Noots' Notes

The Bears delivered a Halloween treat to their fans with a 23-14 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Rookie quarterback Craig Krenzel and the offense were just competent enough to put some points on the board, while the defense was simply outstanding. Let's take a closer look at the personnel groups and how they graded out.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Craig Krenzel (13-25-168, TD, Int, 4/9, fumble) opened his first start with a 49-yard touchdown bomb to Bernard Berrian. It was a perfect throw, floating over Bernard Berrian's shoulder for an in-stride completion. His next possession began with a pass that was nearly intercepted. He settled down and led the Bears on a drive deep into 49ers' territory. He had the ball knocked free by a pass rusher, recovered it, and then fumbled it again. The ball was scooped up and returned for an 80-yard touchdown. Just like that, they went from being up 7-0 and going in for another score to being tied. Krenzel got rid of the ball as he was about to be tackled on a screen to Thomas. He faced a 49ers defense that blitzed him from just about everywhere and still maintained his poise. He was sacked 5 times, but pulled the ball down on one or two of those sacks when he knew he didn't have an option. Krenzel's accuracy is streaky at times, and he missed some open receivers especially in the flat. Some of his throws were dropped by defenders for near interceptions as well. However, for his first start, he made a few plays and was competent enough to move the ball into scoring position and put the Bears in a spot to win. It's something they haven't been able to do for a long time. Some of the sacks and incomplete passes will go away when the players around him stop committing foolish first down penalties to put them in a deep hole. GRADE: C-

Running Backs

Thomas Jones injured his ankle on the first series and was replaced by Anthony Thomas. Thomas (25/98, fumble, 4-46) ran with great decisiveness and gusto, hitting the edge of the line for big yardage off tackle and around end. One of those runs went around left end for a 28-yard gain. He also ran strong after taking a screen pass and picked up 25 yards. An example of his determination was on a short pass he took in the flat on 3rd and 14. He made the first two defenders miss what would have been no gain, leapt over another and lowered his head to take on a tackler and went down going forward for a total of 9 yards. On the down side, he didn't sustain a blitz pickup that led to a sack, and fumbled the ball away on another series. Bryan Johnson (3-5) and Desmond Clark combined to let a blitzing linebacker get through for an early sack off the left side. Johnson made some very strong run blocks leading up the hole for Thomas. GRADE: B

Receivers

Rookie Bernard Berrian (1-49, TD, 1/7) caught his first touchdown in over-the-shoulder fashion from 49 yards out on the Bears' first possession. It was also the first touchdown of the season for a Bears' wide receiver. David Terrell (1-14) dropped a slant on a 3rd and 6 conversion attempt. Bobby Wade (3-33, 2/5) dropped a 3rd and 6 pass as well, although the ball may have come in a bit hot. He also was flagged for offensive pass interference. Desmond Clark (1-21) caught a high pop fly for a 21-yard gain that Krenzel threw as he was getting hit. Clark and Dustin Lyman were used quite a bit in two tight end sets and as run blockers from motion. Lyman committed a false start. Too many mental mistakes from this group in terms of penalties, dropped passes and missed assignments dragged down the offense. GRADE: C-

Offensive Line

Rex Tucker started at right guard. He made a nice block early in the game leading around the corner for Thomas. Things went downhill later for him as he allowed a sack, was whistled for holding, and then allowed another sack (both to Bryan Young). As the teams moved from one red zone to the other at the end of the third quarter, he looked so gassed that he might need a ride in a golf cart to get there. It became evident as the game wore on that he was having trouble getting beaten to his inside by Bryant Young (10 tackles, 2 sacks, FR). His inside (left) elbow is the one he injured during the preseason. He left the game at the two minute warning and was replaced by Steve Edwards. Olin Kreutz committed two false starts. Qasim Mitchell added a false start. He delivered a key block to seal the edge for one of Thomas' big runs. John Tait allowed his man to get close enough to cause the fumble that led to the 49ers' touchdown runback. Overall, the run blocking was decent, although San Francisco isn't known for having a good defense. Krenzel was pressured and sacked quite a bit (5 sacks), although one sack can be hung on Thomas, and another on Clark and Johnson. That still leaves 3, and two of those were clearly on Tucker, while the other was more of the coverage variety. Pass blocking could have been a little better, despite the blitzes, and the mental mistakes from this group in the form of penalties were maddening. GRADE: D


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Michael Haynes (3 tackles, 2 PD, 2 TFL) played like a legitimate first-round pick. He continually beat his blockers to make tackles for losses in the backfield and put consistent disruptive pressure on Ken Dorsey (16-36-122, Int, 2/5). He had several knockdowns on Dorsey, and added a pass deflection late in the game. Alex Brown (4 tackles, 3 PD, TFL) was also a monster. He added numerous pressures and knockdowns, and made a tackle for a loss on a play in pass coverage on a zone blitz. The defensive tackles didn't have that much pressure, but were excellent in bottling up the inside against Kevan Barlow. Alfonso Boone returned to action and had a key tackle for a loss. Tank Johnson had a knockdown on Dorsey. Ian Scott and Tommie Harris didn't have many tackles but were well disciplined against inside runs. Israel Idonije was left unblocked on a blitz and took advantage of the opportunity with a sack for a 13-yard loss. The line provided great pressure, hounding Dorsey the entire game. They also limited Kevan Barlow (18/56, fumble, 3-16) to the point where he wasn't a factor. GRADE: A-

Linebackers

Brian Urlacher (6 tackles, 2 sacs, PD) had a big impact on the game. He appeared to be a different player. He picked up two early sacks and added a near interception late in the game. It was the kind of game filled with impact plays that Bear fans envisioned for him from the onset of the season. Lance Briggs (8 tackles, PD) drew a lot of coverage, especially on tight end Eric Johnson, and did an excellent job. He came close to an interception late as well. Hunter Hillenmeyer (2 tackles) was involved as well, and showed up strong against the run. It was refreshing to see the front 7 contain Kevan Barlow both running the ball and in the passing game. GRADE: B+

Secondary

Nathan Vasher delivered a key play in the final minutes, by intercepting a pass and returning it 71-yards for a touchdown. The return was challenged but he was ruled to not be down by contact. It put the Bears up 23-13 with less than 4 minutes to play. R.W. McQuarters (5 tackles, 2 PD) had a strong game. He had very tight coverage throughout, and made several key pass deflections. Jerry Azumah (5 tackles, FF) is starting to settle back in at the other cornerback spot. He forced a fumble to get the ball back after the offense turned it over. Todd Johnson put a big hit on Brandon Lloyd. Mike Green (6 tackles, TFL FR) was flagged for a questionable pass interference play. He bounced back by stuffing Fred Beasley on a 3rd and 1 play, and then dropped him for a 4-yard loss on a swing pass near the end of the game. Green also recovered the fumble forced by Azumah. Coverage was tight all day long, tackling was much more sure, and turnovers were forced. GRADE: A


SPECIAL TEAMS

Paul Edinger hit on 3 of his 4 field goal attempts (52, 45, 27) and his miss (53) was less than a yard too short. His distance on kickoffs was average. He also forced a runner out of bounds on a kick return. Jerry Azumah finally showed his Pro Bowl form from last year, breaking off a 73-yard return and a 42-yarder as well. R.W. McQuarters had a decent game. Brad Maynard had a decent game. While his 6 punts were not very long, they were difficult to return, and typically put San Francisco in tough spots. Adrian Peterson had a huge day on special teams. He made several big hits, one of them on a tackle and another on a block. He finished with 4 tackles and a forced fumble, which the 49ers recovered. Special teams were a key factor in the outcome, from the good coverage to Edinger's field goals to Azumah and McQuarters setting up field position. GRADE: A-


COACHING

A stronger emphasis on running the ball was a welcome sight. It was also good to see a reverse go to Bernard Berrian, who is the most dangerous of the Bear receivers. The decision to challenge a very close call on a 49er 3rd down reception was a key. It was overturned in the Bears' favor. On defense, the gap control discipline was much improved. Kevan Barlow was hardly a factor. The 49ers were held to only 162 yards of total offense. The penalties are still frustrating and need to go away. Hats off to the coaches who finally gave the starting nod to Krenzel. The offense actually looks credible for the first time since Grossman was injured. The Bears looked like a physical team, and consistently got after the 49ers. They out hit San Francisco throughout the game. It was a refreshing sight. GRADE: B


GAME BALLS

Nathan Vasher
Anthony Thomas
Michael Haynes
Alex Brown
Brian Urlacher
Jerry Azumah
Paul Edinger

HORNS

Rex Tucker

HARDEST HITS

Peterson on Parrish
Peterson on Robertson
Green on Beasley
McMillon on Battle
Johnson on Lloyd



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