By Laurence Holmes-
(WSCR) “Definitely not a passing grade tonight.” – Lovie Smith
Lovie Smith didn’t pull any punches when expressing how he felt about the Bears performance vs. the Giants. It’s not about winning and losing in a preseason game, but it is about improvement. There were some parts of the team that did get better, but there were others that had a setback. Here’s what I saw:
The starting offensive line played a very solid game. It looked like it took some time for J’Marcus Webb to get settled. He was coming out of his stance early and was hit with a false start penalty, but in a game where both he and Gabe Carimi needed to show up in pass protection situations, they did. Because of that protection, Jay Cutler was able to make three throws of 30 yards or more. He had more time to survey the field and an actual pocket to step up into.
“They were much improved. I think they’re getting more and more confident with each practice and each game. I think we took a step in the right direction.” Cutler said.
“Protection was a lot better tonight.” Smith said.
The problem was that the Bears had red zone chances that were marred with mistakes and penalties.
“We gotta be able to finish drives.” Smith said.
Roy Williams has struggled to find a rhythm for the entire camp and Cutler tried to get him the ball early. Williams missed a few balls that you’d expect a starting wideout to make.
“He’s getting there. We’re trying to get catch him up to speed and get him in shape and get him where he needs to be,” Cutler said.
Devin Hester made a big play down the sideline for 37 yards, but it seemed like it was a play that could have produced more. Hester had some red zone chances that probably should have been converted.
The Bears didn’t produce anything significant in the run game and got stoned with Marion Barber in a goal line situation. That’s a net negative from last week, when the Bears did a nice job running the ball and converting first downs with the run.
Defensively, there were some struggles. The Bears had missed assignments and missed tackles.
“Lot of negative plays. We had a of negative things to talk about.” Smith said.
The Bears had problems stopping the run. It’s best exemplified, by Major Wright putting his head down and getting juked by Brandon Jacobs for a touchdown. Wright, who is usually more of sure tackler, will surely see that play over and over again this week.
In pass coverage the Bears defensive backs were a victim of their size. The Giants attacked D.J. Moore and Corey Graham by trying to go over the top of them. They were successful. The Bears also didn’t create the type of pressure to make Eli Manning uncomfortable, although Julius Peppers was getting into the backfield, no matter who they put in front of him. Henry Melton and Amobi Okoye didn’t have the same impact as they did against Buffalo.
There were a couple of good things defensively. Brian Iwuh and Nick Roach had decent games. Tim Jennings is a physical corner who isn’t afraid to come up and make a play.
Special teams struggled all night. The coverage unit gave up big returns. The punt team had a kick blocked inside their own 20, right before the half. The Giants were able to turn that into seven points. In that situation, you have to turn the field over and hope your defense can keep the opponent off the scoreboard. Robbie Gould missed a rushed 55-yarder. That’s probably out of his range, but the Bears looked out of sync lining up. I imagine there will be a lot of corrections made in the third phase this week.
There was a small nugget that I hope you caught at the end of the first half. With :33 left and the Bears on their own 23. In a departure from usual strategy, the Bears actually wanted to use that time to try and get some points. They let Cutler try and make some plays down the field. He hit Earl Bennett for a big gainer and got a roughing the passer penalty at the end of it. Dane Sanzenbacher caught a pass (and probably should have gotten out of bounds) to get the Bears in plus territory to at least give Gould a shot.
My hope is that sequence goes a long way to changing Smith’s overall philosophy on how he approaches end of half situations. Usually, with the starting field position and the small amount of time left, Smith would choose to kneel down, go to the locker room and regroup. I liked that he was aggressive and gave his offense chances to make plays and maybe steal some points before the half.
The Bears will now have a quick turnaround to get ready for the Titans on Saturday. They will actually put in a game-plan and increase the amount of time that the starters play. There are plenty of things to clean up before Saturday, but at least the offensive line stabilized. Let’s see if that can continue when the opposing team schemes to attack your weaknesses.
We’ll do the mailbag tomorrow. So send your questions to my email: Laurence.Holmes@cbsradio.com. Follow me on Twitter: @lholmes670. And check me out tonight on 670 The Score from 6-8:35p. We will have plenty of Bears talk on the show and take your calls.