Noots' Notes

The Bears patiently allowed the imploding Vikings to self-destruct. Minnesota botched two field goal attempts, committed 14 costly penalties and turned the ball over several times. The 2-3 Bears are tied for first with the Detroit Lions in the NFC North, and own the tie-breaker.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Kyle Orton (16-25-117, 2 TDs, 1 Int, Fumble) had another efficient game. He minimized his margin for error, although he threw the ball deep with more regularity than last week. He missed Muhsin Muhammad on a deep ball up the right sideline on the first offensive play. The good thing is that Orton missed him with an overthrow. Several of his interceptions this year have come on under thrown passes to open receivers. He's still holding the ball too long, which is leading to sacks that shouldn't be attributed to the offensive line. The fourth quarter interception was an example of under throwing a pass he should have let go earlier, deeper or away. Orton also fumbled a handoff to Thomas Jones. On the plus side, he did a much better job of finding the tight end, especially in the key situations. He found Desmond Clark for two short touchdown passes and also hit him to pick up a third down conversion. GRADE: C+

Running Backs

Thomas Jones (23/89, 2 TDs, Fumble, 1-6) played the majority of the contest in spite of suffering a sprained knee in last week's game that many thought would keep him out for a few weeks. He didn't have his usual sharp cutting ability, but was able to hit the hole straight ahead with good authority, evidenced by several broken tackles throughout the game. Jones, who lost a fumble, also raced through a hole over right tackle for a 24-yard touchdown run. Cedric Benson (3/2) had a disappointing game. He did not get the carries that many thought he would get with Jones not at full strength and against a Viking team that ranked at the bottom of the league in rushing defense. Additionally, he missed a block in pass protection that led to a Viking touchdown after a hit on Orton. Fortunately, the play was called back because of another Viking penalty. Marc Edwards (2-13) had another good game at fullback, leading the way for Jones. He also picked up a nice gain on a short pass in the flat. Adrian Peterson (1-7) saw a couple of reps and caught a screen pass for a short gain. GRADE: B-

Receivers

Muhsin Muhammad (5-48) did not have a very good game. He dropped three passes that could have been caught. One of them killed a drive on a third down slant. Muhammad did catch a nice pass over the middle for a 16-yard gain at the end of the first half. Rookie Mark Bradley (1-15) had a solid gain on a comeback route. Bobby Wade (1-4) drew a pass interference penalty. Tight end Desmond Clark (4-19, 2 TDs) came up with three very big receptions even though they only covered a few yards. He hauled in a pair of short touchdowns, as well as a third down conversion. His first touchdown was reviewed. Replays showed that as he stretched to reach the right pylon, he dropped the ball after it crossed the plane of the end zone. Clark shook off an illness that sidelined him during the week to have a good game. Gabe Reid (1-5) also had a couple of good grabs, although one of them was called back because of a penalty. Overall, the drops took away from an otherwise average performance from the receivers, which lacked many big plays. GRADE: C-

Offensive Line

Injuries to John Tait (ankle) and Ruben Brown (pectoral) meant the Bears would have a patchwork left side of their line. John St. Clair started at left tackle and Roberto Garza started at left guard. Both performed adequately enough to allow the Bears' offense to get the job done. In fact, of the pressure that came, more was from the right side than the left. St. Clair's only gaffe was an illegal chop block that erased a Gabe Reid reception. The rest of the line was not without mistakes. Olin Kreutz was flagged for another illegal snap and Fred Miller was caught holding. In spite of the mental mistakes, Kyle Orton had plenty of time to throw the ball, but took three sacks. Run blocking was strong, although Jones wasn't sharp in his cutbacks to exploit the defense. Kreutz had a tough challenge with Pat Williams (7 tackles, FF) over his nose for much of the contest. Kreutz was pushed back a few times but was able to tie Williams up enough to keep him from totally disrupting the offense. Terrence Metcalf and Fred Miller made key blocks to open a huge hole for Thomas Jones on a 24-yard touchdown run. GRADE: B-


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Ian Scott (2 tackles, TFL) played another strong game up the middle. He stopped Mewelde Moore (14/57, 5-52) for a short gain on a third and two carry inside the Bears' 20-yard line in the early going. It set up a field goal attempt that turned into an incompletion because of a muffed hold. Scott also had a tackle for a loss. Tank Johnson tracked down Michael Bennett at the sideline for only a 3-yard gain on a swing pass. Adewale Ogunleye (2 tackles) didn't provide much pressure, but did string Bennett out for only a yard on a stretch play. He had a couple of neutral zone infractions at the end of the contest that weren't of consequence. Israel Idonije (2 tackles, sack) saw increased action because Michael Haynes was inactive. Idonije played well, including a sack of Culpepper (26-48-237, 2 Ints) late in the fourth quarter. Tommie Harris registered a key sack for a loss to push the Vikings back from a first and goal at the Bears' 2-yard line. Alex Brown (2 tackles, PD) was penalized for jumping offsides, but then rebounded to draw a holding penalty and a pass deflection. Run defense was good for most of the game, but pass rush pressure was only average against an offensive line that had struggled to protect Culpepper all season. GRADE: B-

Linebackers

Brian Urlacher (9 tackles, 2 sacks) had another big day. He registered a knockdown and two sacks. His second sack put Culpepper down precariously close to his own end zone for a near safety. Lance Briggs (5 tackles, 2 PD) got sealed off on Moore's 25-yard gain, which came on the Vikings' opening drive. After that, his play really picked up. He blew up a draw to Moore for a 1-yard gain, deflected a pass for a near interception in coverage in the fourth quarter, and then deflected another at the line on a blitz. Hunter Hillenmeyer (6 tackles) had a good game. He was very effective stopping the run, and provided some pressure in blitz packages. The linebackers were very stout against the run and were productive blitzing Culpepper. They gave up a high number of passes to tight end Jermaine Wiggins (10-68), although that wasn't always their coverage assignment. GRADE: B+

Secondary

Charles Tillman (7 tackles, 2 PDs, Int) rebounded from several sub-par performances to have an impact game. He wasn't without mental mistakes (holding, illegal contact), but didn't get beaten for a touchdown. He nearly had an interception in the end zone, but the play was reviewed and deemed an incomplete pass. He later cleanly picked off Culpepper and ran the ball back 55 yards, deep into Viking territory. It set up a first and goal situation. Nathan Vasher (3 tackles, PD) and Jerry Azumah had quiet games, shutting down Vikings receivers for most of the contest. Vasher was beaten deep by Troy Williamson in the second half but Culpepper's pass was too long. Mike Brown (6 tackles) and Chris Harris (3 tackles, 4 PDs, Int) had active games at safety. Harris had a late interception and 44-yard runback on a pass Travis Taylor couldn't come up with. He nearly had another one later. Brown was shaken up after a hit on a Culpepper scramble, but only missed a few snaps. Mike Green and Chris Thompson saw some late action and held up well. In a reversal of previous weeks, coverage was a bit shaky in the early going, but tightened as the game wore on. Run support was solid. GRADE: B


SPECIAL TEAMS

Robbie Gould didn't have a field goal attempt. His kickoffs were reasonably deep and had good hang time. Punter Brad Maynard didn't have one of his better games. He had a few opportunities to kick the ball deep but couldn't. Bobby Wade had a good day returning punts. He elected to return a punt that was inside his own 5-yard line because it had outkicked the coverage. Normally, returning a punt inside the 10 will draw the coach's wrath. Wade brought the ball out to midfield, giving the Bears a big boost of momentum with field position near the end of the half. They went on to score their first touchdown on a pass to Clark on that drive. Jerry Azumah was average returning kicks. Coverage was good, highlighted by tackles from Ayanbadejo, Peterson, and Ford. Leon Joe erased a decent punt return from Wade because of an illegal block. Israel Idonije was offsides on a punt return, but also had the hit of the game on a kickoff on Richard Owens. The Vikings missed two field goal attempts. One of them was a bad hold, and the other was blocked by Alfonso Boone. GRADE: B-


COACHING

The Bears did a good job of preparing their offense to play in spite of losing the left side of their line to injury. The use of rollout passes near the goal line was a good idea and has been a missing ingredient in recent years. They could use some of this action in other situations as well. The Bears used more shotgun formations in obvious passing downs. However, the shotgun is not a panacea. If your quarterback isn't making quick enough reads or getting rid of the ball fast enough (or both), it can be a detriment. Orton was sacked in the shotgun. Cedric Benson only received a handful of carries. Although he deflated some of the confidence the coaches had in him by missing a block in pass protection, he (or even Adrian Peterson) still should have been brought in to relieve Jones in the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand. Thomas Jones is their best offensive player, and was playing hurt. Several players were either out or not at full strength, but 192 net yards is a paltry sum against one of the league's most generous defenses. The defense did just enough to smother the Viking's ground game while taking away the deep ball. They forced the Vikings to be patient, leaving them only short passes to the tight end. When the Vikings forced the issue, they paid for it. GRADE: B-


GAME BALLS

Brian Urlacher
Lance Briggs
Desmond Clark
Thomas Jones
Chris Harris

HORNS

Muhsin Muhammad

HARDEST HITS

Idonije on Owens



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