Noots' Notes: Defense Leads the Way

The Bears (9-3) won their eight consecutive game, dropping Green Bay (2-10) in front of a chilly Soldier Field crowd. It was the first home victory for the Bears against the Packers since 1993. While the offense continued to struggle, the Bears' secondary made the game-changing plays.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Kyle Orton (6-17-68, INT, 1/-2, Fumble) had a poor game. He had a difficult time locating his receivers. Although he only had 17 passing attempts, he was sacked three times. Only one of them was the line's fault. On the other two, he held the ball for an inordinate amount of time. On one of those sacks, he bounced off his own linemen, even though there wasn't any pressure. Before the argument is made that his receivers weren't open, Thomas Jones was wide open as his check down on one of those plays. Orton's interception was not his fault. He hit tight end Desmond Clark perfectly, but Clark let the ball bounce off his hands and up into the air for a turnover. Orton had at least two other passes that went directly to the Packers but were dropped. One of Orton's better decisions was to throw deep after the Packers jumped offsides. It was a free play, and he took advantage of it. Although it was a poor performance, he had two good completions to Bernard Berrian. He connected with Berrian for 39 yards up the left sideline and hit a well-timed a fade route 18 yards up the right sideline. However, two plays against the Packers and 0 for 10 on third down conversions is not only unacceptable, it's embarrassing. GRADE: D-

Running Backs

Thomas Jones (19/93) and Adrian Peterson (11/48) are becoming a formidable one-two punch at running back. Jones set a new career high in rushing yards and surpassed the 1,000 yard milestone on Sunday. He just missed scoring a touchdown, breaking loose for 27 yards on an excellent cutback from right guard to left end. Jones fumbled a pitch intended to go around left end. The replays showed Olin Kreutz and John Tait had gotten around end and were ready to clear the way for what would have been a big gain. Jones showed power on a 5-yard run, breaking free of initial contact. He dropped a low throw from Orton that should have been caught. Adrian Peterson provided a spark getting the ball on two series. He was the focal point of a field goal-producing drive in the second half. He looked strong, surging through the pile for first downs. On one of his runs, he appeared stacked up at the line and twisted free for a 9-yard pickup. They tried to set up a screen to him, but the pass was thrown almost directly to a defender a yard away from him. Fullback Bryan Johnson had a few big blocks, but wasn't a receiving target. Overall, if it weren't for the offensive line and the running backs, there wouldn't have been an offense. GRADE: B+

Receivers

Muhsin Muhammad was held without a reception. He had one opportunity to catch a short touchdown from Orton in the left portion of the end zone but wasn't able to come up with the ball. Muhammad and Justin Gage did a good job blocking on the edge, as did Desmond Clark. Clark (2-6) made a key block on Jones' 27-yard run. Clark's drop in the early part of the game resulted in a Packers interception. Bernard Berrian (3-59) made an impact catching three passes after being missing extended time after injuring his thumb. Berrian showed good concentration to hang on to the ball. His speed could add an ingredient missing from the Bears' offense since Mark Bradley was injured last month. Gabe Reid was the target on a goal line play but he fell down on his pattern. He was wide open. Berrian's performance and the blocking helped bring this unit's score up a bit. GRADE: C-

Offensive Line

Other than a sack up the middle that got past center Olin Kreutz, the line gave Orton plenty of time. The other two sacks were either Orton not finding his receivers soon enough or his receivers not getting open. Guards Ruben Brown and Terrence Metcalf had solid games. Brown pulled around right end and sealed off the edge for Jones to pick up seven yards. Metcalf pulled left, leading up the hole for Jones to get eight more. Tackles John Tait and Fred Miller kept defensive ends Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila quiet most of the game. Run blocking was good for both Peterson and Jones. Overall, the line played a solid game, allowing the Bears to do just enough (and little more) on offense to kick a few fields goals. GRADE: B+


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The line had a much more difficult time getting to quarterback Brett Favre (31-58-277, 2 INTs, 1/0, 3 Fumbles) than it did in recent weeks. The Packers used a lot of quick throws, and Favre did well to throw the ball away when pressure did come. After two dominating weeks, Alex Brown (0 tackles) fell to earth with a thud. He had a couple of pressures in this game, but had no sacks. Worse, he was continually exploited in the running game. Samkon Gado (20/75, TD, 1-12) found loads of running room off left tackle on cutbacks, because Jones had over penetrated and given up his gap responsibility. He also had a missed tackle on Gado, and took a poor angle on a reverse he allowed to break through his side. Adewale Ogunleye (3 tackles, FR) had a quiet game rushing the passer, but came up with a key fumble recovery on a sack. Ian Scott drew two holding penalties against the Packers' interior line. Tommie Harris (2 tackles, FF) was offsides at the end of the first half and had a pressure. Late in the contest, Harris exploded through the line and disrupted a handoff, causing a fumble. Tank Johnson's late hit on Favre helped the Packers' lone touchdown drive. He redeemed himself some when he deflected a pass a short time later. Alfonso Boone (2 tackles, TFL) had a tackle for a loss on Gado. Israel Idonije saw action but was not a factor. Overall, the line didn't generate much pressure, in spite of the Packers launching 58 passes. Run support was a deficit at times as well. GRADE: C+

Linebackers

Brian Urlacher (13 tackles, 2 PDs) and Lance Briggs (11 tackles, 3 PDs, TFL, FR) had been quiet the last few weeks. They both shined against the Packers. Urlacher made a key stop on tight end David Martin to prevent him from converting a third down in the early going. He put a huge hit on Donald Driver (8-64) near the goal line. Urlacher also had a few good stops on Gado at the line, including one where he first took on and defeated the fullback's block. While in coverage, he batted away a deep pass up the sideline to running back Tony Fisher (2/14, 7-69). Lance Briggs perfectly timed a run blitz to stop Gado for a one-yard loss. He showed good coverage skills, deflecting a slant intended for Driver, and nearly intercepted a pass over the middle at the end of the game. Briggs also added a fumble recovery and a devastating wallop on Driver. Hunter Hillenmeyer (4 tackles) made a couple of good plays against the run early on, but left with a thumb injury. Brendon Ayanbadejo (2 tackles) replaced Hillenmeyer, who returned in the second half with a cast on his hand. The linebackers made some big plays, although they were occasionally tricked by some of the cutbacks the Packers were utilizing. GRADE: B+

Secondary

The Bears' secondary rose to the challenge of defending Brett Favre and his receivers. He lost tight end Bubba Franks early on after he re-injured his back. At the end of the first half, Charles Tillman (7 tackles, sack, FF, INT, 3 PD) nearly intercepted a pass, then followed it up with an interception in the end zone. He ran the ball out 95 yards to set the Bears up for a short field goal just before time expired. Green Bay had advanced to first and goal at the six-yard line. Tillman's interception helped give the Bears a 9-7 halftime lead and was a ten point swing. Tillman later added a huge hit on a sack and forced fumble of Favre. Nathan Vasher (4 tackles, INT, PD, TD) saved his big play for the end of the game. He returned a Brett Favre pass 45 yards for the Bears' only touchdown. Mike Brown (6 tackles, sack, FF) had one of his best games in weeks. He had a tackle for a loss on Gado. It was his pressure on Favre that forced an off-balanced throw, leading to the Tillman interception. Brown also registered a sack and forced fumble on a crushing hit on Favre that had him shaking the cobwebs loose as he walked off the field. Safety Chris Harris left in the first half with an injury. Mike Green (5 tackles) took over. He took an excellent angle outside end to cut Favre off on a fourth and one rollout that had to be thrown away. Green gave away a big chunk of yardage when he didn't locate the ball, and ran into Driver for pass interference. Jerry Azumah (4 tackles, 2 PDs) deflected a few passes at the end of the game. He just missed an interception on one of them. The Bears' secondary forced numerous turnovers and held Brett Favre without a touchdown pass and limited him to less than five yards per passing attempt. GRADE: A+


SPECIAL TEAMS

Robbie Gould made four of five field goals (21, 40, 25, and 35). His lone miss was a 43-yarder that was perfectly straight but fell just short. His kickoffs were solid as well. Brad Maynard kept the Packers deep in their territory with some of his strongest punts of the season. He did this despite the bitter cold, which had Packers' punter B.J. Sander shanking several kicks. Rashied Davis fumbled two punt returns. Fortunately, the Bears recovered both of them. Bobby Wade was brought back for the final two returns. Leon Joe is developing into a superior defender in kick coverage. He had a couple of tackles. Davis downed a fourth quarter Maynard punt at the three-yard line. Jerry Azumah only had two kickoff returns and neither was very long. Coverage on punts and kicks was good. GRADE: B


COACHING

The Bears finally won at home against the Packers. The offensive game plan was questionable. The Packers are best at defending the pass. The Bears came out throwing. Although Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner likes to keep a good pass to run balance, the Bears are a good running team and an awful passing team. The time has come to embrace this. If the Bears need to run 35 to 40 times per game to win, they should. They should know by now that they have the running backs and the offensive line to get it done. The pitch to Jones that resulted in a fumble was risky on a day when players were having trouble holding onto the ball. Quarterback play has to improve. Regardless of the lip service given the media and the fans, the Bears need to plan for the playoffs that their success has given them. Hopefully reps will be given to either Jeff Blake or Rex Grossman in the coming weeks, in the event Orton cannot get the job done. On defense, Ron Rivera had another good game. The sacks of Favre by Brown and Tillman were great calls. Hopefully he can work with the ends on better gap discipline. The win streak rolls on. Pittsburgh is next. GRADE: B


GAME BALLS

Charles Tillman
Nathan Vasher
Mike Brown
Brian Urlacher
Lance Briggs
Robbie Gould
Brad Maynard

HORNS

Rashied Davis
Kyle Orton

HARDEST HITS

Brian Urlacher on Donald Driver
Lance Briggs on Donald Driver
Mike Brown on Brett Favre
Charles Tillman on Brett Favre


There will be no Injury Report or Noots' Notes for the Pittsburgh game.



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