minter

    They didn't sack Eli Manning once going against one of the worst offensive lines in the league.

    Worse yet, they allowed 31-year-old Brandon Jacobs to run all over them. A team that averaged 3.3 yards per carry averaged 4.7 on Thursday night.

    The Giants' offensive line was ranked 29th on Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and allowed Manning to be sacked 15 times in their first five games. Yet, the Bears' defensive line wasn't able to get there.

    They were without Stephen Paea, but let's not act like he makes that big of a difference. They struggled with him too, as they did with Henry Melton and Nate Collins, who will both miss the rest of the season.

    As he has been for most of the season, Peppers was M.I.A. McClellin's performance was about standard and what we've come to expect from a player who hasn't come close to living up to his potential.

    Speaking of players who have no business being on the field, Cohen got almost no push all night. He was a street free agent for a reason.

    After showing some pass-rush ability against New Orleans, Bass wasn't able to make as much of an impact against the Giants despite extended playing time.

    Wootton and Minter were two bright spots for the Bears. 

    Wootton will never be confused for a natural 3-technique defensive tackle and will probably always struggle against the run, but he's putting forth a good effort. 

    Minter was called for an illegal use of hands penalty—which was declined—but Pro Football Focus (subscription required) credited him with one hurry in just six pass-rush snaps. Considering what else the Bears have on their roster, that should be enough to get him more playing time.

    Despite that, the Bears were abused all around. Maybe it was because of injuries, but it isn't like that situation is going to get much better. They were just dominated by a bad offensive line.

    Grade: F-

Linebackers

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    Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, James Anderson, Jon Bostic, Blake Costanzo

    Briggs had one of his best games of the season, but they all struggled filling gaps in run defense.

    It's not entirely their fault. With the way the defensive line was dominated, it's hard for linebackers to get to the ball-carrier. Still, they struggled with New York's Brandon Jacobs, who has about a 20-pound advantage on each of them.

    Briggs had a chance to stop Jacobs on his first touchdown, meeting him at about the 2-yard line, but Jacobs pounded through for the touchdown.

    That was the lowlight for Briggs, however, as he was solid otherwise. He was very effective as a blitzer and got the Bears' only sack.

    Anderson was his usual self. He continues to be one of the Bears' best free-agent additions.

    Williams struggled before leaving the game with a pectoral injury. He was replaced by Bostic, the team's 2013 second-round draft pick. Bostic didn't do much with his first extended playing time of the season. He was credited with just one assisted tackle.

    Costanzo replaced Anderson on the team's last drive, but it was hard to judge based on that. 

    This might have been the worst performance the Bears linebackers have had this season, but they were still arguably the strength of the team's defense.

    Grade: C+

Secondary

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    Tim Jennings, Zackary Bowman, Isaiah Frey, Major Wright, Chris Conte, Craig Steltz

    This unit was without its best player, but it managed to make a number of impact plays. It also gave some big plays up.

    The biggest mistake came on Rueben Randle's 37-yard touchdown, during which he was left wide open, thanks to a mistake by either Jennings or Wright.

    Wright was at fault a few other times too. He took a terrible angle on a 31-yard catch-and-run by Hakeem Nicks and slipped after a catch by Randle in the third quarter that would've been a touchdown had Randle not slipped. He's been bad this season and the Bears need to seriously consider replacing him with Steltz or Anthony Walters.

    Jennings was also called for pass interference in the end zone on a 2nd-and-12 play, setting up the Giants' third touchdown of the game.

    Jennings also made arguably the two biggest plays of the game. He read Eli Manning for a pick-six in the first quarter and caught a deflected pass to essentially seal the game.

    Bowman struggled at times in replacing Charles Tillman, but that should be expected against a player of Nicks' caliber. He made a nice play for an interception on the Giants' first drive.

    Conte was solid. He had arguably his best game of the season.

    Frey missed a tackle and had a hard time in coverage at times, but he was effective as a blitzer. Sending him could be a new wrinkle for the Bears' defense in an attempt to get more pressure on the quarterback.

    Overall, it was unrealistic to expect a lot from the Bears' secondary without Tillman and without a pass rush. Still, they gave up their share of big plays. The Giants regularly had open receivers, but they weren't always able to execute.

    Grade: C+

Special Teams

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    Robbie Gould, Adam Podlesh, Devin Hester

    It was an up-and-down day for the Bears' special teams unit.

    They gave up a long kick return, but that didn't end up hurting them as the defense forced a three-and-out. The other big mistake was made by Hester; he was upended and fumbled on a punt return. But—once again—it didn't end up hurting them as they recovered the fumble.

    Outside of that fumble, Hester was merely okay. He seems to be having a hard time finding holes on kick returns, but he still averaged nearly 25 yards per return. He passed Glyn Milburn for most kick-return yards in team history.

    Gould made one of the biggest plays of the game by drilling a 52-yard field goal on their first possession of the third quarter. A miss there would've given the Giants momentum and the ball in good field position. Gould once again proved he is among the best kickers in the NFL.

    Podlesh was solid for the second straight week. His punting average of 36.7 yards wasn't particularly impressive, but he put all three of his punts inside the 20-yard line.

    While this unit was mostly solid, it had two big mistakes that could've been costly. Just because they weren't this time doesn't mean they won't be next time.

    Outside of Gould's long field goal, this unit didn't create any big plays.

    Grade: C-