Noots' Notes: Game 12

Chad Hutchinson had an outstanding debut as starting quarterback for the Bears, leading them to a 24-14 victory. As much as they were buoyed by his three touchdown passes, the defense played great as well. It was one of those rare occasions when the Bears appeared to be hitting on all cylinders. Let's take a closer look at how the different personnel groups performed.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

With no offense intended to Rex Grossman fans, Chad Hutchinson (18-30-213, 3 TD, 0 Int, 3/14, fumble) had the best single game performance of any Bears' quarterback this season. He made very few mistakes. There was so much good, let's start with the bad. He lost a fumble when a defender knocked the ball out of his hand. He also threw behind a receiver on a slant, and had one pass nearly intercepted that was thrown out a bit late. Apart from that, he was superb. Hutchinson continually connected on 3rd and long situations to keep drives alive. A great example was a 20-yard strike to Justin Gage on a 3rd and sixteen, deep in Viking territory. He deftly led Anthony Thomas on a short route to the sideline to pick up a 3rd and nine. Hutchinson found Jason McKie and Desmond Clark for short touchdown passes, and perfectly lofted the ball to David Terrell up the sideline for a 15-yard touchdown. One of his best passes was a 31-yard completion to Bobby Wade after scrambling to buy himself time near the end of the half. One of the most impressive things about Hutchinson was his ability to get everyone involved in the offense. He continually found tight end Desmond Clark open and although he dropped the first one, kept going back to him. The same could be said of Terrell. Terrell dropped a perfect pass up the left seam but still was a target after his drop. It was also nice to see the running backs getting passes that led them toward the line of scrimmage. Sure, it was only the Vikings, but their defense had been making strides, and nobody would have expected this kind of performance from Quinn or Krenzel. He completed sixty percent of his passes even though there were several drops. On the day, the Bears converted 10 of 17 third downs. The Jeff George experience will need to wait. GRADE: A-

Running Backs

Thomas Jones (15/49, 3-22) got dinged on the first carry, and split time with Anthony Thomas (15/55, 1-10) for the balance of the game. Jones' best plays were a 17-yard trap draw from a shotgun spread formation on 3rd and seven, and a 16-yard screen that lost some yardage on a penalty. He did have a run where he cut inside his blocks too soon and took a short loss. Anthony Thomas had some good tough runs as well. He was hitting the hole as well as he has in a long time. His best play also came on a draw. He picked up 18 yards on a 3rd and 6 to set up first and goal. Jason McKie and Bryan Johnson blocked well at fullback. McKie held onto a short pass in the end zone for a late touchdown to put the game out of reach. Overall, the backs played fairly well, picked up their blocks in the passing game, and made some key plays running and catching the ball to keep the chains moving. GRADE: B

Receivers

David Terrell (3-44, TD) was flagged for an illegal block in the back on a well executed screen pass. He also dropped a perfect pass up the seam for what would have been 20 or more yards. Terrell broke free up the right sideline for a 15-yard touchdown reception. He nearly made a circus catch on a pass that was deflected. Bernard Berrian picked up 26 yards on a reverse during the Bears' first possession. Justin Gage (2-31) picked up 20 on a 3rd and sixteen. Bobby Wade (2-43) had a couple of big catches, including a 31-yarder at the end of the first half. Tight end Desmond Clark (6-58, TD) shook off an early drop and settled in as a favorite target of Hutchinson. He left the game early with a bruised side. The receivers did have a couple of drops but held on when it counted and managed to be open for much of the game. See? When the quarterback gets rid of the ball on time, it makes the receivers look that much more open, and that much better. GRADE: B

Offensive Line

Steve Edwards drew the start at right guard and had a very up and down game. He was beaten for 2 sacks by Kevin Williams (7 tackles, 2 sacks, FR), who ran past him like he was standing still. Edwards had to leave the game early with a hamstring injury. It wasn't all bad for Edwards. He made the key block to open huge holes for Jones and Thomas on both of their big 3rd and long runs. Olin Kreutz did a good job of picking up downfield blocks on some of the halfback screen plays. He did commit a personal foul, however. Left tackle Qasim Mitchell let Lance Johnstone beat him on an outside rush to strip the ball from Hutchinson. Aaron Gibson started at right tackle, and played adequately. Perhaps the most impressive lineman of the day was Terrence Metcalf, who got the start at left guard. He was decent in run blocking, and gave no ground against the pass. On some of the passing downs, he was picking up multiple blocks on the same play. He was a steady rock inside. The penalties were kept to a minimum, the pass protection was spotty at times, and the run blocking was average. The performance overall was pretty average. However, hang a star on this one since the lineup was shuffled, the quarterback was new, and the Vikings have a very good pass rush. There were some things out there that they can build on. GRADE: C


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Adewale Ogunleye (2 tackles, sack) started and played the majority of the game in spite of being listed as doubtful during the week. Although his numbers weren't spectacular, he had several key pressures, tracked down Daunte Culpepper (23-33-279, 2 TD, 3 Int, 6/50) for a loss and sack on a scramble, and was held on a majority of the plays. Alex Brown (3 tackles, sack) combined with Jerry Azumah for a sack. He had a good deal of pressure, one of them leading to an interception for Azumah. Brown jumped offsides on a 3rd and one, and was blocked on a 20-yard run by Onterrio Smith (13/79, 2-9). He got his revenge when he closelined Smith for a short loss. Tommie Harris also started in spite of not being fully healthy. He wasn't very effective, however. Stepping up was Alfonso Boone. Boone (2 tackles, 2 sacks) racked up 2 sacks, and got one of them in spite of being held. Ian Scott was less of a factor, and failed to wrap up on Smith. Tank Johnson was fairly effective, chasing down Smith for a short gain from across the line, and also getting a tackle for a loss inside the red zone. Israel Idonije saw a good deal of action and had a pressure. Michael Haynes (3 tackles) didn't see that much playing time, but was a factor stopping the run. Overall, the line swarmed Culpepper enough to disrupt his rhythm, helping to force some of his errant passes that eventually were picked off. Run defense wasn't very good, but the Vikings didn't have the patience to stick with the run game once they got behind. GRADE: B

Linebackers

Brian Urlacher (7 tackles, sack, Int, 2 PD) surprised everyone by returning to game action just 3 weeks after suffering a calf injury and surgery that many expected to have him out for another 2 weeks. His performance wasn't so much surprising as it was effective. He made a huge interception when the Vikings had the ball at the Bears 4-yard line to change the momentum of the game. He also added a sack. Urlacher came close to another interception later, as well as nearly plucking a forced fumble. He overcommitted on an interior cutback run for a big gain. Hunter Hillenmeyer had a poor game. He was flagged for holding the tight end. He also was the last man on the edge of the line on a run around end where he took a poor angle. Hillenmeyer couldn't defeat a block at the point of attack on a 26-yard gain by Smith. Lance Briggs (5 tackles) was a half step slow most of the day. He was blocked on the Smith's other long run, where Urlacher overcommitted. Briggs also narrowly missed an interception late in the game. The linebackers had a tough time against the run blocking of the Vikings, but did a good job of creating pressure when they blitzed. GRADE: C+

Secondary

R.W. McQuarters got the start at free safety and was solid most of the day, although he was late in help over the top on a 40-yard touchdown pass to former Bear Marcus Robinson (6-90, TD). Charles Tillman (9 tackles, FF) got his first start at cornerback since a knee injury early in the season. He had some struggles but came out on top. He was whistled for an illegal contact penalty. Tillman was then flagged for holding in spite of allowing a touchdown to Nate Burleson. He appeared to have been beaten on the touchdown by Robinson, although it looked like McQuarters was supposed to be there for deep support. Tillman later stripped Moss on a short reception that Mike Green recovered. He and Moss got tangled up on the sideline but neither was penalized for what looked like more than a friendly exchange away from the ball. Jerry Azumah (4 tackles, 2 PD, 2 Int) collected two interceptions and assisted on a sack with Alex Brown. Nate Vasher was on the field quite a bit as the Vikings needed their passing sets on the field for much of the second half. He received a questionable holding penalty. Bobby Gray saw extended action in sub packages for the first time in many weeks, and was flying around with the same reckless abandon he has become known for. Mike Green (7 tackles, FR) was not a major factor in the run game, but his fumble recovery was a key. He's been in the right place at the right time to be involved in turnovers throughout the season. Apart from the breakdown in coverage on the touchdown to Robinson, the pass coverage was good, and the turnovers forced were a big reason for the outcome of the game. GRADE: B+


SPECIAL TEAMS

Paul Edinger connected on a 53-yard field goal, and then came up short on a 52-yarder later in the game. His kickoffs were a bit short, although one of them was a beautiful pop up that fell at the 20 for a 1-yard return. Brad Maynard was less busy than in recent weeks, but pinned the Vikings back inside their 20 yard line on all 3 of his punts to help the cause. Returns by Azumah and Berrian were not impressive. Kick coverage was good, especially via tackles made by Todd McMillon and Hunter Hillenmeyer. Marc Colombo deflected a field goal attempt to take 3 points off the board. Marcus Reese was whistled for an illegal block in the back at the end of the first half. Adrian Peterson and Charles Tillman combined for a huge stop on a fake punt that fell just inches short. The Bears tried their own fake punt, but the play was unsuccessful because the right personnel were not on the field in time. It appeared Bryan Johnson forgot he needed to be out there. Overall, the positives outweighed the negatives among this group. GRADE: B-


COACHING


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