As a team, the Bears get a B+ for their 31-30, nail-biting victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field. The rationale is simple.
After two weeks, there are only eight undefeated teams in the NFL. The Seahawks, Saints, Patriots, Dolphins, Texans, Broncos and Chiefs join the Bears at 2-0.
You can argue there is little doubt Seattle, New England, Houston and Denver belong among the NFL’s elite and have earned As or A-s. But are the Bears, New Orleans, Miami and Kansas City as good as or better than the 1-1 49ers, Packers, Falcons and or Ravens? And are the Bears definitely better than New Orleans and Kansas City?
I’d say, at 2-0 and based on the resistance they’ve gotten from Cincinnati and Minnesota, B+ is where the Bears belong.
Remember last week, I mentioned those Jay Cutler moments on the Bears quarterback’s report card. The fourth-quarter comeback and particularly the final touchdown toss to Martellus Bennett were A+ material. And Cutler’s poise in the pocket and comfort in Marc Trestman’s offense have been very impressive.
But there never has been a quarterback A that I know of that included two picks and a fumble returned for a TD. I like most of what I’ve seen of Cutler so far this year, but those “moments” make him a B again this week.
Matt Forte had a really nice day against the Vikings, too. His 30 touches on 19 rushes and 11 receptions probably is even better than Trestman hoped for, and 161 yards of total offense is a great day’s work. But, like Cutler, his A became a B when he had the ball stripped from his arms in the fourth quarter. You just can’t do that and win consistently.
Tight ends get a B, as well. I know, I know, Martellus Bennett gets an A+, absolutely. But Trestman’s offense requires two and prefers three, and for the Bears, Bennett still just makes one.
I’ve got a B- for the offensive line this week. Please remember, folks, that’s a pretty good grade and for a Bears O-line, it’s very good. Watch the tape and you’ll see that, while the kids continue to play well, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills each made a few more mistakes than they did against the Bengals, and Jermon Bushrod had his hands full with Jared Allen all afternoon.
The defensive line gets a C, and that might be generous. The one positive was their gap control, which did help the linebackers earn the best grade of the day. But Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Corey Wootton each managed only one tackle and all Shea McClellin could notch was an assist. Pass rush was nonexistant.
The linebackers get an A-, actually A+ for Lance Briggs, A- for James Anderson and a B- for D.J. Williams. Briggs is playing as well as he ever has while Williams still is finding his way, but the job they did on Adrian Peterson was a gem and probably the difference in the game.
I’m giving the secondary a B because of Tim Jennings’ 44-yard interception return for a touchdown, which was the perfect answer to Brian Robison’s 61-yard fumble return touchdown. Jennings actually played well all day, but Charles Tillman was not the factor he was against the Bengals and the safeties continue to struggle in pass coverage.
Devin Hester gets an A- and the special teams get a C+. Hester’s only minus was a couple of punts he should have fielded and didn’t, but he was brilliant returning kicks and the Bears don’t win without him.
His special teams teammates get credit for their work on the kickoff returns, but you can’t open a game allowing a 105-yard touchdown.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him a firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUB ARKUSH'S 3-POINT STANCE
1. Through two Sundays of the regular season, Julius Peppers has been invisible on the Bears defense. According to Marc Trestman, Peppers was sick against the Vikings. "He was not healthy yesterday, he wouldn't say it but in his defense, yeah, I don't know that he had the energy to play as hard as he possibly could." We should take Trestman at his word, but that doesn't explain Peppers in the Bengals game. Is Peppers bothered by the knee/hamstring problem he had in training camp? Is there something else? Or will he show up in Pittsburgh? He definitely bears watching.
2. Nate Collins was the Bears' best defensive lineman against the Vikings, forcing a fumble and racking up three tackles. He actually was the only D-lineman who really showed up on the tape. And the Bears lack of a pass rush is becoming a legitimate concern.
3. Trestman talked about working on the ground game against the Vikings, but the Bears ran less. Against Cincinnati, Matt Forte had 19 carries and Michael Bush had six. Against the Vikings, Forte had 19 and Bush two. Jay Cutler scrambled three times in each game and Alshon Jeffrey had two end arounds against Minnesota.
– Hub Arkush, email@example.com