By Nick Shepkowski-
(WSCR) Here’s the good, bad and ugly from this week’s Bears-Raiders game.
Tim Jennings – Yes, you’ll look to the 47-yard reception by Louis Murphy in the fourth quarter as being on Jennings (which it was) but he was also the reason that two first-half Raiders drives ended in field goals instead of touchdowns, as he was able to defend well against Chaz Schilens. It was a tough play on him late by Murphy, but couple that with safety help not being where it should have been (Conte), and it was a pretty good day again by Jennings.
Kicking Game – Both Adam Podlesh and Robbie Gould deserve props after strong showings in Oakland. Sure, Shane Lechler proved why he’s the best punter in the game, but Podlesh was plenty strong in averaging 45 yards per punt, while the coverage team allowed just one yard on five punts all day. Gould making good on both long field goals shouldn’t be ignored either, as the Bears have one of the best kicking combinations in the game today (as does Oakland, obviously).
Marion Barber – For at least the second week in a row, it was Marian Barber looking better in the Bears backfield than Matt Forte. Sure, they didn’t run the same plays with Barber getting more leads called for him than Forte, but Barber isn’t afraid to simply hit the hole and not dance around, unlike Forte the last couple outings. I would like to see more leads called for Forte as it seems to me he would benefit from that.
Johnny Knox – Is there a more frustrating player to watch than Johnny Knox? He’ll go out and make a play like he did on his 81-yard reception from Hanie, or like he did in both of his receptions that set up the Bears second touchdown of the day. He’ll also have brutal drops (which we saw two of Sunday) that will prevent his team from picking up first downs and extending drives. Props to him for bouncing back after a brutal drop early, but he always seems to have a mistake that brutally costs his team, just like falling last week on the interception that resulted in Jay Cutler’s broken thumb.
Matt Forte – Over half of his rushing yards came on a 33-yard run as he went just 26 yards on 11 carries outside of that. It’s okay to have a short average if you’re breaking off long runs more than once a game, but Forte has been under 100 total yards each of the last three games and is starting to look like something is off a bit. With Cutler out for extended time, it’s important Forte gets going and the sooner the better for the Bears.
Earl Bennett – Sure, he’s been known as “Jay’s Target” but was he even in uniform Sunday? Targeted four times but pulling in just one reception for five yards, it shows that Earl is going to have trouble getting the ball with a weak-armed quarterback like Hanie trying to get him the ball.
Chris Conte – Targeted early on the first drive and not getting over on the late, long pass to Louis Murphy summed up Conte’s day. After being praised his first few outings, Conte hasn’t looked very strong the last two weeks.
Caleb Hanie – Again, credit due to a guy who flat out stunk early on but bounced back well and made things interesting. But, he still stunk early. He’s a backup quarterback and his ceiling isn’t very high but with three interceptions and not knowing when to simply throw the ball away instead of throwing into coverage or stepping out of bounds is inexcusable. Hanie isn’t being asked to win many games for the Bears but they can’t afford the screw ups that ultimately cost them Sunday’s contest in Oakland. Despite making throws as the game went on, for the entire first half Hanie looked like the guy you expect, who threw only 14 regular season passes coming in. Oh, and knowing how to properly spike the ball wouldn’t hurt, either.
2nd and 1 Screen Pass – What has happened when the Bears have tried that throwback to Kellen Davis this year? A Cutler misfire against Atlanta that could have been a touchdown. With how open Davis was in that game makes it no surprise that Oakland had that play scouted out and why it resulted in an interception this time around. Part of it is on Hanie for the god-awful throw that should have been thrown to an uncatchable spot, but Martz doesn’t escape blame for the decision to run the play either. When guys like me see exactly what’s coming, I’m sure Oakland defenders were jumping at the bit to make a play, seeing as they probably saw that play on film long ago. It’s a good thing Aaron Curry stopped blocking Lance Louis on the return (about the only thing Curry did wrong all day), otherwise it would have been a pick-6.
So the Bears now sit 7-4 with 5 games left to play. Even with Caleb Hanie under center, it’s a winnable game next week with Kansas City coming to Soldier Field. It will either be Tyler Palko (terrible) or Kyle Orton (first start in a new offense) guiding the Chiefs, and a very winnable game for the Bears. I’m not worried about the Bears the rest of the regular season after watching today, not because I’m overly confident in Caleb Hanie, but because there are a lot of bad teams remaining on the Bears schedule.
Kansas City, Denver, Seattle and Minnesota combine to be 16-28 after week 12. Win four games against those teams and the Bears will still make the playoffs, something I fully expect them to do even if Cutler isn’t able to return during the regular season. So, please, with as bad as Hanie was at times Sunday, can we stop with the calls for Nathan Enderle and Josh McCown to get game time?