The Chicago Bears dropped to 7-4 this afternoon in a sloppy game riddled with turnovers. Caleb Hanie, in his first-ever NFL start, completed 18 of 36 passes for 254 yards and 2 TDs, yet the team was unable to overcome his three first-half interceptions.
After going down 25-13 late in the fourth quarter, Hanie led the Bears on a frantic comeback. He hit WR Johnny Knox for 81 yards on 3rd down, which led to a nine-yard touchdown pass to TE Kellen Davis. The Bears failed to convert the onside kick but got the ball back with a minute left to play. Yet Chicago couldn't move the ball the 96 needed yards and Hanie was called for an intentional grounding penalty to run out the clock.
The Bears still hold the sixth and final NFC playoff spot due to a tiebreaker over the Atlanta Falcons. Chicago came out relatively unscathed in the game, with no significant injuries of note.
QB Caleb Hanie
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
-Hanie showed today that he has all the physical tools to be an NFL quarterback. He has a big arm and great wheels – he rushed for 50 yards on five carries. Yet he has to improve his decision-making. His first interception came on an ill-advised pass thrown near the sideline, when he should have just thrown the ball away. His second pick was thrown into coverage and his third was the result of him trying to force the ball on a broken play. In the second half, he made much better decisions, which is an encouraging sign. But had he not been so careless with the ball in the first half, Chicago would have been in good position to win this one.
-Johnny Knox was a beast this afternoon. He led all receivers with 142 receiving yards on four receptions, including a 29-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. The Raiders defense had no answer for his speed. It was clear Hanie felt most comfortable throwing to Knox, targeting him a team-high 10 times. Earl Bennett was targeted just four times, catching one pass for five yards.
-Coordinator Mike Martz never bailed on the run, calling 27 runs compared to 36 passes. The team picked up 172 yards on the ground. Carries were split almost evenly between Matt Forte (12) and Marion Barber (10). The offensive line struggled early but was able to wear down Oakland's defensive front in the second half. Barber's power running provided a necessary spark to the rushing attack.
-The play of the game came from T Lance Louis. After Hanie's third interception, which came at the Oakland 10-yard line, Louis raced 73 yards to take down LB Kamerion Wimbley. The Raiders were then forced to kick a field goal. Louis' hustle play essentially saved the Bears four points, which kept the team in the game until the very end.
-Chicago's defense played well in stretches yet gave up too many big plays when it mattered most. The Bears lost for just 11th time under coach Lovie Smith when the team scores 18 points or more (60-11). Carson Palmer threw for 301 yards, with more than a third of those coming on a pair of 47-yard passes in the second half to FB Marcel Reece and WR Louis Murphy. The Bears did a good job in the red zone holding the Raiders to field goals. Sebastian Janikowski booted through six kicks, the most in a single game in Raiders history and the most allowed in a single game in Bears history.
CB Tim Jennings
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
-The Raiders won the field-position battle today thanks to the outstanding play of their special teams. Chicago was thoroughly outplayed in the game's third phase. Devin Hester could get nothing going as a punt returner, with Oakland's coverage teams keeping him pinned in all day. P Shane Lechler also dropped two kicks inside Chicago's five-yard line. It's a rare day when the opponent' special teams play better than the Bears' but today was one of those instances.
-Tim Jennings had a good game. On a number of plays, he was in great position, reading and reacting to the ball. He led the team with three passes defended. Yet he dropped two sure picks, one of which went right off his helmet, which led to six points for Oakland. He also bit on the double move that freed Murphy for a 47-yard reception in the fourth quarter, leading to the game-winning score. Jennings did a lot of good things but his mistakes were extremely costly.
-The Bears were finally able to get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback, an area in which they've struggled for the past month. The defense sacked Palmer four times, after having just four sacks in the previous four games combined. Julius Peppers was a force off the edge, picking up two sacks and three quarterback hits. Defensive tackles Amobi Okoye and Henry Melton also played well, picking up a sack apiece.
-Corey Graham picked up his third interception in as many games. Like D.J. Moore before him, Graham seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Moore will resume starting nickelback duties when he returns from his ankle injury but Graham has shown he deserves more time on defense.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.