By Nick Shepkowski-
(WSCR) It wasn’t a game that will go down as an instant-classic, but most importantly the Bears improve to 4-3 entering the bye week and now hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over both the Buccaneers and Falcons, as each of these teams will likely be battling for NFC Wild Card berths this season.
Matt Forte – 5.8 yards per carry for 145 rushing yards and another 38 recieving yards spell another great day for Forte. He was stuffed late on a key third-and-one but was easily the Bears MVP on Sunday. Forte became the first player since 2004 to have 1000 total yards from scrimmage in his teams first seven games.
Roy Williams – Feels really weird putting him here but a he was a pleasant sight for Bears fans this week. One bad drop early but a great adjustment on his touchdown reception on a poorly-thrown Cutler ball and a huge reception late that helped the Bears kill more clock on their final drive. Williams was also seen coming through on a few big blocks downfield on both Forte and Marion Barber runs.
Chris Spencer – Despite some struggles from J’Marcus Webb in pass protection, it was another pretty solid game from the offensive line. The majority of the line played well most of the time, but Chris Spencer could be seen pulling and springing a couple of runs. With a strong game especially from the interior line, I felt Spencer played the best of the bunch.
Falcons 23, Lions 16– The Bears find themselves just one game behind the Lions now in the race for a wild card spot. Sure, if the playoffs started today the Bears would be in but with a home tilt remaining against a Lions team thats suddenly lost two home games in a row, the Bears chances of catching the division rival has increased greatly.
Jay Cutler – We all fell even more in love with him after an impressive showing last Sunday night but Jay didn’t play particularly well this Sunday. A poor throw to Marion Barber out of the backfield and a bad overthrow resulted in Cutler’s two interceptions — both of which played a factor in keeping Tampa Bay in the game longer than they deserved to be.
Chris Harris – He didn’t get to his deep half on the Briscoe touchdown in the fourth quarter, but when Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman was throwing the ball successfully, it was generally in Harris’ half of the field. I still don’t understand the uproar his benching caused a week ago. Harris also dropped a sure pick on a deflected pass, a play that will have to be made against the better teams if this defense that relies so heavlily on turnovers is to survive.
Late Game Play-calling – On the Bears final drive, there were multiple times when offensive coordinator Mike Martz chose to call pass plays when it made more sense to run the ball and burn clock. Luckily, the Talib penalty happened after the Bucs third down stop, and the Bears were able to burn even more clock, but the play-calling by Martz late was brutal. Running the ball on third-and-12 on the last play before the two-minute warning was near comical. Also, despite the success running the ball in the first half Martz ran 12 pass plays to six run plays in the third quarter. It’s safe to say we’re in our final couple of months of the Mike Martz Era in Chicago.
It ends up a victory for the Bears and they enter the bye week 4-3 for the second season in a row. With plenty of winnable games coming up, things are starting to look up a bit more for the Bears after their second win in a row. They haven’t looked truly remarkable since their Week 1 thrashing of Atlanta, but in running the ball better of late and an improved defense, the playoffs don’t seem as far fetched as they did after the Green Bay and New Orleans debacles earlier in the year.
Follow Nick Shepkowski on Twitter (@Shep670).