NFL Season Report: Grading the Chicago Bears Through 13 Weeks
The Chicago Bears have completed 3/4 of their 2010 season and, so far, it's been so good. The Bears are 9-3 going into a huge showdown against the New England Patriots.
The Bears lead the NFC North by one game over the Green Bay Packers. The two teams meet in week 17 at Green Bay and it's likely that game will decide the division title.
The Bears have received solid play from almost everyone, making them a dangerous team in the NFC. The defense is playing dominant defense and the offense seems like they are getting it together.
Charles Tillman might just be one of the most underrated corner backs in the NFL. He is a key piece of this Bears defense and has shown that this season. Tillman has recorded 62 tackles on the season.
Tillman's three interceptions shy away from his play, but his three forced fumbles are what makes Tillman a playmaker. He's the best at stripping the ball away from receivers and is very good in coverage, as well.
Bennett struggled early on this season and at times didn't play at all in games. It seemed like Bennett wasn't ready to play in this offense. Lately however, Bennett has emerged as the Bears go-to guy.
After the Bears bye in Week 8, Bennett has given Chicago what they have been missing on the receiving core. He's become a possession receiver. That will benefit speed receivers Johnny Knox and Devin Hester.
Bennett has 37 receptions and three touchdowns, including two against the Eagles. If Bennett's solid play can continue, the Bears will have added a key player to the offense for Jay Cutler.
Lance Briggs has been another outstanding player on the defense this season. With 65 tackles, Briggs is all over the field. He is one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL. Briggs has just one sack and two interceptions on the year.
Briggs gives the Bears another solid playmaker aside Brian Urlacher. The two have formed a tandem that has offenses scheming around them.
The Bears have struggled this season with the run game. Lately, the run game has improved, but in the beginning of the year it was non-exsistant. Poor offensive line play has contributed to this. The Bears were awful and near the bottom of the league in rushing early on.
Matt Forte hasn't had a good season like he had in his rookie year of 2008. This season he has made up for his poor running game by being a weapon and consistent in the receiving game.
Forte has 748 yards rushing this season with five touchdowns. Not bad numbers, but for being a starting running back, those numbers have to go up. Forte also has 36 receptions for 389 yards and three touchdowns.
Idonije has clearly been the most improved Bear this season. Idonije has stepped up with teams double teaming Julius Peppers. Idonije has fed off that and made it count. With seven sacks on the season, Idonije gives the Bears another threat on the defensive line.
Going into the season, many people believed it would be Tommie Harris to step up. It hasn't been and Harris' ineffective play has led to a chance for Izzy to shine.
Hester started the season as a starting wide receiver for the Bears. Now Hester has returned to the return game. Hester gives the Bears good starting field position every time he returns a punt or a kickoff.
Hester hasn't turned out to be the receiver the Bears wanted him to be. He's only got 351 yards and two touchdowns. With the emergence of Bennett, Hester's production is sure to go down.
It's safe to say that Brian Urlacher has returned to the level of play we have seen for most of his career. After having a year off due to injury, Urlacher has played spectacular for the Bears this season. Being the anchor of one of the best defenses, offenses fear Urlacher and scheme around him.
Urlacher has 94 tackles on the season and three sacks. Without Urlacher, this Bears defense is a different defense. Urlacher will need to continue his stellar play if the Bears want to make a Super Bowl run.
After a season to forget in 2009, Cutler has given reason for Bears fans to believe he's the franchise quarterback. Cutler has played well this season, for the most part. He's still made the silly mistakes to cost the Bears key games (See the Redskins game where he threw four interceptions).
Even with those mistakes, Cutler has the Bears poised for a deep playoff run this year. He's got 17 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Cutler has showed his mobility lately, making him a scrambling threat for defenses.
With a limited receiving core, Cutler has proved he can be a game-changer. It's just up to him to limit his mistakes and lead the Bears.
Arguably the biggest signing of the 2010 free agency period, Peppers has proved he was worth all of the money. Peppers doesn't have the numbers to prove it, but his on-field presence is something the Bears haven't seen from a defensive lineman since Tommie Harris in 2005-2006.
Peppers just has seven sacks on the season with one interception. He draws double teams from offenses, which leads to more chances for another defensive lineman. Peppers' presence is so valuable to Chicago.
Coach Lovie Smith received a lot of criticism last season, due to the team's poor play. This season, however, Smith might have saved his job. Barring a complete meltdown and the Bears fail to make the playoffs, Lovie will save his job.
To give him credit, Lovie has turned this team into a team that some experts predicted to finish last in the division. Lovie still has his challenging problems, but overall has done a good job coaching this season.