Report card vs. Bears

Coaching, pass offense and pass defense receive high marks

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus
Brett Favre possibly ended his decorated career in a blaze of glory, throwing for 285 yards and a touchdown to Donald Driver in a key game-opening drive.

Favre carved up a short-handed Bears secondary and was at his finest in the first half with 209 passing yards while converting six of 10 third-down chances. The line gave him ample time to find an open receiver in the zone coverage. Ruvell Martin (seven receptions, 118 yards) and Carlyle Holiday (five catches, 87 yards) rose to the occasion, particularly in the third-down situations, with Driver slowed by a shoulder injury and rookie starter Greg Jennings back in Green Bay for the birth of his child.

Martin, though, was passive on a slant route in the first quarter, allowing Nathan Vasher easy access to the Bears' only interception of Favre.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B
Ahman Green eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau for a record-setting sixth season with the team, but came up 45 yards short of catching Jim Taylor before the end of the season for the career franchise record for rushing yards.< Green was held to 71 yards in 22 carries. He ran hard most of the night but had few creases to hit on cutbacks.

Vernand Morency was stymied until he ripped off gains of 10 and 15 yards in a clock-killing final series to finish with a respectable average of 4.1 yards in nine carries.

PASS DEFENSE: A
It didn't matter what quarterback the Bears used because Rex Grossman and Brian Griese were victimized for a season-high five interceptions by an active group in coverage. Four of those turnovers came on third down, including touchdown returns of 55 yards by safety Nick Collins and 30 yards by nickel back Patrick Dendy against the pathetic Grossman in the first half.

Collins completed the big heist with a pick of Griese in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Charles Woodson and linebacker A.J. Hawk also had an interception.

The front four, especially tackle Corey Williams and end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, applied constant harassment. Dendy and safety Marquand Manuel, however, shirked coverage responsibilities that allowed Mark Bradley to get behind them for a 75-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.

RUSH DEFENSE: C
Thomas Jones, with nine carries for 27 yards, was a non-factor in a condensed starting role for a Bears offense bent on preservation for the postseason. Collins and linebacker Nick Barnett were quick to shed blockers and keep Jones from generating anything on runs to the outside. The added exposure for Cedric Benson, though, caused fits for the defense. Benson was a load up the middle, racking up 109 yards in only 13 attempts. Linebacker Brady Poppinga missed badly on a would-be cutback tackle, springing Benson for a 30-yard gain in the first quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus
Perhaps the top key to the game was how much of an impact Bears return specialist Devin Hester would have on the outcome. He had zilch, thanks to a combination of hanging kicks by Dave Rayner and Jon Ryan on punts, and outstanding coverage.

Hester returned two punts for a total of 1 yard and averaged only 19.8 yards on kickoff returns before he left the game in the second half with a leg injury. However, the punt-return unit was caught off-guard on a 34-yard completion from Brad Maynard to Adrian Peterson deep in Chicago territory in the third quarter. Rayner struggled with the conditions, missing an extra-point attempt with a carom off the left upright and hooking a 32-yard field-goal attempt horribly wide left.

COACHING: A
Despite several pre-kickoff scenarios that didn't go the team's way in trying to sneak into the playoffs, head coach Mike McCarthy saw to it that his players never lost sight of the No. 1 priority to win the game at Chicago, end the season on a four-game uptick for an 8-8 record and take a sense of accomplishment into the off-season.

It was evident from the game-opening 75-yard drive that culminated with Favre's touchdown pass to Driver that there was a purpose to the otherwise meaningless game. The defense was especially dialed in on completing its late-season revival.

Bob Sanders, presumably no longer a lame-duck coordinator, was on the money with the coverage schemes to foil both Grossman and Griese. Special teams coordinator Mike Stock also had one of his finer games in an up-and-down season, putting the clamps on Hester.


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