By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) Here are my grades following the Bears’ 41-21 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday:
Offense – B+
As they did when Jay Cutler was healthy last season, the Bears put up plenty of points to win. But the unit proved Sunday that it has a different, more potent dynamic this year. While the running game wasn’t overly impressive, the Bears showed off their depth at wide receiver. Brandon Marshall was as advertised and Alshon Jeffery had a nice debut, including a 42-yard touchdown catch. Those two allow Earl Bennett and Devin Hester to be what they really are, good slot receivers. Forte proved he deserved every cent he received in the offseason.
There’s still room for improvement, however. The pass protection was good enough, but can definitely be better. Cutler can be a lot better too. He was awful to start the game and looked at Marshall too much. The pick-6 at the beginning of the game was inexcusable. He deserves credit for turning it around though and finishing strong.
Defense – B-
The defensive line had a good debut and put pressure on Andrew Luck all day. Julius Peppers did not look slowed down by the plantar fasciitis he is battling. He came up with a nice diving fumble recovery when Corey Wootton knocked the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hand from behind. Tim Jennings had a hell of a game, coming up two interceptions and tipping another ball to Chris Conte for another pick. When Charles Tillman left the game with a leg injury, Kelvin Hayden filled in nicely too.
Brian Urlacher, however, looked like a guy who sat out the entire preseason with a knee injury. He was slower than normal and the instincts were not where they usually are. When he was taken out in the second half, a hole developed in the middle of the defense, showing how important it is for him to be on the field even if he’s not 100 percent.
Even though the Bears came up with five takeaways (one on special teams), there were opportunities for more. Conte missed a pick-6 in the first half and Major Wright dropped an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter which was followed by a Colts touchdown on the next play. The unit also didn’t have much of an answer for Reggie Wayne Sunday.
Special Teams – B
Adam Podlesh (hip flexor) played but wasn’t great. Robbie Gould was solid as always. The Bears didn’t get any huge returns from Devin Hester mainly because he didn’t have many big holes. That’s likely a result of all the turnover on the coverage units. Linebacker J.T. Thomas came up with a big strip and Hayden with the fumble recovery to effectively clinch the game early in the 3rd quarter.
Coaching – A-
Really nothing to complain about here. The Bears weathered a slow start that was all on the players. The offensive game plan from Mike Tice was a refreshing change from the Mike Martz era. Lovie Smith rightly challenged a ruled-incomplete pass in the third that was really a fumble recovery by Julius Peppers. Of course then he got greedy and wrongly-challenged a spot on the ensuing offensive possession. Once the Bears got a comfortable lead, the coaching staff made the right decision to take Urlacher out of the game even though he didn’t want to come out.
- Cutler To Fans: ‘Let’s Tone It Down A Little Bit’ In Red Zone
- Urlacher Not Happy About Being Taken Out Of Game Early
- Hoge’s Notebook: Disaster Averted As Offense Steals The Show
- Bernstein: Nice Win For Bears, But…
- Hoge’s Grades: All Units Good, But Room To Improve
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.