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

Andrew DannehyCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2013

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

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    While it came with its fair share of adversity, the Chicago Bears' 38-31 win over the Cleveland Browns improved the team's record to 8-6.

    No one was perfect, especially not on offense, as the Bears surrendered two returns—one interception and one fumble—for touchdowns. They looked out of sync for most of the game, but once they started clicking, they were unstoppable.

    The Bears offense finished with 440 yards and scored 31 points. 

    Outside of a couple big gaffes, the Bears defense had one of its best games of the season. It gave up 366 yards, but only 17 points. It wasn't playing a great offense—Cleveland came into the game averaging just 19.8 points per game, 27th in the league—but it got stops when it needed to.

    The Bears held Cleveland to 93 rushing yards, the lowest total an opponent has had against Chicago since New Orleans in Week 5.

    Special teams also played a big role for the Bears. Devin Hester had a few good returns, Robbie Gould was perfect on all of his kicks, and the coverage units pinned the Browns back a number of times.

    In the following slides, you'll find grades for each position. In doing these grades, I took the mistakes and the big plays into consideration. I also considered the opponent, as the Browns defense—especially its front seven—can be difficult to play against. 

    Chicago had a lot of mistakes, well more than a team should be able to get away with. Despite that, it was able to come away with one of its most well-rounded wins of the season.

Quarterback

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    Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

    Jay Cutler

    Those who didn't think Cutler should be starting over Josh McCown will almost certainly pick his performance apart. However, he came up big when it mattered most for the Bears.

    There's no arguing Cutler got off to a terrible start.

    His first interception wasn't a terrible throw, but it was into a tight spot and the throw needed to be a few inches higher. His second—which was returned for a touchdown—was a bad throw, as he sailed the ball over Brandon Marshall's head. 

    Later in the game, he lofted a deep pass to Alshon Jeffery in double coverage, but managed to barely—perhaps luckily—get the ball over the fingertips of Tashaun Gipson for a touchdown.

    He missed on a few other throws, as it was quite apparent he was rusty early. Even without rust, it's normal for a quarterback to miss at least a few throws a game. Those who don't think Cutler should be playing seem to have forgotten about McCown's numerous misses over the past few weeks.

    Now the good.

    Despite the poor throws and apparent rust, Cutler completed 71 percent of his passes, as he finished with a passer rating of 102.2 with three touchdowns and 265 yards. In the last three games he has completed, he has an average passer rating of 112.2.

    He was particularly effective on third down, as the Bears converted nine of their 14 attempts. When the Bears faced 3rd-and-6 or more, Cutler completed eight of nine passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

    He made a couple very nice plays on 3rd-and-long on the team's first scoring drive. Both times he got away from oncoming pass-rushers and threw strikes for first downs. 

    Right before his long touchdown pass to Jeffery, he threw a rocket in the middle of the field to Marshall that would've been a touchdown, but the ball went through his receiver's hands.

    The mistakes were there, but so were the bullets, including his third touchdown pass of the game to Earl Bennett. That was the third time this season he has put the team ahead in the fourth quarter.

    The Bears didn't win because of Cutler, but a loss wouldn't have been on him either. Considering he hadn't played in over a month, it was a solid performance. The Bears hope for even better showings as he shakes off the rust.

    Grade: B-

Running Backs

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    Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Tony Fiammetta

    Forte had a season-high 127 rushing yards, but he may not have been the biggest story in this game.

    Not to take anything away from Forte, as he was terrific. He got tough yards and broke free for big gains. His 24-yard run on 3rd-and-9 could have clinched the game.

    The reason it didn't clinch the game was because on the next play, Bush had arguably his biggest play as a Bear.

    In his second year with the team, he ran through a huge hole on the right side and broke free into the secondary. He broke away—something we didn't even know he was still capable of—for a 40-yard touchdown.

    Bush had another nice run earlier in the game, picking up 15 yards on a pitch, but it was called back due to an illegal shift penalty on Alshon Jeffery.

    The Bears' backup running back appeared to be allergic to the line of scrimmage for much of this season, but he seems to have broken out of his shell with touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.

    If he can produce consistently for the Bears, it'll give them a dangerous one-two punch with Forte—the kind they envisioned when they signed Bush.

    They combined to run for 171 yards against a Browns defense that hadn't allowed over 155 yards in any game this season.

    Grade: A+

Wide Receivers

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett

    Jeffery was at it again with another terrific catch for a long touchdown against the Browns.

    Although it may not have been as amazing as his touchdown catches the previous two weeks, this one came at a time when the Bears offense desperately needed a spark, and it tied the game at 24.

    Jeffery caught all five of the passes thrown his way for 72 yards and that touchdown. He seemed to have trouble getting open at times, but he made a big play when the Bears needed it.

    With all that said, Jeffery also had a couple crucial mistakes. Prior to catching his 45-yard touchdown pass, he had an illegal shift penalty that negated a 15-yard run by Michael Bush. Earlier in the game, he had a false start on a 4th-and-1 play.

    Marshall was also very good for the Bears. Although Jay Cutler targeted him 13 times, he wasn't wrong for doing so most of the time. Cutler missed him a few times, but he still finished with six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. 

    He had a nice 41-yard catch-and-run on the Bears' touchdown drive right before halftime that tied the game at 10.

    Bennett had his second-most-productive game of the season with four catches, 23 yards and a touchdown. He ran a nice route on his fourth-quarter touchdown catch that put the Bears ahead 31-24.

    Overall, this unit was very good. Adjusting to a different quarterback isn't always easy, but the receivers were still productive. 

    Grade: A

Tight Ends

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Martellus Bennett, Eben Britton, Dante Rosario

    This is a tough grade because Bennett's fumble could've cost the Bears the game, given when it happened.

    The Browns had just scored a touchdown to tie the game at 17 and had momentum. The Bears had picked up a couple first downs but faced a 3rd-and-8 when Jay Cutler checked down to Bennett.

    Bennett made a move up the field and tried to get the first down, but as he was going down, he had the ball punched out and it was returned for a touchdown. 

    Outside of that, he was very good. He caught six passes for 71 yards. He made a few big plays in the passing game and was a very effective blocker.

    Britton and Rosario also did a solid job as blockers, as they were key to the Bears running for nearly 180 yards.

    Grade: B

Offensive Line

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    Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

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

    Another group that's difficult to grade.

    The offensive line wasn't great in pass protection, as Cutler was hit eight times. He was only sacked twice, but he faced heavy pressure and took big hits at times.

    The Browns also finished with eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, as they won the point of attack numerous times.

    That said, the Browns are considered to be pretty strong up front. They came into the game with the fourth-ranked rushing defense and were second in terms of yards per carry, yet the Bears thrashed them late in the game.

    The 179 rushing yards the Bears finished with—which includes two kneeldowns—is 24 more yards than the Browns had given up in a game all season.

    The hole on Michael Bush's 40-yard touchdown run was as big as you'll see in the NFL, with Long, Mills and tight end Martellus Bennett taking care of their assignments to get Bush into the secondary.

    Overall, it was a good performance for the Bears line. It didn't dominate, but it wasn't dominated. It had issues with consistency, but so did everyone else on the offensive side of the ball.

    Grade: B

Defensive Line

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Julius Peppers, Jeremiah Ratliff, Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin, David Bass, Stephen Paea, Landon Cohen, Cheta Ozougwu

    It was another weak performance for a weak unit.

    The Bears allowed the Browns to run for 93 yards, which is great for them, but still higher than the 85 yards Cleveland averaged this season.

    It likely would've been a lot worse had Cleveland decided to run it more instead of trusting Jason Campbell to throw 39 times. The Browns averaged 5.5 yards per carry and were led by unknown Edwin Baker, who finished with 38 yards with an average of 4.8 yards per carry.

    The Bears also got almost no pass rush. Part of that is because Campbell is a master at checking down. Still, the Bears were credited with just three quarterback hits from their defensive line.

    The good news for the Bears is that all three of those hits and a tackle behind the line of scrimmage were by newcomer Jeremiah Ratliff. Ratliff has continued to show improvement since breaking into the lineup two weeks ago.

    Peppers was a no-show once again, while nobody else—other than Ratliff—along the Bears defensive line seemed to be able to get off his blocks consistently either.

    Grade: D

     

Linebackers

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    James Anderson, Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene

    At first glance it wasn't a great performance for the Bears linebackers. When you consider what they've been doing, they played reasonably well.

    Anderson led the team with 11 tackles, all solo, while Bostic added five solo stops and Greene finished with two.

    They did a decent job filling holes and deserve credit for helping limit Browns stud tight end Jordan Cameron to just three catches for 23 yards.

    Anderson was good in the game, which was one of his best of the season. Greene was adequate considering the number of snaps he played.

    It looked like Bostic had a good shot at stopping Edwin Baker on his two-yard touchdown run, but he struggled to get off his block and hold his ground. He contacted Baker before the running back reached the end zone, but he wasn't able to get him down in time.

    Bostic lack of improvement is a major indictment on the Bears coaching staff. A player with that much physical talent should be getting better, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all.

    Grade: B-

Secondary

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

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

    The Bears secondary was more good than bad against the Browns.

    Without a lot of pressure from the Bears up front, Browns quarterback Jason Campbell completed under 60 percent of his passes, as members of the Bears secondary defended five passes.

    The headliner may have been Bowman, who intercepted Campbell twice. Bowman's first interception came early in the second quarter on an overthrown pass. On Cleveland's first drive of the third quarter, Bowman jumped in front of receiver Greg Little to intercept a Campbell pass and take it down the sidelines for an easy touchdown.

    The best performer of the group was actually Jennings, who had a major role in limiting Browns star Josh Gordon. Gordon had averaged over 193 yards per game over his last four, but he caught just three passes for 67 yards.

    Gordon did have a touchdown, but that appeared to be the fault of Conte. Conte took an embarrassingly bad angle to give up a touchdown at a time when the Bears only needed to not give up one.

    Thankfully, they recovered the ensuing onside kick so the Browns didn't have any miracles in their pocket.

    Wright had one of his better games of the season, and Frey was solid, proving once again to be an upgrade over injured veteran Kelvin Hayden. 

    Grade: B+

Special Teams

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Robbie Gould, Adam Podlesh, Devin Hester

    Hester got the Bears off to a good start by returning the opening kick 39 yards. Later in the game, he added a 40-yard return, as he averaged 35 yards on three kick returns in the game.

    His biggest play was a punt return in the fourth quarter, which he returned 21 yards to start the Bears at the Cleveland 36. The Bears went on to score the go-ahead touchdown on that drive.

    Gould was perfect on all five of his extra points and made his only field-goal attempt in the first quarter. He also made a 46-yard field goal, but it was called back due to a holding penalty on Corey Wootton.

    Podlesh's statistics look good and he had some good punts, including one which pinned the Browns at their own 5-yard line. He also had a terrible punt in the third quarter which covered just 33 yards and allowed the Browns to start at their own 42. 

    The Bears' average starting field position was about their own 31-yard line, while the Browns started at their own 21 on average.

    Grade: B+

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