Making the grade

Quarterbacks: Chris Chandler (10-16-111 1 TD) started and played until late in the 3rd quarter. He made some excellent throws, hitting Booker early in the game up the sideline for big yardage. He had what looked like a sure touchdown up the left sideline that was dropped by Booker. Chandler did better with his reads against blitz pressure, although he did take a sack against Edwards that was again his own fault. Chandler didn't see Dez White come open at mid range when his pass fell incomplete to a well-covered Ahmad Merritt on 4th down. He was nearly intercepted by Claiborne, as well. He took what looked like a borderline late hit from Rogers on his leg late in the third quarter. Jim Miller (21-35-250 1 TD) took over, and after he shook off some rust, led the Bears to victory. Miller hadn't thrown a ball in practice in two weeks. His rustiness was evidenced in a couple third down incompletions that fell far short of the mark, as well as his getting back from center too slowly and tripping his feet over his linemen as well as fumbling a center exchange. He stumbled on a 4th and 20 play, fell to the ground, got up, and delivered a 33-yard strike to Dez White for a crucial 1st down. Miller floated a nice ball to White in the right side of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown pass that White plucked away from the defender. He had several passes that could have been intercepted as well, but for a change, the bounces went the Bears' way. Miller's performance and production was amazing, especially since he was only on the field for about a half of football (part of the third quarter, all of the fourth, and all of overtime). Add to this his lack of practice and his injury, as well as the decimated state of health of the Bear offense, and it was nothing short of miraculous that the Bears were able to rack up close to 300 yards of offense after Miller returned to the lineup. As a unit, Bear quarterbacks went 31-51-361 with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Receivers: Marty Booker (10/157) put up huge numbers, especially grabbing passes up the sidelines in the early going. He also took some huge shots over the middle, shook them off and returned. He could have had a better day, dropping a deep pass up the left sideline from Chandler. He also was flagged for offensive pass interference. Dez White (8/106, TD) really stepped up. When he didn't drag a foot to stay in bounds on a nice over the shoulder catch it appeared he was going to have another poor game. But his snatching the ball out of the air for the touchdown was huge, and he had several other big catches for medium range that were crucial down the stretch. He easily had the finest game of his Bear career. Marcus Robinson's only reception counted for 6 points from 3 yards out. He was flagged for an illegal block when the Bears were in the red zone. Ahmad Merritt (3/24) made some nice catches and moves, but committed a costly turnover when he fumbled the ball. Tight end John Davis dropped a big 4th down pass and then left with an injury. He also allowed a sack to safety Bracy Walker. Dustin Lyman showed some signs of improvement, hauling in 3 passes for 25 yards. He was a target on at least 5 plays. The fumble and drops hurt what could have been some early momentum, but the group turned up big when it mattered most.

Running Backs: Anthony Thomas (14-40, 1/11) had a couple of strong runs in tight situations, but also missed a few cutbacks. He's still missing something. Perhaps he needs to limit his cuts to one per play. He took a short swing pass and ran powerfully for 11 yards up the left sideline. Thomas also fumbled a stacked up sweep out of bounds. Leon Johnson (9-34, 3/27) saw extended time. He's getting a regular rotation of carries, as well as more usage in passing situations. Johnson's recovery of Miller's fumble from center should not be overlooked. He made a one-handed grab of a pass under pressure for a nice gain. In overtime, he allowed a defender to miss him in the backfield and then spun for a 15-yard gain that kept the drive alive. Damion Shelton had a solid game as a lead blocker. Stanley Pritchett took a short pass in the ear hole for an incompletion on 2nd and 8 in overtime. The backs could have played a little better, but didn't turn the ball over and prevented a potential turnover late.

Offensive Line: Through 51 passing attempts, the Bears allowed 3 sacks. Considering how the sacks came, and the health of the offensive line, this was a strong effort. Protection was reasonably good from Gandy at left tackle, a new spot for him. Dogins struggled a bit on the pass against Rogers. He allowed some big pressure there, even on the short drops. Villarrial committed a false start. Kreutz had a better game than his earlier performances. Williams got injured late in the game, and was replaced by Bernard Robertson. Neither performed badly, and thankfully neither committed any penalties. Run blocking appears to be a bit shoddy, but it's been harder to judge since Thomas has not made the same one-cut decisions he made a season ago. Johnson appeared to make a few, but he was just short of making it to the open perimeter. Overall, this was a good game for the line, overcoming a lot of adversity.

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