Noots' Notes

The Bears' stunned the Lions 19-13 on a Charles Tillman interception runback for a touchdown in overtime in Detroit. The victory puts the Bears alone atop the NFC North with a 4-3 record as all the other NFC North teams suffered defeats. Tillman's touchdown was reminiscent of the season-turning touchdowns Mike Brown scored during the Bears' 13-3 campaign in 2001.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Kyle Orton (17-31-230, TD) had his most productive game of the year. He continually carved up the middle of the field for big gains with strikes to Mark Bradley and Justin Gage. Orton found Muhsin Muhammad for the Bears' lone offensive touchdown from 23 yards out. The touchdown was nearly identical to his previous touchdown pass to Muhammad in the first Detroit contest. Muhammad again held on in spite of double coverage and heavy contact. Orton stepped up to deliver the strike in the face of blitz pressure. This was the best Orton has looked at hitting his receivers on intermediate routes. He again failed to hit some of the deeper passes, especially when receivers were open. Orton is getting better and better at seeing the entire field and distributing the ball to everyone. He threw behind tight end Desmond Clark on a would-be touchdown pass as Clark was cutting parallel to the goal line from the hash mark to the sideline. Orton also took a sack when he tripped on his way back from center. He took another when he failed to either step up or get rid of the ball as both defensive ends collided with him. Orton's timing is coming along, but this deficiency was evident when he failed to get rid of the ball soon enough on two passes linebacker Boss Bailey nearly intercepted. His nearly single-handedly marching the Bears down the field on a 99-yard drive was a thing of beauty. Overall, it was a plus performance, and would have been even better if a few of the drops were caught, and some of the deeper routes were hit. GRADE B+

Running Backs

Thomas Jones (22/72, Fumble, 3-25) had a lesser performance than he has had in recent weeks, but missed the ending of the game with an injury. In the early going, Jones read a run blitz at the point of attack and cut outside to pick up 17 yards off left end. Jones had one of his better games in terms of receiving yards per catch. He took a short pass in the right flat and ran over former Bear R. W. McQuarters for seven yards. He fumbled in the second half when Shaun Cody hit the ball as soon as he got the handoff. Adrian Peterson (4/8, 1-1) replaced Jones late in the game and had little success on a few carries. Rookie Cedric Benson (3/35) was inserted in overtime and responded by ripping off a 25-yard gain. Fullback Marc Edwards (1-13) continued to step up and deliver bone-crunching blocks. He converted a fourth and two on a play action rollout pass into the right flat. Edwards also made a huge block to open the hole outside left tackle for Cedric Benson's big run in overtime. Overall, the backs didn't have as dominating of a game as they had in recent weeks but did just enough to keep the chains moving. GRADE: B-

Receivers

Mark Bradley (5-88) had a breakout game. Orton hit him for a few quick hitches off the line to start, and then found him open for a 54-yard gain on a post route on the Bears' 99-yard touchdown drive. He picked up another 16 up the left sideline by spinning out of a tackle. Bradley left the game with a knee injury on a 13-yard reception on a 2nd down and 14 reception as he was cutting across the length of the field from right to left. The injury did not look severe as it occurred, but he was carted off the field. Justin Gage (2-47) was inserted after Bradley left. He stepped up to haul in two 20-plus yard receptions. If Bradley misses an extended period of time, Gage will need to duplicate his performance, since Bernard Berrian is likely to be out at least a few more weeks with a thumb injury. Muhsin Muhammad (4-49, TD) dropped at least two passes that were well within his reach. He managed to hang on at the most crucial times, picking up a 23-yard touchdown in traffic and converting a 3rd down on a slant. He also made a crushing downfield block on linebacker Boss Bailey. Desmond Clark had a key reception to pick up a first down and is looking much more like a viable receiving option. Apart from a couple of drops, the receivers made some big plays to make people miss and turn short and intermediate passes into bigger gains. GRADE: B

Offensive Line

John Tait and Fred Miller were each flagged twice. Miller committed a false start to negate an 8-yard run by Jones. He was flagged for holding to offset a late hit on Orton. Miller struggled in pass protection throughout the game, and could have been called for holding on several other occasions. John Tait jumped offsides on a 3rd and 6 play in Lions' territory. Tait was later whistled for a very questionable holding penalty. Olin Kreutz was not able to get enough of a block on defensive tackle Shaun Cody, allowing him to strip the handoff from Thomas Jones as soon as he got the ball. Guards Roberto Garza and Terrence Metcalf had decent games but weren't enough in the middle to offset the game middle linebacker Earl Holmes (8 tackles, PD) was having. Olin Kreutz had a much tougher time keeping him out of the backfield than he did with Baltimore's Ray Lewis. Detroit schemed Holmes to run blitz so it was tough to get an angle on him. As a result he frequently met Bear running backs behind the line of scrimmage to disrupt the play. Overall, pass protection was sufficient for Orton to find his receivers (2 sacks, one of them when Orton tripped), while run blocking was below average. GRADE: C


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Alex Brown stepped up his game against an injured Jeff Backus. Brown collected his first sack of the season in the fourth quarter, taking the Lions out of field goal range. He also had a sack earlier in the game that was waived off because of a holding penalty on Adewale Ogunleye (6 tackles, 3 TFL). Brown applied good pressure early traded an offsides penalty for a false start with Backus. Ogunleye had another costly penalty in the second half; hitting Jeff Garcia (23-35-197, INT, 4/6) late (the ruling of hitting the head of the quarterback was questionable). He responded by tackling Kevin Jones (18/66, TD, 5-13) for a loss on consecutive plays. Overall, Ogunleye was very disruptive against the run, and provided good pressure in spite of not registering a sack. Defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Ian Scott had quieter games, but were instrumental in rerouting Lions running backs to the edge. Harris had one of the hardest hits on the day, a jarring shot on Garcia on a scramble up the middle. Tank Johnson (2 tackles, TFL, Sack) contributed a key sack, resulting in a long field goal attempt that missed. Israel Idonije and Alfonso Boone saw action but were not factors. Pass rush pressure was reasonably good against a scrambling quarterback, but cutbacks on off tackle runs resulted in bigger than acceptable gains. Garcia was held in check from scrambling the Bears into defeat. GRADE: C+

Linebackers

Hunter Hillenmeyer (7 tackles) had a strong game. He was a force against the run, and came up big at important times. He scooped up an apparent Jeff Garcia lateral (who was corralled by Brian Urlacher) and ran it in for a touchdown. It was later ruled an incomplete pass and intentional grounding after far too long of a delay. This came before there was ever a review. Unfortunately, the pass traveled right along the same line as Garcia, so whatever the initial call became; it was unlikely to be overturned if reviewed (the Bears reviewed it). Hillenmeyer stopped Marcus Pollard (3-35) short of a first down on an important third down reception, and caught Kevin Jones for no gain on a run and a pass in the flat. Lance Briggs (6 tackles) didn't have one of his more impressive games. He was left alone to stop Jones around right end and took a bad angle to allow a 6-yard touchdown run. It was the first rushing touchdown the Bears have allowed all season. Brian Urlacher (11 tackles) had an uneventful day. He had nearly sacked Garcia and had a late tackle for a loss on Jones. Urlacher was turned around in coverage over the middle, which resulted in a first down for the Lions. GRADE: C

Secondary

Remember Nathan Vasher (4 tackles)? The Lions do. They avoided him like the plague on Sunday. They went after Charles Tillman (7 tackles, Int, 2 PD) as much as possible. Tillman had a very up and down game. He missed a tackle in the backfield that resulted in a nine yard pickup. Tillman committed a bone-headed personal foul for an illegal hit out of bounds, surrendered a first down reception to Mike Williams (3-27) and was flagged for illegal hands to the face. He also allowed Scottie Vines (5-61) to look very good at his expense. Just when everyone thought Tillman would be the Bears' undoing, he stepped in front of a Garcia pass in overtime headed for Eddie Drummond for an interception. Tillman turned on the afterburners to return the pick 22 yards for a touchdown, ending the game. Jerry Azumah and Nathan Vasher had quiet but steady games. Mike Brown (6 tackles) and Chris Harris (2 tackles) made sure tackles in run support to prevent longer gains from being made. Harris helped ensure Garcia didn't pick up a first down on one of his scrambles. Overall, there were too many penalties allowed, but the Bears finally picked up a turnover after a minor drought. The turnover resulted in a game-winning touchdown. GRADE: B


SPECIAL TEAMS

Robbie Gould connected on both of his field goals (38, 20). His kickoffs had good depth, although coverage was shoddy in the early portion of the contest. Brad Maynard's punts left a lot to be desired because of his calf injury. He wasn't able to boom his kicks when field position demanded it, but when it was necessary to pin the Lions deep in their territory by hanging the ball up, he did very well (3 inside the 20). Leon Joe and Todd Johnson earn high marks for making tackles inside the Lions' 20-yard line in kickoff coverage. Johnson gave back a bunch when he was flagged for an illegal block in the back on a return. Bobby Wade didn't have many punt return opportunities, and had a fumble on one of them late in the game that the Bears were fortunate to recover. Jerry Azumah (4 for 122 yards) had one of his best games returning kicks since his Pro Bowl season. Carl Ford was caught holding on a punt return in overtime (it was quite a mugging) to ruin what would have been decent field position at the most crucial time. Gould's kicking and Azumah's returns were excellent, but the penalties nearly cost them the game. GRADE: C+


COACHING

Ron Turner used a good combination of passing plays to allow Kyle Orton and his receivers to push the ball down the field. All areas of the field were attacked, from all different receiving options in different drops including rollouts and the shotgun. However, it was alarming to see the Bears go three and out on their first possession after three consecutive passing plays. The defense and special teams delivered the offense field position in plus territory numerous times in the second half. The offense failed to produce points in spite of the short field. Ron Rivera's defense was pushed around quite a bit by the Lions. Detroit's ball carriers were finishing their runs with gusto, while Bear tacklers were on the receiving end of the hits far too often. Kevin Jones, Shawn Bryson, and Artose Pinner gained too many yards after contact by either spinning or running through poor tackling form (arm tackles, not wrapping up). Gap discipline broke down on several cutback runs. The Bears allowed an injury-riddled Lions' team to nearly steal the game and aided their cause by committing far too many penalties. However, in spite of giving back a 10-point lead, they held on long enough to make the game-winning play on the road. The win puts the Bears a game ahead of the Lions in the NFC North, plus the tie-breaker for winning both games against them. GRADE: B


GAME BALLS

Kyle Orton
Mark Bradley
Hunter Hillenmeyer
Jerry Azumah

HORNS

Fred Miller

HARDEST HITS

Tommie Harris on Jeff Garcia
Muhsin Muhammad on Boss Bailey



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