The Chicago Bears fell to 0-2 on the season after losing 48-23 to the visiting Arizona Cardinals yesterday. It was a disappointing and concerning effort on both sides of the ball, one that showed just how far the Bears have to go to reach even the lowest level of respectability.
Here are my game grades following the Week 2 blowout loss.
Jay Cutler completed his first eight passes of the game, guiding the offense to touchdowns on two of its first three drives. He was playing at a very high level until his ninth pass attempt, which resulted in a pick-six interception by Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson. Cutler was hurt trying to tackle Jefferson on the run back and will very likely miss time with what the team is calling a hamstring injury.
Cutler's performance was worthy of a B ranking, yet Jimmy Clausen barely finished with a passing grade. In two-plus quarters of play, Clausen completed 14 of 23 passes for 120 yards - as many yards as Cutler accumulated in just eight completions - with no touchdowns and an interception, good for a 56.6 QB rating.
The Bears under Clausen failed to score a touchdown, in spite of two late second-quarter drives that started at Arizona's 22- and 12-yard lines respectively.
Running Back: B
Matt Forte rushed 15 times for 60 yards (4.1 average) and caught four passes for 44 yards. He had his usual productive outing, amassing 104 yards from scrimmage.
Rookie Jeremy Langford also played well in limited action, carrying six times for 21 yards (3.5 average) and scoring the only rushing touchdown of the game on a goal-line plunge. Jacquizz Rodgers chipped in two carries for eight yards.
Wide Receiver: C-
Eddie Royal caught seven passes on eight targets for 41 yards. He was the most reliable receiver on the field for the Bears, although his 5.9 yards per reception indicates how inefficient he was after the catch.
Josh Bellamy scored a 48-yard touchdown on his first ever NFL reception, yet that was due to a blown coverage by the Cardinals secondary and had little to do with Bellamy's playmaking ability.
Marquess Wilson was blanketed by Arizona's Patrick Peterson, one of the best cover corners in the game, and caught just one of his five targets for 10 yards. Peterson's interception of Clausen came on a pass intended for Wilson, who was outmuscled by the defender with the ball in the air.
Cameron Meredith, who developed chemistry with Clausen during training camp, carried the passing attack in the fourth quarter. He finished with the second most catches (3) and receiving yards (36) of the team's wide receivers.
Tight End: C+
Martellus Bennett had four catches for 48 yards. He had a 21-yard reception in the first quarter that put the ball at the 1-yard line and led to Chicago's second touchdown of the game. Yet overall, Bennett's performance was a bit disappointing. The Bears are banged up at receiver and needed Bennett to pick up the slack in the passing game. He failed to do that and had just two catches for 26 yards in the second half, including a potential touchdown grab late in the game that went right through his hands.
Zach Miller caught three passes during the club's first two drives but one was called back after he was flagged for offensive pass interference. Miller disappeared after the first quarter.
Offensive Line: C+
The Bears rushed for more than 100 yards for the second week in a row, yet they averaged just 3.9 yards per rush against the Cardinals. While the front five wasn't as dominant in the run game as it was in the regular-season opener, they did open a number of holes early in the game - although the offensive line had trouble containing DE Calais Campbell.
Their worst play as a unit came on 3rd and 1 from the Arizona 3-yard line, with the Bears trying to cut the lead to just three points before halftime. Forte took the handoff on a sweep left and was hit in the backfield for a 2-yard loss. That deflated the Bears, and the Soldier Field crowd, as the teams went into the locker room.
Pass protection up front was decent for the second week in a row. Cutler was not sacked, while both of Clausen's sacks were just as much his fault for holding the ball as they were the fault of the O-line.
Defensive Line: C
The Cardinals rushed for 4.1 yards per carry, accumulating 115 yards on 28 carries. Those aren't horrible numbers but the defensive line failed to make any standout plays. They did not have a single tackle for loss, nor did they get any pressure on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.
Will Sutton started at defensive end in place of the injured Ego Ferguson and he's still searching for his first career sack. Rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman disappeared for stretches, while Jarvis Jenkins had just a handful of quality snaps.
The most impressive defensive lineman was arguably Brandon Dunn, who was elevated from the practice squad the night before. Dunn finished with two total tackles and showed good mobility chasing down ball carriers at the second level.
Outside Linebacker: D+
The Bears are one of just three teams in the NFL without a sack. That falls mainly on outside linebackers Jared Allen and Pernell McPhee. The starting duo combined for five QB hits yesterday but just could not get Palmer to the ground.
Sacks are game-changing plays that stall drives and shift momentum. Until Allen and McPhee - and to a lesser extent Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Sam Acho - can find a way to take down an opposing quarterback, even just once, Chicago's pass defense stands no chance.
Inside Linebackers: C
Shea McClellin led the team with nine overall tackles, while Christian Jones chipped in four tackles. They didn't made any egregious mistakes but neither inside linebacker had a single standout play: no tackles for loss, no pass breakups, no forced turnovers. That makes two weeks in a row where Jones and McClellin have been just average.
Yesterday, both players struggled to shed blocks at the point of attack. Most of McClellin's tackles came 5-10 yards down the field, which speaks to his inability to fill run gaps quickly and violently.
Chicago has arguably the worst cornerback duo in the NFL. Kyle Fuller and Alan Ball were flagged for first-half pass interference penalties of 42 and 38 yards respectively. And on Larry Fitzgerald's touchdown catch off an Arizona flea flicker, it was Fuller who bit on the fake run and was burned over the top. That play was the final straw for Chicago's coaching staff, who benched Fuller, the club's 2014 first-round draft pick, in the fourth quarter.
Through two games, Ball has a 146.1 QB rating against (per Pro Football Focus) and Fuller has a 145.8 QB rating against. In essence, opposing quarterbacks have been nearly perfect this year when throwing at the Bears' starting cornerbacks.
At safety, rookie Adrian Amos put forth a red-zone tackle attempt that was worthy of a benching. On David Johnson's 13-yard score midway through the third quarter, Amos had an opportunity to stop the ball carrer from getting in the end zone. He took a good angle of pursuit and then just dove face first into the turf, literally, allowing Johnson to walk in for six.
John Fox: F
The job of an NFL head coach is to oversee, organize and motivate his team. A club's weekly preparation and in-game mentality is tied directly to that of the head coach. After Cutler went down, the Bears absolutely rolled over for the Cardinals, in a fashion very similar to the manner in which the Denver Broncos laid down against the Indianapolis Colts in last year's AFC Diviosonal contest, held at Mile High Stadium, last year.
Adam Gase: A
For the second week in a row, Gase showed creativity in his play calling. Against a Cardinals defense that was keyed on Matt Forte, Gase used five different zone-read plays in the first half, three of which Cutler tucked and ran. Arizona was not ready for the read-option and each play went for good yardage. In additoin, despite the blowout loss, Gase stayed committed to the run game, calling 28 runs compared to 32 passes. He was the wildcard of Chicago's coaching staff coming into the season but Gase might be the most reliable coach on this team.
Vic Fangio: F
The Bears gave up 48 points yesterday, the most points they've ever allowed at home in the near 100-year history of the franchise. It doesn't matter what Vic Fangio did in San Francisco, or how poor the overall talent level is on defense, if you get a near 50-burger posted on you in front of your home crowd against a mediocre offense, as a defensive coorindator you have failed miserably.