Noots' Notes

The Bears (11-5) closed out the regular season with a loss at Minnesota (9-7). Lovie Smith rested the starters for most or all of the game, while the Vikings played their first stringers throughout the contest. The Bears' defense surrendered enough yardage and points to miss out on being the yardage leader for the season, and the all-time franchise record for points allowed.



Kyle Orton (6-14-59) got the start and played until the fourth quarter. He started out by showing a good quick delivery to pick up some solid yardage to Justin Gage. His best connection was a 22-yard skinny post to Gage. However, his accuracy for intermediate and longer passes again left a lot to be desired. He continually tried to hit Bernard Berrian on deep passes but was always off on the throw. Orton missed tight end Gabe Reid on a third and one pass by so great a margin that the referees picked up a flag for contact because the ball was deemed uncatchable. He was also well off the mark on a deep out to Eddie Berlin on a third and long. He had no chance on a jailbreak sack, and held the ball too long on another. The one that was his fault nearly cost the team a safety. Jeff Blake (7-8-44, TD) took over in the fourth quarter and led the Bears on their only touchdown drive. Blake hit a couple of short passes and then on a third down in Viking territory, he scrambled to his right to avoid pressure. As he neared the sideline, he fired what looked like a throw away pass that Justin Gage snagged out of the sky for a huge first down. Blake connected with Gage again on a slant on third and goal from the four for a touchdown strike a short while later. Overall, the quarterback play through most of the game was unspectacular at best. GRADE: C-

Running Backs

Thomas Jones (12/62) started and played until early in the second quarter. He needed 27 yards to join Walter Payton as the only Bear running back to amass 1,300 yards in a season. As he hit the number, he remained in the game for a few more carries. It looked as if he might go backwards as he was stopped for no gain on consecutive plays. Jones then blew past the milestone by following his pulling guard, Terrence Metcalf over left tackle for a 35-yard gain. Adrian Peterson (8/35, 3-30) took over after Jones. He was used a few times as a decoy to split out while handoffs went to Jason McKie. Peterson had a big pickup on one of his first carries. He pass protected well to pick up the all out blitzes the Vikings were throwing at the Bears as the game got out of hand. Cedric Benson (9/35, 1-3) finally returned to action. If there was any question about his being able to take a hit, he answered positively. Benson's highlight came on a 6-yard gain on third and one. He also did a nice job of breaking a tackle on a pass he caught in the flat. Jason McKie (3/22) was a bit uneven in his blocking, but took advantage of the carries he was given, ripping off big chunks of yardage on separate occasions. GRADE: B


Muhsin Muhammad was given the day off. Justin Gage (6-67, TD) stepped up to have one of his best games of the season. Apart from the touchdown, the 22-yarder from Orton, and the pass along the sideline to pick up the third down from Blake, he still had one catch that was even better. Gage's best reception was on a slant from Orton that was thrown to his back shoulder. He pulled it back over the top and held on as he was being tackled. Bernard Berrian (1-7) was a frequent deep target but only for Orton's misfires. He delivered a block to spring Gage on a screen. Eddie Berlin (2-9) saw action but was not a factor. Tight end Gabe Reid (1-5) made a key reception to convert a fourth and one. The receivers made the most of the opportunities they had. GRADE: B

Offensive Line

The starters only played into the second quarter. While they were in, they held their own. Sticking out most was right guard Terrence Metcalf who returned after a shoulder injury. Metcalf committed a false start early but was the key for Thomas Jones' big run. Metcalf was the only regular among the line who played deep into the game. He allowed a sack in the second half. Backups who played included John St. Clair, Qasim Mitchell, Roberto Garza, Steve Edwards and eventually Lennie Friedman. Edwards, who has played mostly guard the last few seasons, was forced into action at right tackle, where he struggled. He allowed a sack and committed a false start. Garza and St. Clair also jumped offsides. The Vikings had their starters going against the Bears' backups. For the offense, this was where it showed up the most. The line played poorly as a group and was beset by numerous mental mistakes. Run blocking was good (33/154) but pass blocking was poor. GRADE: D+


Defensive Line

The Bears didn't play defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and tackle Ian Scott. Alex Brown started and had a big tackle for a loss at the beginning of the game. Before being replaced, Tommie Harris had a pressure and a key stop on a screen. Known for having great defensive line depth, this was supposed to be a big opportunity for players like Michael Haynes, Israel Idonije Alfonso Boone and Tank Johnson. Johnson's only contributions were jumping offsides and missing Mewelde Moore (6/57, 6-44, TD) at the line so he could break off a big run. Michael Haynes tried to arm tackle Michael Bennett (6/82, TD, 3-23). The missed tackle resulted in a 17-yard gain. Alfonso Boone made a couple of plays but was so gassed he looked like he needed an oxygen tank and an iron lung by halftime. Israel Idonije had a pass deflection and a tackle for a loss at the end of the third quarter. How seriously did the Bears' coaches take this game? Reserve offensive lineman Lennie Friedman played a large number of snaps at defensive tackle prior to his playing offensive guard. He registered a pressure in the second half. Much like the offensive line, the defensive line was noticeably outclassed by the Vikings' first stringers. The Viking line had allowed 54 sacks coming into this game. The Bears rarely even pressured Brad Johnson, who was not sacked. Johnson (27-40-247, 2 TD) responded by carving up the Bears' secondary like a holiday roast. GRADE: D-


Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher started and were quickly removed for backups Jeremy Cain and Brendon Ayanbadejo (4 tackles). Leon Joe (7 tackles) started for Hunter Hillenmeyer, and played the entire game. None of the Bears' linebackers seemed to have a remedy for stopping the running of the Vikings (18/149). This came after Brad Johnson hit numerous passes between the linebackers and safeties. Leon Joe and Jeremy Cain (6 tackles) had a couple of decent plays, but overall there weren't many good things happening on this side of the ball. The linebackers were not an exception. GRADE: D


Nathan Vasher dropped a chance at an interception in the early moments. He didn't play much more after that. Mike Brown was given the day off. Chris Harris started but was also taken out early. Charles Tillman didn't dress and was replaced by Chris Thompson (5 tackles). Safety Brandon McGowan hurt his knee at the end of the first quarter and did not return. Mike Green (4 tackles, PD) played most of the game and struggled. He missed several tackles, including a screen pass to Travis Taylor (5-68, TD) that happened right in front of him. Green was not alone in missing tackles. Safety Todd Johnson (6 tackles) had a rare hit on Brad Johnson but also added a missed tackle at the end of the first half. Cornerbacks Daven Holly and Chris Thompson saw considerable action. Thompson was picked on early and often by Johnson. He missed tackles on several hitch routes and failed to play the ball on a touchdown pass to Taylor at the end of the first half. He was unable to bring down Mewelde Moore on his touchdown. Holly couldn't tackle Moore in the flat either on the play, and either took a horrid angle or completely backed off on a tackling attempt on Bennett's 61-yard touchdown run. Rashied Davis (6 tackles) saw action as well but wasn't picked on very often. GRADE: D-


Robbie Gould made his only official field goal attempt, connecting from 21 yards out. He also hit a 53-yarder that was taken off the board because of a holding penalty on Roberto Garza. His kickoffs were good, including a touchback. Brad Maynard didn't have a good day punting, and had a rare blocked punt (it appeared to come through Jason McKie). However, he kept a first half drive alive by completing a pass to Adrian Peterson for a beautiful fake punt to convert a fourth down. Rashied Davis was very busy returning kickoffs, averaging just under 24 yards on his six returns. Jerry Azumah was not active. Bernard Berrian had a good punt return on his only chance. Coverage was solid. GRADE: C


The main debate was and will still be whether or not the Bears should have played Rex Grossman at all. It will also be whether or not they should have played more of their starters, and played them deeper into the game. What's lost by this discussion is how great the coaches have done all year to put the Bears into this position in the first place. Arguments could be made on both sides in terms of getting Grossman reps in game action versus keeping him healthy. However, the final results included some embarrassing moments for a proud season. How the Bears respond in two weeks will be very telling. Do they take the embarrassment forward and allow them to fester and carry over into their first playoff game, or do they allow them to fuel their fire so they work that much harder these next two weeks to get things right? People will want to extract some meaning from this "meaningless" game. Without a doubt, whatever meaning is drawn will have to wait two more weeks to be given credibility. The fake punt was a great call. Since the substitutions had little to do with the game being played, the players should have been better prepared to step up and execute. The vast number of mental mistakes reflects badly on the coaching. GRADE: D

Justin Gage
Thomas Jones
Rashied Davis

Mike Green
Daven Holly
Steve Edwards
Roberto Garza
Tank Johnson
Chris Thompson

Whatever was closest to Mike Tice when he received word of his firing after the game.

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