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Arkush: High grades for Bears' offense

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(H. Rick Bamman)
H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com Chicago's Matt Forte gains a first down against the Dallas Cowboys in the first quarter Monday, December 9, 2013 at Soldier Field.

The Bears’ 45-28 win over the Cowboys on “Monday Night Football” was the game most Bears fans have been waiting for since Marc Trestman was named the team’s head coach.

With 490 yards of total offense, a 73 percent conversion rate on third down, no turnovers and a 36:44-to-23:16 advantage in time of possession, the Bears’ offense played close to the perfect game.

No player on the club was closer to perfection than quarterback Josh McCown. In his fifth start filling in for Jay Cutler, McCown displayed dynamic pocket presence, seemingly with eyes in the back of his head at times and completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns, and he ran three times for 16 yards and another touchdown.

Score McCown an A-. Why the minus?

In a sequence of eight plays between 12:54 and 8:52 of the third quarter, McCown threw seven times, and three of his throws should have been intercepted. Two were just dropped by Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr, respectively, and one was picked off by Sterling Moore but was nullified by a holding call on Carr.

Running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush get A- as well. Forte ran 20 times for 102 yards and caught seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown, while Bush managed eight carries for 38 yards with one catch for a 17-yard touchdown.

Their minus is because the Bears’ short-yardage game failed again.

For the receivers, why not an A- too? McCown did a great job of spreading the ball around with nine targets at Forte, nine at Alshon Jeffery, eight at Brandon Marshall and six to Martellus Bennett.

Earl Bennett caught the only two balls thrown at him, including a 4-yarder for the Bears’ first score.

The other Bennett was dynamic with the ball after the catch, Marshall had another 100-yard game and Jeffery’s 25-yard touchdown catch with 37 seconds remaining in the first half may be the highlight of the 2013 highlight reel and was the turning point of the game.

Marshall also threw a block on Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee that Lee will be seeing in his sleep for a week.

I’ve got a B for the offensive line. The pass protection for McCown was very good most of the night. But the run blocking still leaves a lot to be desired. Matt Slauson, in particular, struggled. And the short-yardage game. ...

The defense is a lot tougher to call.

I’ll start with a C for the defensive line, which abandoned its gaps most of the evening. In spite of the Bears’ lopsided win, the Cowboys still rushed for 198 yards, and the Bears will not be a playoff team if that continues.

After slanting the playing field in Minnesota, Julius Peppers failed to make the stat sheet. Stephen Paea, Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin were all poor to worse. Jeremiah Ratliff did have a nice game, doubling his snaps over last week and getting his first quarterback sack as a Bear.

The linebackers get a D. James Anderson wasn’t horrible, but Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene both appeared to regress rather than improve. Bostic is clearly better suited for the Will-backer spot, while Greene is just flat out guessing on the field, often wrong.

The safeties may have improved to a C-, but neither Major Wright nor Chris Conte is playing well enough to plan on for the future.

Zack Bowman had the best game of anyone on the defense, and Tim Jennings was solid again as the Bears held Dez Bryant to two catches for 12 yards and Jason Witten to one grab for 10, although each had a touchdown.

The special teams get a B-. Robbie Gould was perfect, but a big kickoff return from Dwayne Harris could have been costly.

Finally, an A for coach Marc Trestman and his staff for their best effort of the year under horrible conditions.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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