Making the Grade

The Bears opened the season with a home loss to the Detroit Lions under new Head Coach Lovie Smith. Many saw this as an early battle to see which team would finish last in the NFC North. Living up that expectation, it was not a pretty game. Let's take a closer look at how the Bears' individual units performed.

Noots' Notes: Game 1: 20-16 Loss to Detroit at Soldier Field



Strip show (AP Photo).

The Lions hadn't won a road game in 24 contests leading up to this one, and for much of the game, treated ownership of the victory like a hot potato. The difference in the game was a blocked Paul Edinger field goal attempt that was returned 92 yards for a touchdown by Bracy Walker.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Rex Grossman (16-35-227, 2 INT, 4/21, Fumble) looked every bit like a second-year professional quarterback making his first home opening start, and also like someone who hasn't had the same offensive coordinator two years in a row for a very long time. His best throws were to the middle of the field, especially to David Terrell, Desmond Clark, and Dustin Lyman (although even those passes didn't always yield good results). He stepped up into the pocket extremely well, and got inside the outside rushers. He was especially good on third down, finding David Terrell for big chunks of yardage. There were also a handful of drops that didn't help his effort, either. Grossman looked awkward when he scrambled, and not one time did he slide to avoid a potential injury-causing hit. His accuracy was reasonably good on the shorter to intermediate routes, apart from a too-high laser to Bernard Berrian on a 3rd and 2 slant route. His deep pass accuracy was poor in the preseason and didn't get any better against the Lions as he came up way short on a deep route to Daryl Jones for an interception. His decision making was relatively good. However, when he needed his head the most he forced a ball into double coverage in the end zone on 3rd down at the end of the game, for his second interception. He was also stripped from behind for a lost fumble on an outside rush where he may have held onto the ball for a count too long. Overall, he moved the offense up and down the field relatively well, but the three turnovers he took part in were very costly. GRADE: D

Running Backs

Thomas Jones (21/67, 2 TD, 6-38) started the game and saw most of the reps at halfback. Anthony Thomas (3/13) was given an opportunity through the middle of the game, for a few consecutive sets of offensive downs. Jones scored both of the Bears touchdowns. He eluded a tackler several yards deep in the backfield and then broke a tackle and plowed through a collision with an airborne Qasim Mitchell for a very determined 2-yard touchdown. The impressive run came on the heels of a run that went nowhere because he was too hesitant and hit the point of attack too softly. Jones was a good outlet for Grossman in the receiving game, but for all the big plays he made with his great speed in the preseason, he didn't have even one long run. Fullback Bryan Johnson did a good job blocking but wasn't utilized on the receiving side save for a swing pass that saw him nearly get decapitated by Dre' Bly. Jason McKie saw action for a couple of plays and made a fine reception on a tipped ball. He's a very hard runner, and it's easy to see why the coaches like him. The running backs had an average game, but the overall rushing numbers (32/148) were most bolstered by some of the contributions from the wide receivers who were given handoffs on reverses and end arounds. GRADE: C+

Receivers

The Lions secondary and linebackers came into the game hurting, and when Dre' Bly hobbled off in the early going it seemed certain the Bears would have a big day through the air. David Terrell (5-126, 1/20) had one of his finest games as a pro in terms of yardage. He caught everything that was thrown his way, and ran well after the catch. He was utilized most in the seam for 15 or more yards at a time. Unfortunately, he cost the team some vital field position when he was flagged for taunting after a 34-yard reception. Terrell also was flagged for offensive pass interference early in the contest. Daryl Jones and Bernard Berrian were both open deep but Grossman's passes were overthrown. Berrian also had a very hot and high pass go through his hands on a short slant. Desmond Clark was first noticed when he was flagged for a false start. The next time Clark was seen, he was hauling in a beautiful pass over the middle for better than 20 yards before rookie linebacker Teddy Lehman stripped him of the ball for yet another Bears turnover. Not to be outdone, Dustin Lyman let a perfect pass over his shoulder go through his mitts. Lyman had a step on the defender and was sure to have gained big yardage. Justin Gage let a ball go off his fingertips along the sideline and Bobby Wade had another drop as well (and a holding penalty that was declined). The receivers were emblematic of the entire Bears' effort. They had opportunities to make some plays, and did make a few. However, as young, undisciplined teams often do, their mistakes (dropped passes, fumbles, penalties) far outweighed their efforts. GRADE: C-

Offensive Line

Rex Grossman had good protection. When pressure did come, it usually was over Qasim Mitchell, who played very well for about the first quarter or so, and then deteriorated as the game wore on. He pushed a lot of the pressure to the outside, and Grossman stepped up inside of it, but there were some breakdowns where he didn't do much to slow the rush, and on one of those his man stripped Grossman of the ball. He also flinched for a false start. Mitchell continues to get the job done for running plays, and is particularly good at sealing off the edge on runs outside of him. Mike Gandy blocked both the run and pass well, and did a good job when he had to pull. He was flagged once for holding. Ruben Brown was solid and still gets out well when asked to pull. A holding penalty of his was declined. Olin Kreutz had a good game other than an unnecessary roughness penalty that killed a big gain. John Tait had a quiet game although he did get beaten for a sack late. Overall, blocking was relatively solid in all facets of the game, but this group couldn't avoid penalties either. GRADE: C


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Joey Harrington (14-26-187, TD, INT, 4/6) is generally one of the hardest quarterbacks to sack in the NFL because he gets rid of the ball quickly and moves well. He'll sacrifice completion percentage and sometimes even interceptions for sacks. The Bears did a decent job of hurrying him, and forcing him to run around to earn his yards. Adewale Ogunleye (3 tackles, TFL) started and saw the majority of the reps at the left defensive end position. He came close to a sack of Harrington but the play gained a yard. He was very quiet through the middle of the game, and then late drew a holding penalty and had a tackle for a loss against the run. Michael Haynes (3 tackles, Sack, TFL) had a pressure and a sack early in the contest. His sack came from the right end position. Alex Brown (3 tackles) was not much of a factor rushing the passer, but played the run well. Tommie Harris (5 tackles, TFL) played well, including a stop of Kevin Jones for a 3-yard loss and a knockdown on Harrington on a 3rd down. Tank Johnson saw some action in the second half and put some pressure on up the middle. Alfonso Boone saw a good deal of action but wasn't much of a factor except for a running play. Overall, the line did an excellent job of hitting their gaps and forcing Detroit runners (30/77) to change direction. There was only one sack, but pressure was decent. GRADE: B

Linebackers

Brian Urlacher (10 tackles, 2 TFL, PD) and Lance Briggs (9 tackles, 2 TFL) were all over the field. Briggs racked up numerous tackles for losses, and combined with Urlacher to put a vicious hit on Artose Pinner. Briggs also combined with R.W. McQuarters to finish off Roy Williams on a 3rd and goal reception that they stopped short. Urlacher appeared to show no ill effects from the hamstring injury or the long layoff. He was making plays from sideline to sideline against the run, and stretched out for a deflection and near interception deep in the seam. He nearly sacked Harrington, and the pressure on that play likely led to an interception. He did have a missed tackle late, but it seems the new schemes agree with him very well. He's flowing downhill to the ball better than he ever has, and Briggs appears to be as well. Joe Odom (1 tackle) was not a factor. He came out for most of the sub packages in exchange for Bobby Gray, and when he was in the game he looked as if he was playing tentatively. This could either be because he's not healthy or is still unsure of all of his responsibilities in the new scheme. He didn't wrap up Pinner at the line on a play that went 8 yards. His best play of the game was when he allowed Cory Schlesinger to wrap him up for a holding penalty to call back a rushing touchdown. The linebackers had a good day overall, making plenty of tackles. A good number of them were either right at the line or for losses. GRADE: A-

Secondary

The Bears received a break early on when Charles Rogers left the game with what appeared to be another collarbone injury. R.W. McQuarters' hamstring didn't appear to bother him in coverage. He did get flagged for interference in the end zone on a pass to rookie Roy Williams (4-69) on a ball that might not have been catchable. Charles Tillman (4 tackles) looked like a rookie all over again. He displayed poor tackling form in a tackle that Kevin Jones broke for a 34-yard reception. It was Tillman who had the coverage on the 4-yard touchdown pass to Az-Zahir Hakim. Mike Brown (7 tackles, PD) had an active day, getting a knockdown of Harrington on a blitz, putting a big hit on Hakim over the middle, and giving good force at the point of attack on the run. Mike Green (4 tackles, 2 PD, INT) picked up a big pass deflection on a 3rd and goal and then later made a diving interception deep in the seam. Bobby Gray was relatively quiet for the day. As a group, the secondary had a decent day both against the run and pass. GRADE: B-


SPECIAL TEAMS

Paul Edinger had a short field goal blocked by a rush up the middle. On the play, it appeared the trajectory was too low for such a short kick, combined with Terrence Metcalf missing his block. The Lions scooped it up and made history. The 92-yard touchdown was the only blocked field goal for a touchdown the Bears have ever allowed. Most of Paul Edinger's kickoffs landed at the 10-yard line. Brad Maynard had one or two clunker punts early on, but then settled down and pinned the Lions deep in their own territory with regularity. Daryl Jones was the deep man on kickoffs and was unspectacular on his returns. The best kickoff return came on a short kick to Jason McKie who picked up 26 yards. R.W. McQuarters handled most of the punt returns. He fumbled one of them, and thankfully Todd McMillon jumped on it. On another, McQuarters handed off to Justin Gage on a reverse. Gage picked up 56 yards on the play. Coverage teams were average save for one big breakdown on a kickoff. The angles taken were poor, and Joe Odom's disinterest on the play was overly evident. Division games can be very tight, and won or lost on special teams. If the game was only played between the special teams units, it would still have been a loss. In fact, it can be argued the game was a relative stalemate, save for the touchdown on the blocked field goal attempt. GRADE: D


COACHING

Lovie Smith cannot be happy with the outcome. As he looks for reasons, he's going to need to look keenly in the mirror. There is no excuse for all of the penalties. What's worse, the Lions beat them at their own game. They forced the Bears to turn the ball over. On a separate note, somebody has to rein in David Terrell. All of the above gets back to discipline, or lack of it. Defensively, the Bears played very well overall, and rotated personnel through the line to keep fresh bodies in the game. Blitzes and line stunts were mixed in nicely. At one point, however, the Bears had too many men on the field. On offense, the Bears mixed run and pass well. They attacked all areas of the field. They even ran an interesting swing to one side of the field for a solid gain while several other players were headed to the other side on screen action. There is some question as to why the Bears chose to run a pitch on 3rd and 4. The play was reminiscent of the previous coaching regime. Perhaps it explains the blocked field goal for a touchdown on the ensuing play. Maybe the players felt it was the same old story. Unfortunately, in this game it was. GRADE: D


GAME BALLS

Lance Briggs Brian Urlacher Mike Green David Terrell

_HORNS

Qasim Mitchell Rex Grossman Terrence Metcalf Charles Tillman Desmond Clark

HARDEST HITS

Dre' Bly on Bryan Johnson Lance Briggs on Artose Pinner Mike Brown on Az-Zahir Hakim Terrence Holt on Daryl Jones



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