Lions vs. Bears: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Chicago
The Chicago Bears fell to 5-4 after losing to the Detroit Lions in an important Week 10 NFC North matchup. In a turn of events, it was the defense that turned in a strong showing, holding the high-flying Lions offense in check for most of the game. The offense, however, even with Jay Cutler back in the lineup, couldn't find its groove.
Check out the slideshow to see how each positional unit fared in the 21-19 loss.
In the days leading up to the Bears-Lions Week 10 matchup, so many voices said the same thing: Cutler shouldn’t play if he’s not 100 percent. That reasoning became painfully obvious Sunday.
After taking a few hits from Lions pass-rushers, by the end of the second quarter Cutler looked hobbled and bruised. At 70 percent, or whatever capacity at which he was playing, he struggled to move the offense consistently.
He connected on just 21 of 40 attempts, with some of those misfires occurring at crucial times late in the fourth quarter. With 250 yards, a touchdown and one interception (in the red zone), he posted a 69.8 rating—not good enough against a weak Lions secondary.
Josh McCown, entering with 2:22 remaining in the game, gave the Bears the spark that they needed. For his part, he earned an A, but a failed two-point conversion attempt cut his bid for a miracle win short.
With just 33 yards on 17 carries, running back Matt Forte had one of his worst statistical games of the season. Against a strong Detroit front four, he found very little running room, and on the few occasions he found open space, too often he was tripped up by a single tackler.
In the passing game, Forte was just as ineffective. Targeted seven times, he caught four passes for just 16 yards.
Michael Bush ran the ball just once—a no-gain on a 4th-and-1 play early in the second quarter. It looked like a busted play from the very beginning, though ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright wrote, “The offensive line appeared to produce adequate push, but Bush ran into the backs of his blockers.”
Both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were sensational, as usual. The duo combined for 16 receptions and 253 yards, and many of those catches came at high-pressure moments in the game.
Marshall did an especially nice job of catching the ball cleanly. He had no bobbles or drops, and on the first drive of the game he nabbed a couple of Cutler zingers out of the air.
Jeffery looked unstoppable on the hitch route—countless times it seemed Cutler found him turning around just across the first-down marker. Jeffery again put his attributes—strength and the ability to create separation—on display.
Targeted 30 times, 14 throws to them did go incomplete, but only one failed connection—a dropped touchdown pass by Jeffery in the third quarter—was the fault of the receivers.
Targeted six times, Martellus Bennett finished with four catches and 29 yards. DeAndre Levy, one of the best coverage linebackers in the league, locked him down for most of the game. Bennett didn’t add much in the blocking department, as he failed to help spring Forte for any sizable runs on the edge.
The offensive line limited Detroit’s potent pass rush to just two sacks, but it couldn’t keep Detroit’s front four from getting its paws on Cutler. The Lions tallied 11 hits on Chicago quarterbacks.
The run game is where the offensive line really struggled, though. Against a stout front four, the Bears couldn’t open running lanes like they were able to do against Green Bay. When Forte finally broke the Detroit defense and scampered for a nine-yard touchdown, the score was nullified on a Matt Slauson hold.
On two crucial plays—the fourth-down attempt in the second quarter and the two-point conversion attempt near the end of the game—the O-line failed to win the battle in the trenches.
It was back to the usual for the Bears’ front four. The Julius Peppers-Corey Wootton-Stephen Paea-David Bass combination produced little pass rush the entire game. With no sacks, no hits and very few hurries, too often Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was allowed three, four or five seconds to scan the field.
In the run game, the D-line did an adequate job of containing Lions running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. The gaping holes Bears fans saw against Green Bay and Washington were largely gone. In turn, without running backs attacking the second level at full speed, the Bears safeties looked less vulnerable.
While the Bears did give up a hefty number of rushing yards—145 on just 24 carries— the linebackers looked better this week at swarming the ball and making tackles.
Middle linebacker Jon Bostic especially made some nice solo tackles. His energy and pursuit were evident in the Bears' second level. However, he’s still learning the position. At times he overcommitted on bad angles in the running game. It was on one of these overzealous moments that Bush reeled off a 39-yard run.
Strong-side linebacker James Anderson had a solid day, tallying six tackles (five solo) and a tackle for loss. Weak-side linebacker Khaseem Greene, making his first NLF start, added just one tackle.
At this point, Bears fans realize that cornerback Charles Tillman is a gamer. On this day, it was just another of his strong performances against a superstar opponent. Targeted 17 times, he limited Calvin Johnson to just six catches, and his presence in the secondary was a big reason why Detroit’s high-powered offense scored just 21 points.
On the other side, cornerback Tim Jennings provided consistent coverage from start to finish. All other Lions wide receivers caught just three passes for 33 yards.
Bears safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright have been much maligned in recent weeks. Look at any big run the Bears have given up recently and you’ll find one or both of them out of position or whiffing on a tackle. On this day, things were better.
Conte especially looked good. In coverage he held his own, and he had the biggest defensive play of the game—an interception off a Stafford overthrow that he returned all the way to the 9-yard line.
Wright, on the other hand, dropped his chance at an interception—a Stafford pass that hit him right between the numbers. In addition, he appears to be playing without much confidence in coverage. On tight end Brandon Pettigrew’s 23-yard reception in the second quarter, Wright, already giving 10 yards of cushion, turned his back and sprinted deeper into the secondary as Pettigrew approached—as if Wright was conceding his own foot speed against the 265-pound tight end. Pettigrew broke off his route and hauled in a big gain.
Against the run, the safeties fared better at positioning themselves in the right spots than in recent weeks, but they still have much room for improvement.
Devin Hester averaged 28.5 yards on four kick returns; his longest attempt—39 yards on the opening kickoff—gave the Bears a short field that turned into seven points on a Cutler-to-Marshall touchdown. Hester also added a 16-yard punt return.
Kicker Robbie Gould was gold on his two field-goal attempts. Punter Adam Podlesh averaged 42.6 yards on five punts—not great for an average, but a pretty solid number considering none of his punts were returned.
The coverage unit limited Detroit’s Michael Spurlock to a 23.7 average on three kick returns.
Credit defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for putting together a solid game plan against the Detroit offense. He’s been under a lot of scrutiny recently for the play of the defense, but he delivered Sunday.
On the offensive side of the ball, Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer couldn’t find a running play that would work for the Bears. Yet that’s what they went to at two different crucial moments; first on a 4th-and-1 play while the team was in field-goal position, and second on a two-point conversion at the end of the game. Both attempts were stopped short.