Noots' Notes: Game 8

The Bears notched their second win in a row with a stunning 28-21 victory over the Giants. They came back from an early 14-point deficit to score 20 in the second quarter, mostly on the strength of a tenacious turnover-forcing defense. They forced 5 turnovers and had 7 sacks. Let's take a closer look at the personnel groups and their performance.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Craig Krenzel (8-21-144, TD, 6/12, 2 fumbles) struggled most of the game. He was put in some unenviable situations, thanks to another barrage of penalties. Krenzel is still adjusting to the timing of the game. He's holding the ball a hair too long, which is leading to sacks and fumbles. It impacts his timing with the receivers as well. It also means defenders have more time to react to receivers. On a slow-developing pass play near the end of the first quarter, he scrambled forward and just as he was about to throw, a defender forced him to fumble. He didn't throw any interceptions, although the Giants came close on several occasions. When he gets the ball out early, it's on the receiver right out of his break; the completion is made and run after catch is there. He had one of these to Terrell for 28 yards. For the second consecutive week, Krenzel laid a perfect over the shoulder pass up for a Bernard Berrian touchdown. He also picked up a first down with his feet, and ran in a 2-point conversion on a bootleg around right end. A sweet 21-yard completion to Anthony Thomas was erased on a penalty. Krenzel has a long way to go as a quarterback, but is showing improvement. The Giants are a much better defense than the group he faced against San Francisco. GRADE: C

Running Backs

Anthony Thomas (28/110, 2 TD, 1-5) struggled through most of the game, nipping 3 yard gains here and there. He kept plodding along, however. Thomas picked up a short touchdown run in the second quarter. He didn't look back for a swing pass that bounced off his shoulder. It was ruled a lateral and a fumble (although credited to Krenzel), resulting in a turnover. Just when it was starting to look like he'd never get untracked, Thomas broke off a huge 41-yard touchdown run on a draw play that started over left guard that he cut outside to left end and found the end zone. He also took a short pass over the middle down to near the goal line that was called back on a penalty. Thomas' pass blocking isn't as good as it was his previous two seasons. He's not sustaining his blocks as well as he used to. Maybe this will come back as he plays a little more. Bryan Johnson did much of the lead blocking for Thomas, and his block on the first touchdown allowed him to get to the outside. Jason McKie saw very limited action at fullback. GRADE: B

Receivers

Rookie Bernard Berrian (1-35, TD) caught his second touchdown in as many weeks. It was a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch that required him to adjust to the ball and use his positioning against the defender. David Terrell (4-70) was the main receiver, making several good catches to move the chains. He committed a false start penalty early in the game. Bobby Wade picked up 33 yards over the middle at the end of the first half. He appeared to have drawn a pass interference penalty, only to have the flag picked up and waived off by the officiating crew. Justin Gage was not a factor, although a few unsuccessful throws on fade patterns went his way. Dustin Lyman was flagged for offensive pass interference for engaging in a block too early on a pass play. He also allowed a sack to Michael Strahan. Desmond Clark did a decent job blocking for the run. He was used to lead up the hole for Thomas quite a bit. He had an inconsequential drop of a short pass on a 3rd and very long. GRADE: C

Offensive Line

Rex Tucker started at right guard for the second week in a row. He again struggled. He was releasing too soon or without a good enough block on several screens. Fred Robbins benefited from his matchup with Tucker. Olin Kreutz had yet another false start. He also added a poor shotgun snap that Krenzel was able to pick up. Ruben Brown committed a false start. Qasim Mitchell was flagged for holding on a screen, a false start on a 3rd and 5, and allowed a sack to Osi Umenyiora. He walled off Kevin Lewis on Thomas' long touchdown run. The only relatively bright spot on the line was the play of John Tait, who neutralized Michael Strahan before Strahan left the game due to injury. The Bears allowed 5 sacks. Some of that was because of Krenzel holding the ball too long and poor blocking by the tight ends and running backs. However, about half of the sacks were attributable to the line, most notably Mitchell and Tucker. They also allowed a good deal of pressure, were only average at run blocking, and committed far too many penalties. GRADE: D


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Alex Brown (8 tackles, 4 sacks, FF, PD) had what could only be called a career day. He tallied 4 sacks, deflected a pass, had a tackle for a 3-yard loss, and forced a fumble. Adewale Ogunleye (3 tackles, sack, PD) returned to the starting lineup and had a decent game. He had an early pressure and then later came up with a big pass deflection. In the second half he had a knockdown on Kurt Warner (18-36-195, TD, 2 Int) that was ruled a roughing penalty (a very questionable call). He came through with a sack at the very end. Michael Haynes played sparingly, and had a knockdown on Warner on a 4th and three inside the Bears' 10-yard line at the end. It was also ruled roughing. It was a costly penalty, and was also questionable. Tommie Harris jumped offsides early but then had a big sack late in the game. Ian Scott (6 tackles, FR) had several key stops on short yardage running plays to Tiki Barber (21/72, 2 TDs, 4-59). He recovered a fumble on a ball Brown knocked out of Warner's hand that could just as easily have been ruled an interception. Tank Johnson, Alfonso Boone and Israel Idonije played but were not factors. The defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and the football game. They either forced or were the catalyst for numerous Bears' turnovers. After two consecutive strong games, this group is building an identity as a game-changing force of domination. GRADE: A+

Linebackers

Brian Urlacher (7 tackles, PD) had a very solid game. He was very sure in his tackling and his assignments. His play enabled the defensive line to take away the run and concentrate on rushing the passer. He had a pass defended early in the game, as well as several tackles for no gain or a loss on Barber as well as Mike Cloud. Lance Briggs (4 tackles, PD) had pressure up the middle several times, leading to sacks for other players. He stuffed Cloud on a big hit up the middle. Hunter Hillenmeyer (3 tackles) had a quiet game, but played well within his assignment. Barber had several catches, as did tight end Jeremy Shockey (6-64, TD). Many of the latter were working against either a safety or Briggs, and none of them were really that painful apart from the short touchdown on a delay pass to Shockey, where it appeared that neither Joe Odom nor Mike Green was aware of him on the play. Although Barber rushed for two touchdowns and had a lot of combined yards, he was held well under his season average, and he wasn't allowed to make a big play when the Giants sorely needed one. GRADE: B

Secondary

The pressure the line put on Warner forced some errant passes, and the defensive backs took advantage of it. They also made some of their own breaks, too. Mike Green (8 tackles, PD, 2 FF, FR) knocked Warner down on a blitz that led to his first interception. He forced a fumble and passes he broke up with vicious hits or with his hands turned into interceptions for Jerry Azumah and Nathan Vasher. The shot he put on Amani Toomer that led to Azumah's pick was especially tough. Leading tackler Todd Johnson (9 tackles) had a quiet, but solid game. The play that stood out for him was a screen he sniffed out late in the game that he blew up for no gain. R.W. McQuarters (4 tackles, PD) got beaten early on a skinny post for about 20 yards but then settled down and had good coverage, highlighted by a near interception on a pass thrown to Jamaar Taylor. Jerry Azumah (4 tackles, sack, Int, PD, 2 FF) had a tremendous game. He was held early to take a touchdown off the board from Barber. He followed that up with two forced fumbles, a tackle for a 3-yard loss on a draw, and an interception. Rookie Nathan Vasher continued his strong play with another interception (with a big runback of 41 yards), a fumble recovery, and a big pass defended on a 4th and goal. It doesn't get much better than this. GRADE: A+


SPECIAL TEAMS

Paul Edinger connected on his two 22-yard field goal attempts. His kickoffs were longer than usual, but he sacrificed hang time on one of them and it was returned for close to a touchdown. Thankfully the officials whistled the Giants for holding on the play and it came back. Brad Maynard had one of the most amazing punts ever, bouncing sideways at the one-yard line from near the middle of the field and going out of bounds, still at the one. However, the rest of his day was mostly poor. The Bears were pinned deep in their own territory many times. Maynard had opportunities to blast away, yet struggled kicking the ball to the other side of the 50-yard line. His short kicks in the early going helped set up a short field for the opposition. The Giants made a concerted effort to keep the ball away from Azumah on kickoffs, and on one of them kicked the ball out of bounds. R.W. McQuarters had a couple of short returns sandwiched around a big 29-yarder. David Terrell ran into Justin Gage on an onside kick at the end of the game, which led to Gage's mishandling of the ball. The Giants recovered. Alfonso Marshall committed another penalty. Apart from a long return called back, coverage and returns were fair. GRADE: D+


COACHING

Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera deserves praise for the turnaround the defense has made over the last two weeks. Despite an offense struggling to stay on the field, the defense has played exceptionally well, stopping the run, pressuring the pass, and forcing turnovers. On offense, Terry Shea is finally starting to realize that as long as someone other than Rex Grossman is under center, the emphasis needs to be on running the ball. Unfortunately he didn't follow this advice early on. I'm not sure whose decision it is, but it's more than a little intriguing that Rex Tucker is being allowed to play himself into shape at right guard at the expense of the rest of the team. Backup Steve Edwards has never had a game at guard as bad as Tucker has had the last two weeks. The offensive penalties continue. Especially troubling are the false starts on the offensive line and the illegal formation penalties as they relate to wide receiver and tight end alignment. These mistakes are avoidable. Regardless of the mistakes, the Bears went on the road as major underdogs and played a physically dominating game. There's something to be said about getting that level of intensity out of the players. GRADE: B


GAME BALLS

Anthony Thomas
Bernard Berrian
Nathan Vasher
Mike Green
Jerry Azumah
Alex Brown

HORNS

Rex Tucker
Qasim Mitchell
Brad Maynard

HARDEST HITS

Johnson on Barber
Green on Toomer
Briggs on Cloud



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