Chicago Bears Week 6 Report Card: Grading the Rookies
With the safety position a mess and the Bears veteran safeties being shown the bench, the team's direction there seemed uncertain.
The defensive line had been inconsistent and pressure was noticeably absent against the Lions.
The receiver position needed someone, anyone, to step up.
And the offensive line was broken, to say the least. Quarterback Jay Cutler looked like a speed bag in the pocket, getting knocked around like a badminton birdie and there didn't seem to be much hope for the success of the Bears offense in this situation.
With the game over, it seems like for the first time in weeks, the Bears got some answers and some good news.
The offensive scheme was adjusted to help the line out. The defensive line showed up and Julius Peppers, bad wheel and all, led the way. Devin Hester made plays in the receiving game and there was even a Roy Williams sighting. And the young safety tandem of Conte and Wright played a good game, helping to limit Adrian Peterson to just 39 yards while preventing the big plays that have plagued the Bears this season.
Notably, the Bears saw an explosion from the youth movement that helped lead the way to victory.
Three rookies, in particular, had serious impact on this game.
How much impact? Let's check out the rookie performances to find out as we grade the rookies for their Week 6 performance.
Dane entered this week leading the Bears receivers in receptions, touchdowns....and drops.
And Dane added one reception, one touchdown and one drop to those totals, retaining the lead in all three among Bears receivers.
A rookie undrafted free agent, drops or not, Dane has done more than anyone could have expected of him in taking the place of Earl Bennett while Bennett has been injured.
This week Jay was noticeably angered by Sanzenbacher's latest drop, one that occurred on a 3rd-and-5 from the Minnesota 8-yard line and would have been a first down, if not a touchdown, had Sanzenbacher held on.
One has to wonder how many passes Dane can drop before Jay starts losing confidence in the young wideout.
Still, Dane had one reception for a touchdown. Interestingly enough, the Bears have not won a game that that Dane has caught more than one pass in. Now, that's more of an indication that the Bears are in trouble if they are forced to rely on Dane than it is an indictment of Sanzenbacher himself.
But this week, for the purpose of grading, we focus on his Sunday performance, which wasn't special, but which did contribute to the win.
Coming into the game, the big story was the benching of the Bears two veteran safeties, second-team All-Pro Chris Harris and two-time Pro Bowler Brandon Meriweather, in favor of second-year safety Major Wright and rookie Chris Conte.
The story after the game should be the performance of Wright, now in the strong safety position, and Conte at free safety. The tandem were not perfect, but it was the best performance from the safety position this season.
Conte, in particular, played well. The Bears kept the first-year DB deep to prevent big plays, which have been a well documented problem this season.
Conte did make a noticeable, and admitted, mistake when he whiffed on a tackle of Adrian Peterson. After the game, Chris chalked the miss up to respect for Peterson's speed and taking the wrong angle due to that respect.
But misses happen—noted tackling machines Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs both entered the game with four missed tackles a piece—and Conte played a good game and gave the Bears reason to believe that they can survive trading Chris Harris.
The injury of Matt Toeaina opened a door for rookie bench-press monster Stephen Paea, and he stepped through it with authority.
Paea sacked Donovan McNabb in the end zone for a safety in the first quarter of the game, and ended with a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.
Paea step up when given the opportunity and probably earned himself some more playing time with his performance.
The Best of the Rest
Kyle Adams: Adams got some playing time filling in for the injured Kellen Davis, and blocked well in mop up time for Forte and Barber.
Anthony Walters: Walters helped out the special teams unit, and looked pretty good running behind Devin Hester on his kickoff touchdown return.
These gentlemen didn't have much impact on the game, but deserved to be noted because they entered the game and performed their duties without mistake.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's your turn. Step up to the soapbox below and let us know what you think.