The Chicago Bears raised their record to 2-1 today by defeating the St. Louis Rams 23-6 at Soldier Field. It was a defensive battle for most of the contest, with both offenses struggling to move the ball consistently. The game featured three turnovers and 10 total punts.
The win helps Chicago erase last week's embarrassing defeat to the Green Bay Packers and gives them confidence heading into Dallas next week.
-FB Evan Rodriguez was the only Bears player to sustain an injury today. He hurt his knee in the first half and wasn't able to return. The run game will take a big hit if Rodriguez is lost for a significant period of time.
Notes from Week 3
-The Bears rushed the ball 34 times today. OC Mike Tice tried to establish the run early and stuck with it throughout the contest. Yet those 34 attempts netted just 104 yards, and 21 of those came on a Jay Cutler scramble.
Michael Bush was the lead ball carrier, rushing 18 times for 55 yards. His 3.1 yards per carry was poor but it was better than backup Kahlil Bell, who rushed 10 times for 20 yards (2.0 yards per carry). The lack of a consistent rushing attack, particularly on first down, stalled a number of drives today.
-For the second week in a row, Cutler struggled. He was off target for most of the afternoon, making poor decisions, throwing into double coverage and trying to force passes to Brandon Marshall. He finished the game 17 of 31 for 183 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT, good for a 58.9 passer rating.
Cutler missed a number of open targets today, throwing passes high and behind his receivers. If he does not quickly improve his decision-making and accuracy, the passing attack will never reach its full potential.
-Once again, Marshall led all Bears receivers with 11 targets. He caught five of those for 71 yards, which included a 34 yarder in the fourth quarter that helped seal the win.
-Yet the most impressive receiver was Alshon Jeffery, who had five catches for 45 yards. He didn't light up the stat sheet by any means but he came up big when the offense was floundering, offering Cutler an open target play after play in the second half.
The strategy was simple with Jeffery: run him 10 yards and then have him turn and face the quarterback. Every single Jeffery completion followed this blueprint. Defensive backs have to respect his speed, which allowed him to run off the cornerback before turning and using his big body to shield the defender. The Bears would be wise to continue using Jeffery in this manner going forward.
-The offensive line, while not perfect, gave up just two sacks on the day. For the most part, they gave Cutler time to throw, so it's hard to blame them for the inefficient passing attack.
Yet as run blockers, the front five struggled. They had a few plays where they opened up some big holes for RB Michael Bush but overall the running room was sparse.
-J'Marcus Webb was on his last leg heading into this game. A poor performance today and he likely would have been yanked. He gave up a sack early in the contest, looking like a turnstile as Rams DE Robert Quinn blew right past him. Yet he settled down after that and was solid the rest of the game.
-Next to Webb, LG Chilo Rachal made his first start in Chicago. He had a decent performance and didn't do anything egregiously stupid. He was better than the man he replaced, Chris Spencer, but not by much. Rachal must bring more on game day next week.
-Chicago's defense was dominant today. The group allowed just 160 total net yards, forced two turnovers and sacked Rams QB Sam Bradford six times. They played physical all day, manhandling St. Louis' offensive line and not allowing any big gains in the secondary. The Rams gained just 59 yards on the ground and 152 through the air.
-RB Steven Jackson missed practice this week but started the game. It didn't help St. Louis much, as he gained just 29 yards on 11 carries. His backup, rookie Daryl Richardson, had a bit more success, gaining 16 yards on four carries, but it was tough sledding for the Ram's rushing attack all day.
Right now, the Bears defense looks like it is one of the best in the league at stopping the run.
-Yet they are even better at getting after the quarterback. The club came into the game with the second most sacks in the league (8.0) and added 6.0 more today. DE Israel Idonije led the way with 2.5 sacks, followed by DT Amobi Okoye (1), LB Nick Roach (1), DT Stephen Paea (1) and DE Julius Peppers (0.5).
The pass rush right now is almost unstoppable. Every single player along the defensive line is getting pressure on the quarterback. Opposing offenses have been giving Peppers most of the attention and the rest of the guys are taking advantage. The Rams lost 51 yards on offense due to the sacks.
-The pass rush bothered Bradford all afternoon, forcing him into two interceptions, one each by Tim Jennings and Major Wright. That makes four picks for Jennings, at least one in each game so far this year, which is the most in the league. He also deflected three pass attempts. Wright's interception came on a passed tipped by Jennings. Wright caught the deflection and raced 45 yards for a defensive score. All together, the Bears knocked away seven pass attempts.
-LB Brian Urlacher didn't have a great game but he did show some improved mobility. The left knee did not appear to be bothering him this week as much as it did in Lambeau. Yet he still cannot plant hard on the leg, which makes him easily blockable at times.
-His partner, Lance Briggs, had no problems today, leading the defense with seven solo tackles. His play against the run was the main reason the Rams could get nothing going on the ground.
-Nickelback D.J. Moore had an outstanding day. He only showed up on the stat sheet with four tackles yet his contributions in pass defense was crucial to Chicago's victory. He was charged with covering Rams WR Danny Amendola, who came into the game with the most catches in the league. Out of the slot, Moore blanketed Amendola throughout the game, giving up just five catches for 66 yards. That's a far cry from last week, when Amendola caught 15 passes against the Washington Redskins.
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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.