Monday night games can wreak all kinds of havoc on regular schedules and routines for teams and media.
For the Bears, it meant an extra day off for the players Wednesday. In my case, it was late Tuesday night before I finally could settle down with the clicker and my notebook to do some grading. I hate being a couple of days late, but what I’d hate more is not sharing the Bears’ best report card of the season.
At quarterback, Josh McCown gets my first A+ of the year. He was not perfect, nowhere near it, and it’s easy to spot plays where his arm limits the Bears’ big-play ability, the exact same ability that gives Jay Cutler the ability to be great. But to play and lead as well as McCown did against the Packers in a 27-20 victory at Lambeau Field, and make no costly mistakes, it was an A+ in my book.
Since we’re on a roll, the running backs get my second A+ of the season. With all the angst over the Cutler injury, the Bears will be fine as long as he doesn’t miss more than two or three games. Matt Forte is the guy the Bears can’t afford to lose, much like Aaron Rodgers appears to be the guy for the Packers.
And for all the big numbers he put up against the Pack, it was his 3-yard run on fourth-and-inches in the fourth quarter that I thought was his best run of the year. That play was that close to being stuffed by A.J. Hawk, but Forte saved the moment and maybe the game. The fact that Michael Bush also showed up for the first time this season solidifies this grade.
The receivers and tight ends all get B-. That the team only completed 53.6 percent of its passes is on both McCown and his pass catchers, but one of Marc Trestman’s halftime comments to WBBM radio was they dropped too many passes in the first half.
I’ve got a B+ for the offensive line that might have been an A- if not for the way B.J. Raji dominated in the first 2 1/2 quarters. Other than that, they were very, very good. And let’s give some props to Eben Britton, who technically is lining up at tight end but is really a sixth offensive lineman on about a third of the Bears’ snaps, and a huge part of the group’s success.
The defensive line gets a B. I know, I know, they got five sacks and you want to give them an A. When the defense allows 199 yards rushing, nobody is getting any As. I do have a B++ for Julius Peppers, who was dominant most of the night, and B+ for Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton, but both definitely need to get better.
My job here is to analyze, not cheerlead, and as happy as I am for McClellin, two of his three sacks had more than a little gift wrap on them and there is much work to do.
The linebackers and safeties all get a D. When players did get where they were supposed to be, they got run over by Eddie Lacy with some regularity. And, for the most part, it was a bad night.
The cornerbacks earned a B as they did take Green Bay’s wideouts out of the game.
Special teams have to be a D+. Devin Hester did have one huge punt return of 23 yards that set up the Bears’ third touchdown, but Adam Podlesh’s blocked punt, which is a team breakdown, keyed the Packers’ first TD and changed the momentum.
I haven’t graded the coaches every week, but for Trestman in this one, I’ve got one more A+ to hand out.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.