Chicago Bears Week 12 Report Card
Chicago Bears Week 12 Report Card
There were many concerns for the Chicago Bears coming into Week 12. The uncertainty of whether quarterback Jay Cutler was going to play, and the sudden changes to the offensive line had Bears fans worried about Chicago’s run during the latter part of the regular season.
Fortunately, everything worked in the Bears’ favor versus the Minnesota Vikings, with Chicago coming away with a 28-10 victory this past Sunday afternoon.
The Bears’ defense did nothing out of the ordinary. They contained the best running back in the league, sacked Minnesota’s quarterback twice, and caused three turnovers in the process.
Offensively, with Cutler back under center, Chicago looked like the well-oiled machine that they were earlier in the season. Even more important, the offensive line, despite the changes earlier in the week and the injuries during the game, played very well.
With the other three NFC North teams losing this past week, the Bears are once again alone at the top in the divisional standings. This was only the third divisional opponent Chicago has faced so far this season, meaning that three of the final five games on the remainder of the Bears’ schedule are NFC North games.
The return of Cutler, the bold moves on the offensive line, and the victory over the Vikings couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bears.
It’s only fitting that such good news is followed by good grades. Here is a breakdown of how all phases faired in this Week 12 NFC North battle.
The numbers weren’t spectacular, but Jay Cutler proved to everyone how important he is to the Bears. Cutler finished the game completing 23 of 31 pass attempts for 188 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The seven-year veteran did finish the first half completing 15 of his first 17 passes, but wasn’t as accurate in the second half. Cutler’s awareness in the pocket helped extend some passing plays. One in particular was his touchdown pass in the second quarter with less than two minutes remaining. Another was a pass that fell incomplete in the end zone, but drew a pass interference call, which set up Chicago’s second touchdown of the game.
For the first time in a while, Chicago stayed committed to the running game, and actually had more rushing attempts than passing attempts. The Bears called 36 running plays, and as a result amassed 103 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Running back Michael Bush had 21 of those carries for 60 yards and both of Chicago’s rushing scores. Fellow running back Matt Forte finished the game with 42 yards on 14 carries, but left the game midway through the third quarter with an ankle injury. The Bears’ running game didn’t have any big chunks of yardage. Their longest run from scrimmage was eight yards. It was the production of the running game that resulted in Chicago winning the time of possession battle by 15 minutes.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
As usual, wide receiver Brandon Marshall was Cutler’s primary target. Marshall grabbed 12 of Cutler’s 23 completions for 92 yards. With that yardage total, Marshall became the first Bears pass catcher to top 1,000 yards receiving since 2002, and is on pace of shattering numerous single-season Bears records. However, Marshall didn’t get a chance to get in the end zone, but tight end Matt Spaeth did make a spectacular 13-yard touchdown grab before halftime. Wide receiver Earl Bennett chipped in with four catches of his own for 45 yards. As great a connection Cutler and Marshall have been, I still think that depending so much on just one person in the passing game is still a bad thing, and is something that will eventually cause a problem.
This was the biggest question mark looming over the head of the Bears in this game. The offensive line answered any questions regarding how they were going to perform by only allowing one sack in the entire game. Actually, that sack happened only because Cutler’s foot was stepped on early in the first quarter. The offensive line endured even more during the game. Right guard Lance Louis suffered a season-ending knee injury, and had to be replaced by recently demoted right tackle Gabe Carimi. The Bears placed Carimi at right guard, a position that he never played, and did an admirable job.
The defensive line set the tone on the first play from scrimmage with a sack on the Vikings’ quarterback, and finished the game with two sacks. The Bears’ defensive line continues to rack up the majority of their team’s sacks. Even though Minnesota rushed for over 100 yards against the Bears, Chicago held the Vikings’ ground attack in check in the first half, when the game was still close. The defensive line’s six-man rotation contributed in keeping the Vikings’ ground attack out of the end zone and running at will, something that the Bears struggled with in last week’s loss.
Chicago’s linebackers combined for a total of 18 tackles for the game. Other than forcing a fumble early in the first quarter, the Bears’ linebacking corps had a fairly quiet day. They did allow Minnesota’s tight end to snatch five receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown, which was scored in the red zone during the third quarter of play. However, they were a major part in containing the best running back in the league, and kept him out of the end zone for the duration of the game along with their defensive line. For the sake of the Bears, I hope that the solid play of Chicago’s linebackers is the same when they square off against this same offense in two weeks.
Chicago’s secondary did an excellent job on the back end of the defense against the Vikings. The Bears’ defensive backfield held the Vikes’ quarterback to just 159 yards passing, and a completion percentage of 51.1. In addition to the low number of passing yards allowed, Chicago’s defensive backs added yet another interception to their now league-leading 20 picks, and also added two fumble recoveries to their 33 overall takeaways (which is also tops in the league). The Vikings’ receivers didn’t get a completion of no more than 13 yards all game, and held all Minnesota receivers to a total of 74 receiving yards.
The only downside to Chicago’s special teams performance versus the Vikings was that they allowed their second blocked field goal of the season. What made up for that was the Bears getting a blocked field goal of their own when Minnesota was in the red zone during the second quarter. After Michael Bush’s second touchdown of the game, the Bears saw an opening on the extra point attempt and decided to run the ball in for a two-point conversion instead, catching the Vikings totally off guard. However, Chicago didn’t have many opportunities in the kick return or punt return game.
The simple fact that the Bears’ coaching staff got the entire team focused and ready to play after the embarrassing Week 11 defeat speaks volumes. In addition to that, to make drastic changes along the offensive line, and to be able to deal with injuries to the offensive line during the game shows even more of how good a job Chicago’s coaching staff did this week. The only thing that had me scratching my head was the call for the fake extra point. The Bears really didn’t need it with the commanding lead that they had. Considering the fact that they will play the Vikings again in two weeks on the road in a hostile environment makes me think that Chicago should have saved that trick play.
Follow me on Twitter @ClydeASpeller
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