After opening the regular season 0-3, the Chicago Bears have won two in a row and, at 2-3, are only a half game out of second place in the NFC North.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year and through three weeks, that appeared to be the case. Yet after jettisoning dead weight like Jared Allen, Jon Bostic, Jordan Mills and Brock Vereen, there's a new look and, dare I say, swagger to this Bears team.
With that in mind, here are my positional game grades from yesterday's 18-17 victory over the Chiefs.
Jay Cutler completed 26 of 45 pass attemtps for 252 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. He did lose a fumble in the end zone, which resulted in a Chiefs touchdowns, and the team mustered just three points in the first half. Yet the offense turned it on in the fourth quarter, with Cutler leading the team on two touchdown-scoring drives in the game's final minutes (11 plays, 73 yards - 8 plays, 43 yards). It was one of the gutsiest performances of Cutler's career in Chicago, especially considering his hamstring was at less than 100 percent, he was missing two fifths of his starting offensive line and his top three wide receivers (Jeffery, Royal, White) did not play.
Running Back: B+
Matt Forte rushed 18 times for 71 yards but did not have a run longer than 10 yards. He also added 5 catches for 38 yards, giving him 109 yards from scrimmage. Forte is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (609) and leads the league in rushing yards (438). Even at 29 years old, Forte is still one of the most dependable all-around back in the NFL, one whose value could not be any higher if the Bears are indeed looking to trade him. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jeremy Langford combined for 4 carries for 1 yard.
Wide Receiver: B
The Bears were without Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal, yet Marquess Wilson stepped up to fill the void. He caught six passes for 85 yards and the first of two Bears fourth-quarter touchdowns. Josh Bellamy caught six passes for 31 yards, while Cameron Meredith had four receptions for 52 yards, including two on the game's final drive. Chicago's backup receivers did an admirable job picking up the slack for the injured starters.
Tight End: F
Martellus Bennett was targeted a team-high 11 times but pulled in just four catches for 32 yards. He also dropped a whopping four passes, including a seam route in the fourth quarter that likely would have resulted in a touchdown. With so many injuries to the receivers, the Bears have tried to lean on Bennett in the passing attack and, other than last week against the Raiders, he has not risen to the occasion. Zach Miller was targeted once in the end zone but could not beat single coverage, while Khari Lee failed to haul in his lone target.
Offensive Line: B-
Things didn't start off well for the offensive line, which was missing starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod and center Will Montgomery. The injuries thrust rookie center Hroniss Grasu into the starting lineup, and he promptly gave up a sack that resulted in a Chiefs touchdown. Yet beyond that, Grasu did not play horribly, allowing just 3 QB hurries on the day, while also serving well at the second level in the run game. The strongest performances came on the edges, where Charles Leno - filling in for Bushrod at LT - and Kyle Long played very well. They allowed 13 combined pressures, which isn't great, but none of those resulted in sacks. When you're face Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, you'll take that all day and twice on Friday.
Defensive Line: B-
Chicago's defense deserves a lot of credit for this victory. After a sub-par first half, the defense put the game on lock down in the final two stanzas, giving up just 52 total yards on Kansas City's final five drives. Much of the credit goes to the defensive line, which dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half. The catalyst was NT Eddie Goldman, who was stout against the run and had 3 QB hurries, while Mitch Unrein also had a strong game, showing good pursuit on stretch runs and plays at the second level.
Outside Linebackers: A
Pernell McPhee picked up his third sacks of the season and had a crucial blocked field goal that essentially won the game for the Bears. Yet Sam Acho was just as impressive, finishing with five tackles, three of which came at the line of scrimmage, and a pass breakup. The past three weeks, Acho has proven to be the most dependable all-around outside linebacker on the roster, one who can contribute in every phase of the game. Even Willie Young got in on the action, picking up his first sack of the season and his first since tearing his Achilles in Week 16 last year.
Inside Linebackers: C+
Shea McClellin left midway through the game with a knee injury but was playing very well before going down. The extent of his injury is still unknown but, when a player gets carted off the field, it's safe to asume he'll miss some time. Christian Jones led the team with eight total tackles and a pass defended, as he continues to grow in his new positoin. LaRoy Reynolds replaced McClellin and struggled early but settled down as the game progressed. The former UDFA signed just two weeks ago isn't a long-term option but he was serviceable in a pinch.
Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin had eight catches for 85 yards. Considering he's Kansas City's only viable wideout, Chicago's corners deserve some criticism. Yet Tracy Porter made up for a poor overall performance from the unit with a late-game pass breakup that was crucial in the victory. With the Chiefs attempting to run out the clock, and the Bears with just one timeout left, Porter closed on a 3rd-down slant and knocked the ball away, giving the offense the ball back for the game-winning drive. Porter has been very good for the Bears since becoming the starter.
Kansas City's longest reception of the day came on a 26-yard swing pass to RB Jamaal Charles. Otherwise, the Bears did a great job taking away the deep part of the field. Credit goes to Adrian Amos, who showed fearlessness and aggressiveness in run support, as well as rookie Harold Jones-Quartey, who made his first career NFL start. Amos appears to be a keeper, which is great news for the defense going forward.
John Fox: A+
The Bears have been extremely resilient under John Fox. They were nine-point underdogs, on the road in a hostile environment, with 16 players on the injury report - while losing two more during the course of the game - and were down 17-6 with 8 minutes to play. Yet this team never quit and pulled off a sensational come-from-behind victory. That doesn't happen without Fox, who has instilled a never-say-die attitude in this team. In his short time in Chicago, this was Fox's strongest coaching performance by far.
Adam Gase: C+
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase tried to establish the run early but yards were hard to come by on the ground, thus the team's 3.3 yards per carry on the day. Yet Gase adjusted at halftime and called just enough good plays to get the victory. The problem is that Gase, like his predecessor Marc Trestman, is far too pass happy in the red zone. For example, following a 10-yard Forte run in the third quarter, which put the Bears in the red zone, Gase called three straight pass plays and the team had to settle for a field goal. Those types of mental lapses dropped Gase's grade in this one.
Vic Fangio: A-
The Bears' defense gave up just 10 points and held the Chiefs to under 300 total yards. That's impressive, particularly in a game on the road. No one is going to mistake Chicago's defense for the 1985 Bears but this unit has played extremely well the past three weeks and is only getting better. That's a sign that players are buying in to Fangio, which should lead to even better performances going forward.