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Bears Positional Game Grades: Week 6

Evaluating, analyzing and grading each Bears positional group, which includes the coaching staff, following Sunday's loss to the Lions.

Offense

Quarterback: C+

Jay Cutler finished 26 of 41 (63 percent) for 353 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, good for an 88.8 QB rating. For the third week in a row, Cutler moved the offense into scoring position on the final drive of regulation. This time he threw three straight downfield balls to WR Alshon Jeffery, one that was completed and two that elicited pass-interference penalties. The three-play 49-yard drive took just 21 seconds and set up K Robbie Gould for the game-tying field goal. Cutler's 353 passing yards were his most in a single contest since Week 6 last season against the Atlanta Falcons. Yet Cutler gets a C+ grade for two reasons. The first: he missed some crucial throws that, had they been on target, would have won the game going away. That includes a second-down pass near the goal line to Eddie Royal on a slant route, which Cutler threw behind the receiver, as well as two overthrown passes on vertical routes to open receivers, one to Matt Forte that likely would have resulted in a touchdown. The second: Cutler led the offense to two three-and-outs in overtime, failing to pick up a single first down in the extra stanza. 

Running Back: C-

Matt Forte carried the ball 24 times, which is a testament to offensive coordinator Adam Gase's commitment to the run game, but he finished with just 69 rushing yards. His 2.9 yards per carry were the lowest of the season, and he hasn't averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry since Week 2. Forte also did little in the passing game, catching only three passes for 20 yards. Jeremy Langford vultured a goal-line touchdown and was active for two full series during the game. Yet Langford was even worse on the ground, picking up just 10 yards on five carries. The blocking up front played a role in the diminished output but a lot more was expected of this backfield facing a Lions defense that ranked 27th in the league agasint the run coming into the game. 

Wide Receiver: A-

Despite being questionable, Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal suited up agains the Lions. After missing the past month, Jeffery came out on fire and finished with 8 catches for 147 yards and 1 TD. The hamstring injury did not appear to affect him, particularly down the field, where he was nearly unstoppable. Yet even more impressive was Jeffery's presence as a blocker on bubble screens, which greatly benefited Royal, who finished with 5 catches for 49 yards. With Royal and Jeffery on the field, Marquess Wilson was targeted just four times but he made the most of them, hauling in two passes for 54 yards. At almost full health, this was a dangerous group of receivers who dominated Detroit's secondary for most of the afternoon. This unit would have received an A+ if not for Jeffery's weak effort on an end zone fade pass - which he blamed on the lights being in his eyes - that resulted in a Rashean Mathis interception. 

Tight End: C-

Martellus Bennett had 11 targets, which tied with Jeffery for the team lead. In six contests this year, Bennett has led the team in targets four times and was second the other two times. Yet in every game but one, he's failed to make the most of his opportunites. Against the Lions, Bennett caught 6 of 11 targets for 59 yards and 0 TDs. That's not a horrible stat line but he's better than that. Bennett leads the team in dropped passes and just cannot win contested balls. Five of his six catches yesterday came in space without a defender near him, while the passes that fell incomplete, all but one had a defender in Bennett's vicinity. That includes a dropped third-down pass in the fourth quarter and two end-zone passes in which he could not shield the defnder with his 6-6, 273-pound frame. Again, Bennett hasn't been bad but he's not playing to his potential, which is disappointing. Bennett, as well as Zach Miller, were also part of the problem in the run game as well. 

Offensive Line: C+

Chicago's offensive line was pretty good in pass protection yesterday. They allowed just one sack and even that was a coverage sack and not the fault of an individual missed block. Charles Leno did allow six QB hurries, per Pro Football Focus (PFF), which is a lot but only one resulted in a QB hit. Leno certainly didn't have a perfect day but he was his usual serviceable self for the third straight game in place of Jermon Bushrod. The issues for the front five came in the run game, particularly the right side, where RG Vladimir Ducasse and RT Kyle Long struggled to get consistent push at the point of attack. One bright spot was C Hroniss Grasu, who was very much improved in his second start, showing great movement and decisiveness at the second level, as well as intelligence in pass protection. 

Defense

Defensive Line: C+

The defensive line was struck a big blow with the loss on Saturday of Ego Ferguson, who was placed on IR due to a knee injury. To make matters worse, Jeremiah Ratliff did not finish the game due to a neck injury. Jarvis Jenkins and Eddie Goldman split a sack in the second quarter, yet beyond that one play, no defensive lineman had another QB hurry, per PFF. In addition, the NFL's 32nd-ranked rushing offense tallied 155 yards on the ground and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. This is a banged up group, so it's unfair to be too critical but the lack of push in the middle of the pocket, as well as the overall inconsistent gap control against the run, played a big role in the loss. 

Outside Linebackers: B-

The pass-rush issues fall even more firmly on the shoulders of the outside linebackers, who failed to collapse the pocket in the game's biggest moments. The Lions were committed to chipping Pernell McPhee with running backs and tight ends, limiting his effectivness. On one of the few plays in which the Lions left RT LaAdrian Waddle 1-on-1 with McPhee, he ran right over him and picked up a sack. McPhee also had five QB hurries, more than twice as many as any other Bears defender. Other than a questionable roughing the passer call late in the game, McPhee's performance was all positive. Yet Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Sam Acho were far too easily locked up on the edges. Acho did force a fumble and also had a quality tackle on special teams, so there was some impact from the outside linebackers, just not as much as the team needed. 

Inside Linebackers: B+

Christian Jones had a strong game, although he failed to make many splash plays against the run. Still, he was solid in coverage and, while making the defensive calls for the first time in his career, did a good job keeping the defense organized. Jones played every snap on defense, while Jonathan Anderson and LaRoy Reynolds rotated at the other ILB spot. Reynolds played downhill against the run, although he must work on correcting his run fits, while Anderson was used in nickel sets. Anderson, who was just called up from the practice squad last week, had a heck of a game. He had a sack in which he showed outstanding burst closing on Matthew Stafford outside the pocket - although the play was negated by penalty - and two interceptions, one of which was overturned due to a blown end-zone call by the referees. Anderson finished with three tackles and showed serious athleticism. He has value on passing downs going forward. 

Cornerback: D+

Calvin Johnson had his typical big game against the Bears, catching 6 passes for 166 yards and 1 TD. He did most of his damage against CB Tracy Porter, who was just overmatched by the bigger receiver. Yet that's forgiveable, as Megatron is still one of the best receivers in the NFL. Yet allowing Lance Moore to go triple digits (5 catches, 106 yards) is inexcusable. Almost all of Moore's production came against CB Sherrick McManis, who has been a big disappointment as the club's nickelback this season. McManis gave up another touchdown, his fourth of the season, which leads all NFL cornerbacks. Stafford had a perfect QB rating (158.3) when throwing at McManis. Yet not to be outdone, Kyle Fuller was even worse, giving up receptions on 8 of 9 passes thrown at him, including two touchdowns, which ties him with McManis for most at his position. 

Safety: C+

Adrian Amos is a keeper. He's an aggressive in-the-box safety who yesterday again displayed toughness and tackling prowess in run support. Surprisingly, the Lions never threw at Amos in the game. The same can't be said for Harold Jones-Quartey, who allowed three catches in four passes thrown his way. That includes a 57-yard completion to Megatron in overtime that set up Detroit's game-winning field goal. 

Coaching Staff

John Fox: D

Following the Broncos' early exit in the playoffs last season, John Fox took a lot of heat from Denver media and fans for his conservative game plan. After yesterday, Bears fans can relate. After the Lions cut the lead to 31-27 with 2:50 left in the game, the Bears had an opportunity to run out the clock. The Lions had all three of their timeouts, meaning Chicago's offense needed two first downs to seal the victory. In that scenario, Fox is in charge. If he wants to run the ball three times, coordinator Adam Gase has little say in the matter. So that's what happened, which ran just 21 seconds off the clock before Detroit got the ball back. The Lions then drove to the 6-yard line and ran the ball on first down with 1:17 left on the clock. Fox chose not to use a timeout and more than 20 seconds ticked off the clock. After getting the ball back, the Bears drove down to the Detroit 11-yard line but, with only 4 seconds on the clock, were forced to kick a game-tying field goal. If the Bears would have had those 20 seconds Fox wasted on the previous drive, they could have taken at least two, if not three, shots at the end zone. 

Adam Gase: D+

Gase gets credit for committing to the run game but beyond that, this was his worst game as OC for the Bears. The offense was just 6-of-17 on 3rd down and 3-of-8 in red zone efficiency, and much of that had to do with the playcalling. On their first trip to the red zone, with 1st and goal from the 10, Gase called one run and followed with two passes, resulting in a field goal. Next trip to the red zone, Gased called three straight runs, resulting in a touchdown. Yet on the very next trip to the red zone, he called three straight passes following 1st and goal from the 5-yard line, resulting in a field goal. Gase is very good at building game plans that move the ball outside the 20-yard line, but once he gets in the red zone, he consistently channels his inner Mike Martz, and it cost the Bears a victory in Detroit. 

Vic Fangio: C-

Fangio is dealing with a severely banged up cast that has no talent in the secondary, so you can't drop the hammer too hard on him. But the Bears were embarrassing on defense yesterday, facing an offense that came into the game ranked 30th in points scored, 26th in total offense and 32nd in rushing, one that was missing its top two tight ends and part of its timeshare backfield. Fangio has this group on the right track and things will get better, assuming guys quit dropping like flies, but this was a throw-away performance everyone in Chicago would like to forget. 


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