Noots' Notes

The Bears (8-3) won their seventh consecutive game, narrowly defeating the Buccaneers (7-4), who missed a short field goal and dropped a sure touchdown in the fourth quarter. Alex Brown was a difference maker. He set up the Bears' lone touchdown by forcing a Chris Simms fumble at the Buccaneers' one-yard line.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Kyle Orton (14-28-134, TD, INT, 3/19, 2 Fumbles) had an average game. He took advantage of the field position Alex Brown handed him by finding tight end John Gilmore for a one-yard touchdown. Orton directed a 40-yard drive in the final minute of the first half to put a short field goal on the board. On the down side, he double-patted a short pass to Justin Gage that Ronde Barber (5 tackles, 4 PDs) read all the way. Fortunately Barber dropped what looked like a sure pick. Orton and Justin Gage were on different pages on Orton's lone interception. Gage stopped well short of the deep pass up the right sideline. On a positive note, the interception pinned the Buccaneers at their own 6-yard line. Orton's longest completion was a screen pass to Thomas Jones that broke for a 41-yard gain. He had a couple of decent scrambles to pick up some positive chunks of yardage when the opportunity presented itself. Tampa did an excellent job of eliminating the passing lanes not only along the line of scrimmage but also on some of the short routes on the rollout passes. As a result, Orton had numerous attempts deflected or batted down out of the air. Orton did just enough to allow the Bears to win, without making any fatal errors. GRADE: C-

Running Backs

Thomas Jones (25/72, 3-50) had a tough time finding running room against the Buccaneers defense. Tampa had good penetration to remove the cutback lanes, forcing him to fight for tough yardage at the point of attack. Jones picked up a key 8-yard gain on a cutback on a third down and short and also converted a 2nd and 16 into a first down with another big gain. He nearly broke free for a long touchdown on a screen, going 41-yards before finally being brought down. His consistency and toughness was again the heart of the offense. Although he excelled as a receiver last season, he hadn't really been a factor catching the ball this year. His reception on the screen was one of the few bright offensive moments on Sunday for the Bears. Adrian Peterson (5/27) showed good strength running through contact on a drive late in the first half. His performances have left everyone hungry for more. Fullback Bryan Johnson had a quiet game as a receiver, and made a few good blocks in the running game to lead the way for Jones and Peterson. His best play was the recovery of a Kyle Orton fumble at mid field to allow the Bears to preserve possession. GRADE: C

Receivers

Muhsin Muhammad (4-38) made one very good catch on an otherwise quiet afternoon. He fully extended in the air to snare a Kyle Orton pass for 14 yards in the fourth quarter. Muhammad drew a very suspect penalty for illegal hands to the face to aid a Bears drive. Justin Gage (4-32) had a similar performance. Gage picked up 13 yards to convert a 3rd and eight situation. Gage couldn't come up with a slant in tight coverage near the end of the first quarter. Tight end John Gilmore could easily have been voted the Bears' most anonymous player until Sunday. Gilmore is almost exclusively used as an extra blocker. As one might expect, he was all alone when Kyle Orton hit him for a one-yard touchdown. Desmond Clark (2-13) had a couple of short receptions, and was separated from another on a fine defensive play. The receivers didn't have any difference-making plays, but didn't have any costly errors, either. GRADE: C

Offensive Line

John Tait's matchup with Simeon Rice was a focal point of attention. Tait didn't disappoint. Rice (2 tackles, sack, FF, PD) was seldom around the ball, and what little pressure he applied took long to develop. On one of those occasions, he was able to knock the ball free from Orton. Tait appeared to flinch for a false start that was called against left guard Ruben Brown. Defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Anthony McFarland continually disrupted the interior run blocking. Olin Kreutz and Terrence Metcalf struggled most, allowing penetration to reduce Jones' cutback options. Metcalf failed to sustain his block long enough on a designed screen, which resulted in one of the two sacks of Kyle Orton. Fred Miller had a strong game. He pass protected extremely well, and when his number was called he responded. Overall, pass protection was good, but run blocking was below average. Mental mistakes, in a very loud road game were held to a minimum. GRADE: C+


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

For the second consecutive week, the Bears' defensive ends were dominating. Alex Brown (2 tackles, 4 PDs, FF) had his best game of the season. A one-man wrecking crew, Brown registered two sacks of Chris Simms (19-30-202, 1 – minus 1, Fumble), deflected four passes, and forced a fumble to set up the offense for a 1-yard touchdown. One of Brown's deflections came in pass coverage. He also had a pressure and knockdown on Simms that resulted in intentional grounding. Adewale Ogunleye (3 tackles, 2 sacks) appeared to get stronger as the game wore on. He drew two holding penalties against the Bucs to go along with two sacks. His second sack was a takedown of Simms to close out the game. Tommie Harris (1 tackle, FR) had some good pressure up the middle to force Cadillac Williams (20/84, 2-7) into cutbacks and Simms back into the ends for sacks. It was Harris who recovered Brown's forced fumble. Tank Johnson drew a key holding call against center John Wade to push the Bucs back on a red zone possession in the first half. He also had a pass deflection. Ian Scott was not a factor. Israel Idonije and Alfonso Boone also saw action. Idonije lost his gap assignment on a big cutback run by Williams for 18 yards. Overall, the run defense had fewer teeth than in past weeks as Williams was able to find holes and cutbacks. The pass rush was again strong, and was a good test of Chris Simms' poise. GRADE: B

Linebackers

For the second consecutive week, the defensive line dominated, leaving fewer opportunities for the linebackers to make plays of impact. Lance Briggs (9 tackles) took Mike Alstott's (3/8, TD, 2-14) feet out from under him for a short gain early, and registered a tackle for a loss catching Williams on a short checkdown pass. Hunter Hillenmeyer (4 tackles) applied some pressure chasing Simms around the pocket on a rollout. He made some sure tackles in coverage to limit the short passes. Brian Urlacher (6 tackles, PD) was one of the few people able to stop Cadillac Williams on first contact. At times Urlacher's playing speed appeared faster than some of the defensive backs in coverage on the sideline passes. The linebackers could have been a greater factor against the run, as Williams found some soft spots in the Bears' defense. GRADE: C

Secondary

The Buccaneers continually went after cornerback Charles Tillman (10 tackles). He was beaten for a 39-yard completion to Joey Galloway (7-138). Tillman also allowed Cadillac Williams to literally run him over on a short pass in the flat for nine yards. Through it all, Tillman did just enough to prevent Tampa Bay from scoring, but gave up far more yardage than any should feel comfortable with. Nathan Vasher (3 tackles) was less of a factor, but his receiver was seldom targeted. Safeties Mike Brown (7 tackles) and Chris Harris were in on a lot of stops against the run, which is usually a bad sign for the first two lines of defense. Brown allowed tight end Alex Smith (2-14) to slip through his grasp, picking up a first down on third and three. He also couldn't finish Alstott on a short pass into the flat on Tampa's lone scoring drive. Chris Harris (4 tackles), despite having good position, tried to arm tackle Williams at the line of scrimmage, resulting in a broken tackle and a 12-yard gain. His failure to wrap up Galloway late in the contest resulted in a 30-yard reception. Mike Green (6 tackles) made a few stops against the run. Jerry Azumah played but was not a factor. Although they didn't allow a touchdown, the secondary didn't produce any turnovers and at times was as much of a weakness as it was strength. GRADE: C-


SPECIAL TEAMS

Robbie Gould made both of his field goal attempts (25, 36) and put three of his four kickoffs down to the goal line. Punter Brad Maynard put two of his kicks down inside the 10-yard line. Although his numbers will look good for the day, he had two opportunities to kick the Bucs deep into their territory in the fourth quarter but didn't deliver a strong kick. Bobby Wade wisely elected to not return the first two punts. When he finally had one he could return, he responded by fumbling yet again. Thankfully, Israel Idonije recovered it for the offense. Rashied Davis took over the return duties for Wade, and didn't make any mistakes. Davis also had three kickoff returns, highlighted by a 33-yarder to open the game. Jerry Azumah was in and out of the kickoff return lineup. Adrian Peterson had a few tackles in coverage and also downed one of Maynard's punts inside the ten-yard line. Leon Joe made a tackle in kickoff coverage at the 18-yard line. Todd Johnson was also in on a few tackles, and put a wallop on Mark Jones on a punt return. Brandon McGowan gave up some field position when he committed holding on a punt return. Overall, coverage was good, returns were average, and Gould's kicking was a plus. GRADE: B


COACHING

The Bears (8-3) earned no style points for this win, but a win on the road against a team with a 7-3 record is a huge stepping stone. They kept their lead over the Vikings (6-5) who won again and appear to be gaining momentum. The removal of Wade from punt returns was long overdue. On offense, the pass to Gilmore was excellent, as was the screen pass to Jones. The growing involvement of Adrian Peterson has been a positive, and steps to increase his reps should be taken. On defense, the rotation on the line continues to wear down opposing offensive lines. The Bears have not been as aggressive of late when it comes to blitzing, but they haven't needed to be. They set the tempo for the game, and when Tampa was gaining momentum as it ended, they rose up to the challenge to put them away. GRADE: B


GAME BALLS

Adewale Ogunleye
Alex Brown
John Gilmore
Robbie Gould

HORNS

Bobby Wade

HARDEST HITS

Todd Johnson on Mark Jones



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