By Nick Shepkowski-
(WSCR) It doesn’t get categorized as “pretty” but 2-2 looks much better a quarter of the way through the regular season than 1-3 would. The running game was much improved compared to the last two weeks, but there were still plenty of weak spots on both sides of the ball where the Bears need to improve.
Matt Forte: Forte had 205 rushing yards on 25 carries and an additional 25 yards receiving. Forte is winning big on his gamble to bet on himself in regards to his contract, even with the lack of running the Bears were able to do against the Saints and Packers. He joins Walter Payton and Gale Sayers as the only Bears to ever rush for 200-plus yards in a game after his 205-yard attack. Game-ball type effort.
Devin Hester: A huge kickoff return that was a Chris Conte-block on the kicker away from going for six and a punt return for a touchdown. He wasn’t much of a receiver today but his special teams play made all the difference in the world. Without his performance, the Bears don’t win today.
Brian Urlacher: It wasn’t an all-world type outing for Urlacher but he had a strong game — played better than any other defender (which isn’t saying much). He was key in coverage in the eventual pick-six by D.J. Moore and was the best against the run today, despite yet another weak showing from the defensive tackles.
Lance Louis: We saw early on how badly Frank Omiyale was getting beat at right tackle, the few times the Bears decided to pass in the first half. After an injury to Chris Spencer at guard, we saw Louis come in at tackle as the line was shifted around, and you saw the pressure from the right side that Omiyale had been allowing die down.
Julius Peppers: He had a blocked field goal that went on to be key but had a very quiet afternoon on defense. Peppers was double-teamed at times, but even in one-on-one situations against Jordan Gross, Peppers wasn’t causing pressure or making plays.
Jay Cutler: The running game was there so Cutler wasn’t given many opportunities to throw, but when called upon, he was far from special. Just 9-for-17 on the day was Cutler, but after a brutal interception and throwing the ball too high on a way-too-consistent basis, you can tell Jay is over-thinking things a bit and simply not making throws.
Frank Omiyale: The Bears ran well to the right side early in the game, and Omiyale must be given some credit for that, but his pass blocking was terrible on the few chances he had, allowing a sack and heavy pressure more than once. It was obvious Cutler was again rattled when he dropped back, and even though not all of that is Omiyale’s fault, Omiyale didn’t at all help this problem going forward today.
Brandon Meriweather: Burnt bad on the long pass to Steve Smith that set the Panthers up for their first touchdown of the day. It was obvious that Carolina’s gameplan was to attack the Meriweather/Tim Jennings side, and No. 31 was slow getting to his deep half often. I’m starting to see why New England didn’t bother keeping him around despite their issues in the secondary.
Defensive Tackles: Yet again we saw no push generated by any Bears defensive tackle, allowing Cam Newton to step up in the pocket with ease and extend far too many plays. Because of this, the Bears were forced to blitz more than they would have liked, which has never been a good sign for any Lovie Smith-coached team. Henry Melton made a big play late in sniffing out a Cam Newton roll out, but for the most part, the tackles were weak against both the pass and run.
Time Out Usage: In the second half, the Bears were out of timeouts with 6:41 to play. The last one being called on a fourth down, just before Robbie Gould kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend the lead to four. Had the defense not made the stop, wouldn’t it have been nice to have an extra timeout stored, take the delay of game and kick a 29-yard field, which still would have been a chip-shot for Gould?
The Bears improve to 2-2 on the year in a game that was a must-win, no matter how few Bears would go as far as saying that this week. A tough game awaits next week in Detroit against the 4-0 Lions on Monday Night Football, but there are plenty of winnable games remaining on the Bears schedule to make a run at the playoffs. It may not have been the prettiest of wins, and the Bears aren’t looking anything like the elite teams of the league, but getting to 2-2 is a positive step for a team that was in dire need of a victory.
Follow Nick Shepkowski on Twitter (@Shep670).