First Look: The Chicago Bears

They're one of the NFC's three remaining undefeated teams, and they've done it with an effective passing attack disguising a subpar running game, and a killer young defense. Oh…you thought we were talking about the Seahawks? Nope – these are the 2006 Chicago Bears, who will welcome Seattle's best to Soldier Field this Sunday for a real battle. Here's a first look at the Seahawks' next opponent.

Muhsin Muhammad had game bests of nine catches and 118 receiving yards, and after three games he leads the Bears with 19 catches for 279 yards, which is on pace for 101 catches and 1,488 yards.

But Muhammad isn't the only receiving threat in the Bears' offense. He hasn't caught a touchdown pass yet, while wide receiver Bernard Berrian (12 catches, 208 yards) and tight end John Gilmore have two apiece, and tight end Desmond Clark (12 catches, 193 yards) and wide receiver Rashied Davis (5 catches, 87 yards) each have one touchdown.

"I think it does a lot for the confidence of the guys on the offense, the other receivers, the running backs, the tight ends," Muhammad said. "Everybody knows that the ball can come to them on any given occasion, and that makes you play harder."

Berrian had six catches for 70 yards against the Vikings, and Davis caught the game-winning 24-yard touchdown.

"Eventually there's going to be some games where they may not be able to get the ball to me the way they want to," Muhammad said. "Just like today, I could be the decoy, and Rashied could make the big touchdown, or Bernard. It really makes it hard to defense me when you're balanced, and that's what we're trying to accomplish."

According to coach Lovie Smith, it worked on Davis' first NFL touchdown, which gave the Bears a 19-16 victory.

"I think they were definitely thinking about the ball going to elsewhere," Smith said. "Moose had (118) yards, but that's why you need a third receiver to step up at this point."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Having outscored their first two opponents 60-7, the Bears weren't really battle tested until Sunday. "I told them last (Saturday) night in our meeting that we hadn't had any adversity yet, but it's going to come," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "I said, 'Hopefully not (Sunday), but if it does come, we'll see how we handle it,' and we had a lot of it."

The results were inconclusive, quarterback Rex Grossman threw 2 interceptions and the Bears committed 10 penalties for 82 yards. But the bottom line is an unblemished record, and Grossman (23 of 41 for 278 yards) threw for more than 260 yards for the third week in a row, something he hadn't accomplished in his first three NFL seasons.

"At times we did some good things," Turner said. "But we did some things execution-wise that if we continue to do, we're not going to win. We've got to clean all that up. The positive on it is we've got guys making plays. We can correct the mental errors and the execution errors as long as we've got guys making plays. They've got a lot of heart, obviously, to keep battling, keep fighting. It's what we've been saying all along to stay the course, and stick with it."

--The Bears drove to the Vikings' 24-yard line on the final play of the first half but, with no timeouts left, were unable to get the field-goal unit on the field and the ball snapped before time expired.
The Bears frittered away a timeout prior to Robbie Gould's 41-yard first-quarter field goal, when left tackle John Tait, who missed a couple snaps with a shoulder injury, was late getting on the field.

"We didn't know (his condition) for sure," coach Lovie Smith said. "He came back out a little bit later on. Those are some of the things we have to clean up. We didn't handle that well."

--Backup running back Cedric Benson didn't play one snap Sunday after carrying 21 times for 59 yards the first two weeks, but offensive coordinator Ron Turner doesn't believe he'll have a problem keeping the anxious second-year player motivated. "He knows he'll get his turn, and he's practicing really well," Turner said of the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft. "He's had good weeks of practice and he knows we're going to go to him."

Starter Thomas Jones had another sub-par game, rushing for 54 yards on 18 carries as the Bears' run game continues to struggle. Jones has 181 yards for 60 carries (3.0-yard average) on the season and, as a team, the Bears are averaging just 2.7 yards per carry (249 yards on 91 attempts), while their opponents have averaged 4.0 yards per carry. The Vikings rushed for 97 yards on 24 attempts (a 4.0-yard average).

--DT Tommie Harris, in addition to forcing the fumble that set up the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter, had his third sack in the past two weeks, the only one the Bears had all day.

--QB Rex Grossman threw for 278 yards, the third straight week he's thrown for more than 260, although he had never reached that mark in his first three seasons. He also threw the first fourth-quarter touchdown of his four-year career.

--RB Thomas Jones managed just 54 yards on 18 carries and remained stuck at a 3.0-yard average for the season with 181 yards on 60 carries.

--RB Cedric Benson didn't play a single snap after getting 21 carries (for 59 yards) in the first two games.

--P Brad Maynard had a gross average of 50.7 yards and a net of 45.3.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus --
QB Rex Grossman was intercepted twice -- once on a ridiculous pass that was returned seven yards for a TD on the first play of the fourth quarter -- and he probably should have been picked off twice more. But he shrugged off the adversity and threw a perfect strike to Rashied Davis for a game-winning, 24-yard TD with 1:53 left. Muhsin Muhammad continued to catch everything in his vicinity. He had nine receptions for 118 yards in what continues to be an outstanding season. Bernard Berrian (six catches, 70 yards) looks more and more like a legitimate complement to Muhammad each week.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- The excuse of "They were focused on stopping our run game," is getting old after a third straight subpar outing and the worst yet (51 yards on 21 attempts for a 2.4-yard average). Tentative Thomas Jones (54 yards on 18 carries) did little to justify his title of featured back, as backup Cedric Benson failed to take a snap.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Bears were rarely able to pressure Brad Johnson, as the heady veteran got rid of the ball quickly and avoided mistakes. The Bears had just one sack and allowed Johnson to complete 21 of 31 passes but for a modest 194 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- There were an unacceptable number of missed tackles, most of them on RB Chester Taylor, who picked up 74 of the Vikings' 97 yards on 20 carries. Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown, Lance Briggs and Ricky manning all had noticeable whiffs on Taylor.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- PK Robbie Gould went 4-for-4 and is now a perfect 10 for the season. P Brad Maynard launched three kicks high and long for an average of 50.7 yards and a bet of 45.3. Kickoff coverage limited Minnesota to just 19.8 yards on six attempts.

COACHING: C -- Poor time management cost the Bears a chance for a 42-yard FG attempt at the end of the first half. The coaching staff's faith in Rex Grossman after a critical interception was rewarded. Even though there was time enough to run, Grossman was allowed to throw the ball on 13 of the next 17 plays after his second interception was returned for a score, and the result was a come-from-behind victory.


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