ANALYSIS: Bears' skill players stand out
The Bears were in the mood to party when they returned home Monday after a blowout win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall posted a message at 2:08 a.m. on his Twitter page asking, “Where can I get a Chicago pizza right now?”
Quirky left tackle J’Marcus Webb hawked T-shirts and interacted with Twitter followers until past 6 a.m.
Cornerback Tim Jennings posted a picture of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sleeping on the flight home from Jacksonville, Fla., but apparently he came to his senses later in the day and took down the photo.
These are fun times for the Bears (4-1), who will have two practices this week before parting ways Wednesday evening for a long weekend. Whenever players sit down to review film of Sunday’s 41-3 win against the Jaguars, more smiles will be on the way.
A winning quarterback must possess sharp football instincts to go along with a good arm, and on Sunday, Jay Cutler showcased his ability to read a defense as well as pick it apart. The Bears faced third-and-5 from their 14-yard line on the second series of the game. Cutler lined up in shotgun formation, surveyed the Jaguars’ defense, and quickly called an audible at the line of scrimmage with a series of hand signals. The result: A draw play to Matt Forte that picked up 10 yards and a first down. Smart decisions such as those helped Cutler to bounce back instead of unravel after throwing an interception on his first pass attempt.
Running backs: A
When little-used running back Armando Allen (five snaps) splits the crease on the left side of the offensive line and makes a safety miss in the open field en route to a 46-yard touchdown run, you know that life is good for the Bears’ running backs. Forte (53 snaps) gained at least five yards on seven of his first nine carries and surpassed rushing 100 yards for the first time this season, while Michael Bush (17 snaps) was quiet out of the backfield but flashed his athleticism in the passing game as he hurdled a pair of defenders in the third quarter.
Marshall (65 snaps) could have made a better effort to break up Cutler’s interception, but give Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox credit for reading the route and making the play. The early turnover did not subdue Marshall, who lined up across from Cox in the fourth quarter, beat the cornerback with a stop-and-go route, and hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch for a 24-yard touchdown. Alshon Jeffery (44 snaps) also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter on a play in which Marshall attracted double coverage from Cox and safety Chris Prosinski.
Tight ends: A
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice continued to use his tight ends as blockers first and receivers second, which is a strategy that he can afford thanks to having so much talent at the team’s skill positions. Kellen Davis (73 snaps) caught a pair of passes in front of Jaguars safety Dawan Landry in the first quarter, while Matt Spaeth (44 snaps) and Kyle Adams (14 snaps) accepted the anonymous dirty work that every good team requires. On both of the Bears’ offensive touchdowns, Spaeth picked up pass rushers to buy time for Cutler.
Offensive line: B
If not for Gabe Carimi’s foolish penalties near the goal line, this unit would have received its second straight “A” grade after a woeful start to the season. Carimi (75 snaps) carelessly committed back-to-back false starts that moved the Bears from the 3-yard line to the 13-yard line on third-and-goal with the score tied in the third quarter. On the bright side, the starting lineup of Webb, Chilo Rachal, Roberto Garza, Lance Louis and Carimi played 100 percent of the snaps on offense and allowed only one sack on 39 pass attempts.
Defensive line: B
After further review, the Bears’ defensive line makes opponents act like frustrated children. Case in point: Bears defensive end Corey Wootton (22 snaps) blew past Jaguars right tackle Cameron Bradfield and came around the edge to knock down Blaine Gabbert for a sack-fumble late in the second quarter. After Julius Peppers (39 snaps) fell on the ball, replays showed Bradfield raising both of his arms and punching them down at the air as if he were a toddler whose parents would not buy him a toy at the mall. Although Wootton shined, fellow linemen Israel Idonije (38 snaps), Henry Melton (38 snaps) and Shea McClellin (27 snaps) failed to register a sack or a tackle for a loss.
It would be too easy to praise Lance Briggs (48 snaps) for showing a blitz, dropping back and picking off a deflected pass for a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown. It would be too easy to praise Brian Urlacher (48 snaps) for clobbering Maurice Jones-Drew on the pass and forcing the deflection. Instead – wait, is it too late? – we’ll praise Nick Roach (25 snaps) for lining up on the far side of the field and breaking up a pass intended for Marcedes Lewis in the left corner of the end zone in the second quarter. Roach is an athlete, too.
Perhaps this is an unfair grade to give a unit that allowed only 129 net passing yards and three points, but Jennings (48 snaps) was burned a few too many times and could give better passing teams an idea for how to target the Bears’ secondary later in the season. Jennings’ worst mistake came on a 34-yard completion from Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts, who juked the reigning NFC defensive player of the month for a big gain down the right sideline. Charles Tillman (51 snaps) picked up his teammate later by picking off Gabbert.
Major Wright (48 snaps) was late to provide help after Shorts beat Jennings down the right sideline, but it’s tough to criticize he and Chris Conte (51 snaps) for much when the Jaguars managed only one passing play for more than 20 yards. Wright and Conte combined for seven tackles, including one apiece in the backfield to throw Jones-Drew for a loss.
Special teams: B
Robbie Gould muted the Jaguars’ kick return game by blasting five of eight kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Meanwhile, Adam Podlesh booted one of three punts inside the 20-yard line and averaged 40.7 yards a kick. The only facet of the Bears’ special teams that remains stuck in neutral is Hester’s punt returns, which tallied 8 yards on four attempts and featured way too much unproductive side-to-side running.
Bears bits: Smith said Monday that he expected injured fullback Evan Rodriguez (knee) and injured receiver Earl Bennett (hand) to be ready for the Bears’ next game Oct. 22 against the Detroit Lions.